I noticed a few weeks back that Google stopped showing scam for some brands and at the same time negative driven sites like scam.com reared their ugly head again. They seem very difficult to bury these types of sites at the moment. It’s almost like G has said we will stop suggesting scam but show results with it in so people can make their own mind up.
These sites seem to have extra weight given to them as well, they tend to have one thing in common, lots of comments. Suggest allowing comments on your own sites if you want to stay ahead of them.
Business is all about coming up with an idea, making sure there’s a market for it, and gaining as much interest in it as possible. When Dallas-based applications developer Locai Inc. released their checkin-based app of the same name, ‘Locai’, to the iPhone consumer base; it was generally received quite well. So well in fact that their initial success led them to the obvious conclusion that they should expand their user base further by opening up their App to the Google Android market as well. A simple plan, they thought (beyond the obvious hard word needed to port the coding to a new platform that is). And simple might it have been were it not for yet another Google ‘quirk’.
Everyone knows that there’s more to Google than meets the eye. There’s all sorts that goes on behind the scenes and unless you’re in a particular group of Google employees, you can really only guess at what makes the cogs go round. Unfortunately, a lot of what we are able to discern about Google search algorithms is done through trial and error testing on existing sites and products. Which is why it might have come as a bit of a surprise to Locai to learn that due to a behind-the-scenes, not-going-to-bother-telling-the-user auto-correct routine, any time an Android user searches the Android App market for Locai, it fails to show up. Little did Locai know that Google deems their company name to be a mis-spelling of the word “local”, and so any search for the term Locai (without quotation marks/other search engine ‘keys’) gets modified behind the scenes to the term Google thinks the user is searching for.
“Since everyone downloads apps by searching for them first this is a huge blow to us,” Taylor Cavanah (Locai’s founder) has said. “We have brands and businesses lined up for a whole series of partnerships, events and promotions over the next several months. Now we’re facing losing a ton of users and investment as people are converted to download the App, but can’t find it.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether Locai were right to name their App so ambiguously, but surely that’s not the point? Surely people shouldn’t have to stick to a list of Google pre-approved words when trying to decide on branding? But the thing with Google’s auto-correct, it’s not just companies that are finding themselves with problems.
Google’s auto-correct technology also creates problems for anyone who speaks more than one language. Whilst Google Translate has come on in leaps and bounds and the auto-detect language feature has proven useful for many, a search engine query in a language not native to the host (i.e. looking for an English search term whilst on Google.nl) is also subject to the same assumption technology that has plagued Locai of late. Google will just assume that a word it doesn’t recognise is spelled incorrectly and often readjust the search behind the scenes to the closest match of words it thinks you might be trying to look for.
One has to wonder how much more invasive Google searches are going to get, and how many more companies will be affected by this?
Ongoing subject discussions:
It’s hard for companies to approach Google in the best times, it’s even harder if you want something sensitive removed. If you have fallen victim to “your Company Name + Scam” in Google suggestions then what can you do about it? Well there are 3 options, all of which are not great:
- Control the first page of Google for your search term “Company Name + Scam” this is not great and re enforces Googles suggestions
- Try and influence Google suggestions, again very hard and expensive, services like Mechanical Turk have put a stop to allowing members to ask workers to type into Google a specific search effect suggestions.
- Contact Google via their open forum, who in their right mind wants to this and attract even more attention
What Google should do is allow companies to contact them directly privately about suggestions that are incorrect. I love the fact that Google has a form to report anyone using their Trademark, but at the sametime you cannot contact them to say stop calling my company a scam.
When google replaced scam for reviews, I thought great Google has seen sense, but not long after they reverted to suggesting
Would it be possible to get Google to add such a service like they have for reporting spam? Do businesses what such a feature? Love to hear your thoughts.
More resources on RM
This morning to my surprise I noticed that Google has dropped the suggestion Scam after many company names. Does this mean Google has at last seen sense and realised how many innocent business owners have been effected by this scam suggestion.
After further research I noticed that Scam is still suggested for more generic terms like charity scams and model agency scams which I feel is right. These sorts of searches will now show relevant results that are focused on actual scams and not on innocent companies who have been targeted by.
Will this see the end of such sites as scam.com or ripoffreport.com lets wait and see how this pans out.
A big thumbs up to Google on this update!!!! We love you agian.
It does not take much to trigger the killer Google suggestion Scam. Primerica are another company hit by the the scam suggestions.
You can see the obvious sites that trigger the scam suggestion from Google are for example scam.com and the fatal questions on sites like Yahoo questions, is this an scam? What makes Google decide to show Scam at the top of a suggestion list over more positive suggestions like primerica financial services?
What is also great is the complete lack of help from Googles own forum http://www.google.com/support/forum/
Saying that, the person who asked the question in the first place did not really approach it with the correct tone.
Hi, I work for a company called Primerica, which is a very legit insurance comapany that just recently got onto the NYSE. Unfortunately due to its Network Marketing and free enterprise system, some ignorant people mistake it for a ponzi scheme, or a pyramid scheme. Because of this, a few websites were created but quickly discredited about primerica being a scam. The result of that is when one types PRIMERICA in the google search bar, one of the top suggestions is PRIMERICA SCAM.
Please correct this unfaire mistake
If you gonna ask for help be humble, no matter how frustrated you are.
Sorry I have not posted for a while, its been such a hectic 3 months. As James G spotted on a previous post that Google has removed the Scam from the end of my example helpmegoto.com . So maybe, just maybe, we can help others, if you have an example for your own company / website then please let us know and we can check it out and post your example here. Maybe we can generate enough evidence to show that Google suggestions do not come from what people type as they have suggested in court but from other factors. More importantly if Google will remove the negative suggestions then the ultimate goal is achieved for website owners.
Industry scams affect everyone involved, and we have seen this across the board – the latest being photographers and modeling agencies. Usually how is starts can be very innocent, for example. A young budding female wants to get into modelling and decides to go through a agency. She has heard a news report about about modelling scams and is worried about being caught out, so she Google’s Modelling Agencies London. She then gets the Google results and sees a list of agencies. She chooses one she likes but is still worried about the agency being a scam so she Google’s for example Storm Agency Scam to see if there are any negative reviews about them. She may or may not find anything about them so then goes to Yahoo Answers and asks:
Storm modelling agency?
Whats the minimum age for models?
How long does it take for a reply?
What should I wear if they accept me?
How long till I get asked to do something (catalogue, etc)?
How much are models payed?
Is it a good job to get into?
Is it worth it?
Does storm ask you to pay anything?
The dust has begun to settle on the uproar that ‘new’ Google Instant has managed to stir up. What was clearly a hot topic at the point of launch, the auto-complete function was innovative in design and was set to improve functionality for users worldwide (starting in the US, naturally). And while Google say users will benefit from the ‘improvements’ to their service, the impact it will have on the SEO industry is still very much up for debate.
It’s true; while the new feature might well save valuable seconds per search (giving office workers more time to spend on the important things, like facebook) – it has forced a strategy rethink for SEO companies worldwide. Some analysts have even gone so far as to suggest these new changes might well be the death of SEO.
The premise of SEO was simple enough, once you knew a bit about web design and development. Not quite as simple as “put as many keywords into a bit of text as you can” (would have been nice) but was still very much focused on optimisation and making sure each aspect of a modern web page (links/pics/text/headers/tags) were related to the topic at hand. Then it was all about the ‘strength’ of your page, and the ‘strength’ of the pages linking to yours.
The trouble is that with Google Instant suggesting to users what they might be ‘searching’ for, it’s having a direct impact on the actual search requests that are being submitted. There have been discussions upon discussions as to the extent of the impact this will have, as it has been repeatedly argued that a vast proportion of internet users don’t actually look at the screen as they type anyway. In which case, users would be oblivious to any ‘suggestions’ that may pop up. But then, with the standard 2-keyword search, a 3rd (and sometimes 4th) search term is now being suggested, and search results being returned based on this and not what the user had typed in.
The obstacle that the SEO industry now faces is that users are no longer guaranteed to be ‘searching’ for the things you expect them to. In a recent court case in France, Google have been found liable for a suggested search term that came up next to somebody’s name that was considered defamatory in nature. It also didn’t help that the guy in question was involved in another ongoing court case and the association of terms was considered interfering in the natural course of justice – so they got in to trouble for that too. One interesting thing to come out of this was that Google’s defence seemed to hinge on claims that the ‘suggested’ search terms are actually an aggregate of user-based search queries. Well, that’s certainly useful information.
When it comes to deciding how the SEO industry can respond to these recent changes – it isn’t actually at all that complex. There’s a far greater significance placed on the top 3 or 4 search terms, as there are now less search results appearing above ‘the fold’ due to the drop-down list of suggestions. Let’s face it, this is what any good SEO engineer would have been trying to achieve already anyway. But now because the average two-word entered searches are going to throw up suggested third terms too, there is going to be far more to optimize for. Optimizing for search strings such as “one two” is standard practise, but if you’re optimizing for “one two” and Google suggests “one two three”, “one two buckle my shoe” and “one two three four” – you might have an issue. The search results that are then presented wont be for the original user-entered search “one two”, but instead – the top suggested search term “one two three”. The user is then given the options for the suggested term, and the user is now statistically more likely to click one of the suggested terms than stick by what they entered initially.
So far from the suggestion that Google Instant has put a proverbial nail in the SEO and Online Reputation Management coffin, in reality it has the potential to be a breath of fresh air for the people who know what they’re doing. While there’s no arguing that it has certainly made SEO harder, it has also made good SEO and ORM far more important. As an SEO company, you’re now looking at ensuring you do a better job of optimizing pages by traditional means, but also finding a way of optimizing for suggested search terms too.
With all the hours that have gone into optimizing pages on the web previously, and Google Suggest diffusing the concentration of hits an efficiently optimized website was already getting, SEO companies will now have a busier time than ever to achieve the results they were previously enjoying. By that same token, good SEO companies are also going to be in much higher demand.
Just think how much better you’ll fare against the competition if you find somebody who knows how to work the new system?
We wanted to do some testing with Google’s drop down suggestions and see how easily they can be influenced. So we took a url that did have a website and watched when we did a few things how this could effect the Google Suggestions. We used helpmegoto.com as it’s a clean url and added it to some of the positions we advertise on behalf of clients.
The question is how come “helpmegoto.com scam” has now become a suggested search term? Is it because we have set up a company to scam people? Not that I’m aware of. Is it because we have competition who want to smear us? Maybe, but we never use that URL so doubt it. So how com Google has decided to put scam on the end of this url? Well we dug a bit deeper and here are a few more screenshots to show you what we found. In the top 100 results there was only 2 urls that had helpmegoto.com and scam on the same page. They were not even beside each in the same sentence or even paragraph.
So you can see from the results we don’t have the normal sites that set off the Google suggestions like scam.com or ripoffrepot.com that effect many other companies. These are sites are a job board and a site checker which happens to have the word scam in it.
You can see from the image above the site has a flag system that includes “scam” and this is number 1 in the google results.
Again this page has scam mentioned on it but not in reference to helpmegoto.com being a scam.
So the following 98 results in Google do not have any mention of Scam and helpmegoto.com, so it’s clear that there is no reason to show helpmegoto.com scam in the suggestions unless people were typing it in. But here is the million dollar question, why would anyone type this in?
Google seems to have started to suggest “helpmegoto.com scam” because 2 sites have scam on the same page. Now that Google has suggested it, people will now click on the suggestions because of human nature to check out anything negative. This does not effect us but it is effecting 1000′s of companies around the world, and many business owners are not even aware of it. Google should remove negative suggestions like this unless they have proof to back up a company is a scam. They can not use the line they only show suggestions of what people are searching, when quite clearly this example shows why would people search this unless Google was suggesting it.
Over the last 24 months we have been watching Google and the search terms they suggest in the drop down. With the latest Google update “Google Instant” it has become even more influential on how users will look at the results.
So here is a typical step by step scenrio of how Google Drop Downs could be seriously damaging your reputation online.
- Potential candidate see job adverts online. Like any good candidate they want to do research on the company before the interview.
- Candidate can’t or does not know companies web address so in Google starts to type the company name. Just as the put the final part of the company name google suggestes “Scam”.
- Candidate then as anyone would wonders whats this? They click on the google suggested drop down now for Company Name + Scam and the results change from positive results to either negative ones or irrelevant ones.
- Candidate is now put off by either the negative reviews, comments, articles (which may or may not be true) or even just by the idea its a scam.
The next scenario for how Google’s Drop Down Suggestions can hurt a company:
- Customer is doing research on a building company, they see an advert but can’t remember the company website.
- Customer starts to do a Google search and see company name + complaints, naturally they search for that suggestion.
- Customer may now see a page of negative results rather than a balanced or positive ones.