Assigning blame in eCommerce

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This story from the New York Times should be an eye-opener. A woman tries to buy eyeglasses over the Internet. She finds a place using a Google search. That places turns out to be dodgy and then threatening. She tries to deal with her credit card company — whose job it is to protect her from dodginess — and then the authorities — whose job it is to protect her from the threats. Suffice it to say, it isn’t until the NYT gets involved that things improve but at a phenomenal cost.

Part of the story is that Google was to blame. The site in question (I don’t want to mention it here) appeared high in Google search results precisely because of all the online complaints about it. Indeed, that was apparently the strategy. The more complaints, the more traffic, the more sales. Clearly, Google or someone else is going to want to deal with this even if they aren’t technically to ‘blame.’ The search model is just not going to work if poor quality is rewarded in the way it seems to be.

Now I did another search today and the company in question does not show up in the normal results but it does show up as No.3 on a sponsored search (see the picture).

The big winner in the article is Amazon. Purchase through retailers on their program and things seem to work better.

3 Responses to "Assigning blame in eCommerce"
  1. Searching from Australia through google.com (not google.com.au) for [glasses “christian audigier”] finds no paid listing for the offending site, but it is sixth on the first page of free hits. Its pagerank (in a range from 0 – low, to 10 – high) is only 3, which is not high: the pagerank of economics.com.au is 6, amazon.com is 9.
    The success of this abusive strategy seems to have depended on a dearth of high-ranking sites selling eyeware. The top site in my search, framesdirect.com has a pagerank of 6 but that of Christian Audigier itself is only 3.
    Google gets pretty aggro with sites that try to game its ranking system so I should not be surprised if it takes some swift action on this one.
     

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