You know the inmates are running the asylum when The New York Times devotes a very long article to a subject. Yesterday, a Sunday Magazine-length piece ran in the Times, telling us “all about” how being really, really bad at customer service can be a marketing strategy on the Internet.

The bad guys are coming.

Or rather, they’re already here. As the Times article pointed out, businesses have discovered that that old Public Relations axiom “The Only Bad Press Is No Press” applies really well on the Internet. Specifically, the article called out a business called Decor My Eyes for figuring out that every time someone wrote a negative review of them it creates more pull toward their web site with search engines.

And after the article ran, Decor My Eyes became a hot trending topic on Twitter, meaning they got even more traffic, which impresses the search engines even more. A few weeks ago, I wrote a white paper detailing how this works. You can read Google’s Secret Sauce Revealed—The Death and Life of Search Engine Optimization, here.

So you can jump in.

Or you can do nothing.

The Decor My Eyes story proves that doing nothing really isn’t a choice you can afford to make. If you don’t start doing search engine optimization right now, you’re digging a hole that the bad guys will keep you in forever.

Beyond the issue of needing to start your SEO business change right now, the question that the Decor My Eyes story raises is whether Search Engine Optimization is OK. Even Google admits they don’t quite know how to do Search Engine Optimization, which speaks to the issue of how complex the Google ranking algorithm has become. And Google’s official position is impossible to figure out; on the one hand they state that gaming the system isn’t allowed, but on the other they tell you what to do to get ahead in their rankings.

Nissan of Manhattan Search Results

Example: I told the story of bad customer service I received at Nissan of Manhattan, and I did so in a way that was designed to be worth reading, but also to get Nissan of Manhattan’s attention through Search Engine Optimization. It’s just five days later, and that piece already ranks fifth on Google for the phrase “Nissan of Manhattan Customer Service”, and fifteenth for the phrase “Nissan of Manhattan”.

Was that dirty? So far, Google doesn’t think so. The story is informative, and  I hope it’s compelling and well written. But it also was designed to rank high with search engines so Nissan and Nissan of Manhattan would notice. So it’s fair. It works.

Whether you want to look at all of this as a geeky story about search engine optimization, one about business change, or a tale told in an old school newspaper that ultimately went nowhere, please find the angle from which you want to pay attention.

Oh: and you should probably stay away from Decor My Eyes.

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