One of the challenges of online reputation management is the fact that there are many places online for people to share their displeasure with a company (e.g. social media, review sites, etc.). This situation is made worse by the sheer number of ripoff and complaint sites that specifically cater to angry customers. In the past, these sites often received high placement in search results, but that may soon change. Recent reports found that ripoff and complaint sites saw a huge drop in search rankings.
Last week, SEO researchers began noticing a huge dip in the search rankings for pages from Ripoff Report and other complaint websites. There has been no official word from Google on the changes, but the declines seen by Ripoff Report and similar sites are undeniable. It’s likely that these changes are related to a Google algorithm change.
While there is certainly value in providing consumers with accurate reviews of businesses, websites like Ripoff Report are skewed toward negative reviews. These site often allow unverified and anonymous reviews, which is a system that practically invites abuse. And it is extremely difficult to get these websites to remove fraudulent or malicious reviews. Ripoff Report and similar sites are known to have no removal policies. Even in situations where they’ve been ordered to remove a review or a URL from their site gets delisted from Google or Bing, the content reappears later with a new URL.
Worse still, because the pages from these sites received high search rankings and they would often come up in top the results for a small business or professional. Giving the content from these sites lower rankings will be a boon for small business owners and brand managers.
The declines weren’t limited to RipOff Report. As Pierre Zorarakien explained in a blog post, “As a curiosity, I ran some reports for some other major complaint sites on SEMrush and found that several others had lost rank, including PissedConsumer, ComplaintsBoard, DirtyScam, and ConsumerAffairs.”
While this is mostly speculation without independent confirmation from Google, it makes sense that Google would lower the rankings of sites with consistently subpar content. Because these sites are where people come to vent, they often contain inaccurate accounts of events, give out personal contact details of business owners they want to annoy, and only show the negatives of a particular business. This makes these complaint sites less useful to consumers than reviews from sources that accept all reviews and take efforts to remove fraudulent content.
Reducing the search rankings of complaint sites would be a good thing for business owners and consumers. There’s little doubt that Google has received many complaints as to why such content is in the top search results for a particular business or person. And since these sites are known to flout court orders to remove content, the only thing Google can do to convince these sites to change course is an algorithm update.
With that in mind, don’t assume that complaint sites like Ripoff Report are gone from the top pages of search forever. These sites rely on search traffic to gain ad revenue, so they will likely make whatever changes they need to boost their rankings. Hopefully, the drop in rankings will encourage complaint sites to improve the quality of their content by verifying reviews and removing malicious content, rather than find tricks to get around the algorithm update.
For more information about the ways tech giants are fighting low-quality content, read this article on recent changes to Facebook’s policy regarding content and clickbait.