NYT Exposes 'Link Building Scheme' of J.C. Penney Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google

The New York Times has published an article about a search engine optimization investigation of J.C. Penney. Perplexed by how well jcpenney.com did in unpaid (organic) search results for practically everything the retailer sold, they asked someone familiar with the world of SEO to look into it a bit more.The investigation found that thousands of […]

The New York Times has published an article about a search engine optimization investigation of J.C. Penney. Perplexed by how well jcpenney.com did in unpaid (organic) search results for practically everything the retailer sold, they asked someone familiar with the world of SEO to look into it a bit more.

The investigation found that thousands of seemingly unrelated web sites (many that seemed to contain only links) were linking to the J.C. Penney web site. And most of those links had really descriptive anchor text. It was almost like someone had arranged for all of those links in order to get better rankings in Google.

Apparently they saw some suspicious search rankings for JC Penney and cried foul. The paper found JCP ranking number one in the Google search results for terms like "dresses", "bedding", and "area rugs" and for "months, it was consistently at or near the top in searches for "skinny jeans," "home decor," "comforter sets," "furniture" and dozens of other words and phrases, from the blandly generic ("tablecloths") to the strangely specific ("grommet top curtains")."

"Last week, The Times sent Google the evidence it had collected about the links to JCPenney.com. Google's Matt Cutts, head of webspam, confirmed that the tactics violated the Google webmaster guidelines and shortly after, the J.C. Penney web site was nowhere to found for the queries they had previously ranked number one for. Matt tweeted that "Google's algorithms had started to work; manual action also taken"."

j.c. penny; matt cutts tweet

Matt confirmed after going through what the newspaper had found that there were indeed paid links and they had been there for three or four months.

"J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies," Ms. Brossart (a JC Penney spokesperson wrote in an e-mail (to the New York Times). She added, "We're working to have the links taken down."

J.C. Penney, when contacted by the New York Times, said that they didnt know anything about the links and promptly fired their SEO firm, SearchDex.

The story is very detailed and reads like a thriller - with the paper buying an expensive dinner to interview a 'black hat' SEO.

[tags]link building,googlebot,crawlers,paid links[/tags]

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