Does Google Favor Content That Damages Online Reputations?

That’s what Chris Silver Smith argues in a piece recently published by Marketing Land. When somebody produces negative content about a company, Google seems to index it more quickly than usual. It’s also highly displayed in the search results when somebody enters that company’s name.

Smith says that’s part of Google’s algorithm. It has to guess at what somebody wants when they enter a keyword, especially when the keyword is broad. Do they want to buy that item? Do research on it, or what? Sometimes the intent of the keyword is apparent, but sometimes it isn’t, especially when it’s a single word and a broad, common item. When it cannot figure out the searcher’s intention, it provides a lot of different kinds of sites, hoping that at least one will provide the user with the type of content they are looking for.

When new content appears, according to Smith, Google tests it, putting it on a variety of different pages in its results. And that’s where the bias toward negativity comes into play. Because people find negative news more interesting than positive. Therefore, if looking at a company’s results, many people would rather read about a scandal or lawsuit than the latest press release on a new product. Therefore, they click on that link, signaling to Google that content is more useful — actually, just more interesting in a negative way — than ordinary mentions of the company. This is exacerbated by the click bait headlines the negative content pages are more likely to use. Google pays attention to those clicks, and assigns greater importance to the bad news pages, making them rise in the ranks. And these are the reasons why companies need the services of a Reputation Defender.

Smith also believes part of the problem is that Google wants to provide a variety of views and sentiment around a subject. Therefore, it deliberately displays negative content about people and content to balance the positive or neutral content found on their own websites and social media pages.

Smith advocates Google use discretion in how it handles negative content. A news story on CNN has credibility and should not be buried. But one blog post by a disgruntled customer should not damage the reputation of a major company.