The New York Times recently published the article A Bully Finds A Pulpit On The Web. In it the journalist tells of the bullying tactics used by the owner of an online store for designer glasses. The owner is deliberately and inexcusably horrible to his customers, and has gone so far as to threaten them physically. And incredibly, he claims this is all part of his SEO plan. The owner says that when unhappy customers take to the web to rant about him, they name both him and the company, with lots of relevant keywords, which increases his search engine rankings.
“I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works. No matter where they post their negative comments, it helps my return on investment. So I decided, why not use that negativity to my advantage?”
I am not going to name either the owner or the company as I don’t wish to add any fuel to this fire, but you can read the NY Times article.
Many of those in the industry will have heard of ‘Black Hat SEO’, that is to say SEO which employs unethical tactics to hit the top of search engine rankings. Tactics which include invisible text (white text on white background that the user won’t see but a search engine will) and keyword stuffing (a long list of keywords on a page that mean nothing to the user but that might attract the search engine spiders).
These tactics are frown on and if Google finds out they can ban you from the search results, as happened BMW previously, and let’s face it, if you aren’t on Google you may as well not exist.
But the tactics employed by this particular individual take black hat to a level I would never have dreamed people would stoop to.
Threatening people and getting arrested all so you can sell some more units? That’s no way to live your life and you are ruining other people’s.
And then you have the companies that are just so lovely and treat customers so incredibly well . . .
I recently bought a present for a friend’s baby from Threadless, a little babygro in pink. Unfortunately when the package arrived they had sent the babygro in blue.
I went online and opened a ticket with the customer service to report the problem.
I received an almost immediate response which:
1) apologised for the error;
2) advised that the correct item was being shipping straight away;
3) offered a coupon code for $5 off;
4) said I was to keep the incorrect item as a further apology.
Now if that wasn’t impressive enough, when the package arrived with the correct item, there was a handwritten card inside apologising again!
As a result I think I love Threadless even more now – and I’m obviously talking about the experience on my blog – which will also be tweeted – talk about turning a negative experience into a positive one!
Some people might feel that the negative experience is going to get talked about more online, and maybe this particular incidence will, given the extreme nature of it. But as mentioned in a previous post people online want to read positive comments and stories, and your followers actual decrease the more you post negatively.
Also, while Google and others might not use sentiment analysis at the moment, you can hedge your bets that they will start integrating customer reviews soon enough (some already have) and then . . . well people using the negative tactics will tumble to the bottom of the heap never to return.
It pays to be nice . . . plus . . . what would your mother think!