Does Google Hate You? 👿

In: Google|Online Reputation Management - ORM|Search Engines

7 Nov 2017
by Argent Media

You’re sailing along with no care in the world, up until that wicked person posted something bad about you online. “No problem,” you think. After all, you already have a lot of good stuff about you that’s been ranking strongly for years, like your own website, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, online directory pages, a local news story about that charity event you participated in last year, a video you made and posted on YouTube, and your LinkedIn profile. The newly made negative attack materials won’t be able to show up that quick — that stuff couldn’t possibly have the ranking power of your other solid, well-established stuff.

Or, could it?

What many discover at this point is that yes, indeed, completely new negative stuff can show up and rank pretty high in Google for one’s name searches within a breathtakingly short timeframe. In fact, someone could Tweet or blog some some nasty thing about you today, and it could show up in your name searches in Google tomorrow.

Google's motto used to be Don't be evil. But, they no longer use that motto.

Google’s motto used to be “Don’t be evil.” But, they no longer use that motto.

How does this happen?

For one thing, Google has worked very diligently to discover and index newly-published materials very rapidly. Frequently updating sites and pages — such as CNN’s homepage — are places where Google checks quite frequently for new material to spider and index in its databases — as quickly as within minutes. Google also monitors blog feeds and social media updates, so things that get Tweeted may show up quite fast as well, including things linked-to within Tweets.

Even more concerning, however, is how newly emerging materials can rank for keyword searches very prominently as well as very fast. When new materials get indexed, Google’s systems perform an automated testing to see if those new materials are relevant and interesting to searchers. Google will often pop such things onto page one of the search results, and then if searchers click upon it, they’ll then register that click in order to use the clicks to assess if the new material is more interesting to searchers than the other items ranking for the same search.

“In fact, someone could Tweet or blog some some nasty thing about you today, and it could show up in your name searches in Google tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, this seems to be where human psychology can bias the search results towards ranking more negative stuff. It’s the equivalent of rubber-necking for the information superhighway — when something appears with a scandalous or negative title in the search results, it’s human nature to click on it out of curiosity. Since regular web results are rarely as compelling as pages involving words like “scam”, “lawsuit”, “sex tape”, “leaked photos”, “arrest records”, “cheats”, and other lightning-rod words, the good stuff often gets pushed down in results compared to the negative materials.

There are even some suspicions among many in the Online Reputation Management field that Google may also be incorporating some degree of sentiment analysis to also particularly enhance rankings of negative items. The theory goes like this: Google determined years ago that providing a variety of types of items in search results listings was more satisfying to searchers because it allowed people to have a higher chance of finding information they were seeking. To that end, Google has worked to insure that search results reflect a number of types of pages in name search results, including both positive and negative items. Google has patents for sentiment analysis, and it’s conceivable that they could run secondary content analysis algorithms to determine things like the sentiment of content appearing in search, and thus they may be specifically insuring that negative items will be promoted higher than they might otherwise be in order to appear along with positive materials that have been around longer and which otherwiseh have more ranking signals benefiting them.

Another aspect of Google involves the Autosuggest feature, which enables Google to suggest search phrases to click upon when one begins typing a query into a search form box. If some numbers of people have begun typing your name in combination with negative terms, then it can show up here, exposed to people who maybe otherwise would not be searching specifically for negative materials about you. Once this happens, it can bias the search results to show negative items in even higher rankings and increased density, reinforcing the prominence of negative things.

In some ways one could accurately say that Google indeed hates you! Although, let’s keep perspective — this is primarily just the result of a number of algorithms combining together to rank pages based on a couple of hundred possible factors — it’s not conscious. (Well, not fully conscious — one portion of their system is called “Rankbrain” and is a primitive form of artificial intelligence applied to ranking webpages!)

So, it’s not entirely the product of your imagination — Google does hate you once negative and damaging materials appear on the scene. Fortunately, there are yet some strategies that can be used to try to counteract these effects once one becomes aware of the toxic dynamics.

(For an article with deeper details about how this works, read Argent Media CEO Chris Silver Smith’s article at Search Engine Land, Google is biased toward reputation-damaging content.)

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