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Here’s an intriguing tale of one the most loathsome online merchants ever to do business and also an example one of the most imaginative SEO black hat techniques ever used. Vitaly Borker used his online eyewear company to routinely provoke its customers into complaining online in order to rank higher in Google’s search rankings.
The New York Times exposed the “thuggish Russia-born Brooklynite” for his potentially criminal treatment of customers of his eyewear e-commerce site DecorMyEyes. The unsavoury character regularly threatened harassed and conned hundreds of customers which in turn left damning reviews on blogs and consumer sites that only generated valuable backlinks which pushed DecorMyEyes further up Google’s rankings in searches for eyeglasses.
This bizarre loophole in Google basically rewarded terrible customer service. Borker decided to move away from legitimate techniques and focus on a marketing strategy that focused on impudent behaviour. On discovering that negative online content could boost his site’s ranking for Google search queries, Borker said: “Since my first complaint I have never had this amount of traffic, I am in heaven”.
Google have been criticised for their role in the success of DecorMyEyes, as Mr Borker took full advantage of the valuable backlinks being generated by the online complaints despite the negative signals. Google professes that it doesn’t make voluntary changes; however, it’s rather strange that DecorMyEyes no longer turns up on the first page of glasses related search terms.
This brings into question the role that Google plays in organising and promoting players in the online market place. SEO engineers will never cease to whine about changes made to the world’s top search engine, seemingly paranoid that alterations are put in place to derail their efforts. We must remember however that Google is ultimately a tool for users which is intended to enable them to find the most relevant results relating to their search query.
It is highly questionable whether a company that disregard and even bully their customers should rank so high in Google, particularly at a time when the search giant appears to be gravitating toward a philosophy of increased relevancy with innovations like HotPot, Places, preview, and the integration of social aspects into the SERPs (see previous post).
The DecorMyEyes case is a clear indication that the value of Borker’s online traffic generated via his lofty positioning in Google was perceived to be much more than that of the opinions and bad ‘word of mouth’ generated by his customers, both on and offline. That said, he has likely had to orchestrate a delicate balancing act between giving enough people a bad enough experience to make them rant about the company online, while retaining a dedicated core of loyal and happy customers.