Google’s Danny Sullivan has confirmed, once and for all, that off-site sentiment does not impact search rankings.
In other words — positive chatter about a particular website will not influence its ranking position.
Similarly, negative press around a website will not cause its rankings to go down.
This was clarified by Sullivan via a reply on Twitter to a user who asked the following question:
“It seems like your search algorithm recognizes and takes into account sentiment. Is there a sentiment search operator? (I don’t think there is; how do you all decide which search operators to make available?)”
Sullivan clearly stated that Google search “does not recognize sentiment,” nor is there any operator for searching by sentiment.
So let’s say, for example, a website all of a sudden gets a ton of links due to some bad press that’s circulating in the news. Perhaps a popular website is being harshly criticized for some UI changes, or something along those lines.
Google will recognize the links, but will not recognize the site is being linked to because of something negative.
In a case like that, the website will (in theory) reap the benefits of the link signals while not being harmed by the poor sentiment.
That’s one of the potential downsides of Google not being able to recognize sentiment. On the other hand, it could be a good thing if the business is being criticized unfairly.
The Twitter user who Sullivan replied to may have been under the impression that Google recognizes sentiment due to a story that broke last year.
Google’s Gary Illyes allegedly stated at a search conference that the search engine pays attention to negative sentiment.
Google looks at off-site sentiment to find supporting signals about quality of a site. Via @methode #StateOfSearch
— Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) October 10, 2017
#StateOfSearch @methode says that Google looks to how a site is perceived by people so to rank it: not only links but mention, on social…
— Gianluca Fiorelli (@gfiorelli1) October 10, 2017
Rankings can also be impacted by people being open online about how much they hate your site. @methode #StateOfSearch
— Ryan Glass (@RyanGPhx) October 10, 2017
We now have confirmation that rankings are not impacted by negative sentiment.