Does a large amount of negative reviews affect the search engine rankings of a website?
Google’s John Mueller recently explained that the Google search engine algorithm might pick up if a website has a lot of negative reviews.
Some background info
You may not remember it but in 2010, NYTimes reported that an online merchant was ranking highly because the site had lots of backlinks, albeit from angry and dissatisfied customers. This prompted a response from Google and the introduction of “sentiment analysis”.
The idea for introducing sentiment analysis was to understand the context of links and recognize negative reviews that could harm search engine rankings. In 2010, Google explicitly said that negative comments would become negative votes.
Does it matter now?
Recently, John Mueller was asked if negative reviews would hurt a site’s rankings. Here is the question:
“If you have a “bad” reputation online and you see a lot of negative stuff about your company, would that hurt, potentially, your Google ranking for keywords?
Could Google look at that and say, ‘Oh this is a bad company, we’re not going to rank it as well because they have a lot of negative reviews.’”
Mueller confirmed that if most of the signals are negative, it may have an impact on the website’s search engine rankings. However, he also mentioned that negative reviews are a common thing, and having some negative reviews won’t affect a site’s rankings in the SERPs.
According to John, “That’s something where if all of the signals point in that direction [negative reviews], I could imagine that we might pick that up.
But if you’re talking about [that] there are a handful of people that are upset and they’re writing these random things online, and there are lots of people that are happy with your site, and everything is normal, then that’s not something where I would really worry about.”
In addition, John Mueller also confirmed that Google still uses the 2010 sentiment analysis algorithm. However, the specifics may have changed with the evolution of technology, and how people interact with online businesses and leave reviews.
The takeaway here is that:
- The sentiment analysis algorithm still affects, but most likely not in the exact same way it did a decade ago.
- Negative reviews are common and should not affect a site’s rankings most of the time.
- However, if a site has predominantly negative reviews, it may have an effect on search engine rankings.
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