Amazon has found a way to lower the Google search rankings of small businesses who use its Pro Merchant program, according to The Daily Dot.
The news site describes the process as “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) that places Amazon search results above legitimate results for the actual businesses people are searching for.
That’s a serious charge. But that’s not quite what is going on.
In fact, we’re not sure that the Dot has this right.
Basically, the Dot says, Amazon is maintaining web pages for small businesses that no longer do transactions via Amazon. Because Amazon has fantastic SEO, those defunct merchant pages on Amazon appear above the business’s actual, official web pages on Google.
Any company that tries Amazon’s Pro Merchant program and then abandons it risks having their old, unused Amazon page rank above their actual site in Google search, the Dot says.
However, when Business Insider tried to reproduce the Dot’s searches — to see if abandoned Amazon pages really did rank above merchants who no longer sold there — we couldn’t see the problem.
For instance, one source cited in the article, “Dani, the owner of the New York-based jewelry store 47stcloseouts.com,” complained:
… the search results for Dani’s Amazon storefront continue to beat the listings for his actual store on Google. The result was more customers going to Amazon instead of his store.
“I was competing against myself,” he said.
But Dani’s store is fully operational on Amazon, right here.
It was the same with Carolina Rustica, a furniture store that the Dot previously claimed had abandoned Amazon and was now dismayed to find that its name and links were not removed. But Carolina Rustica is right here on Amazon, still selling.
And, if it were the case that Amazon is refusing to delete abandoned storefronts simply because it wants the SEO, then that would be sketchy, but technically not “black hat” SEO (which can get you banned from Google entirely). After all, Amazon is not seeding the web with questionable links to those pages. It’s just not deleting the pages.
That might be sneaky, but it’s not “black hat.”
We previously noted that Google is involved in a war with Amazon over product listing ads. If it were the case that Amazon was using unethical pages to gain SEO inside Google, you can bet that Google would examine that very closely indeed — especially as it would give Google the chance to suspend Amazon from its search rankings for cheating the system.
Google, obviously, hasn’t done that, even though it would be a huge boost to its own product listing ads and a killer for Amazon’s.
Amazon did not return the Dot’s messages. We asked the company for comment too, and we’ll update this post when we hear back.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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