Now the commotion has kinda died down, I thought I’d write a little piece on the latest bit of news thats been doing the rounds, anyone who keeps up to date with the world of SEO knows about JC Penney and their manipulation of the Google Search results. Hell, the New York times even published an article all about it.
In a nutshell, someone wondered why JC Penney were ranking so well for various keywords – luggage, evening dresses etc etc so they had a look into it. 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. In other words, they were blatantly paid and part of a huge linking scheme.
Now I don’t want to drill down into the argument of white hat seo, black hat, google webmaster guidelines. I’d rather just look at what JC Penney achieved:
My feeling on this one is that JC Penney took this one as a calculated risk. I’d love to see how much they actually turned over in this christmas period as a result of their rankings. Let’s assume they estimated that eventually they’d get caught and google would slap them with a penalty, and they calculated it’d take them around 6 months to reestablish themselves in the SERPS – the money they made over Christmas is arguably in excess of what they’d make over the next 6 months is my hunch. Coupled with the fact investors were pushing for a good festive period, that pretty much adds up to it being a well thought out plan. And to be fair, it worked, so fair play to JC Penney. They ranked well over christmas, they got slapped, and they also got a boat load of free PR as a result of it – i.e. some nice backlinks from the NY times and worldwide exposure.
No because we’re a white hat bunch who are more focused on the long term, and we like to think we’re good enough to get websites ranking without having to massively manipulate the search results in such an artificial way. Just sat thinking for about 5 minutes we’ve already come up with several different ideas that JC Penney could have utilised to boost their festive sales and not get banned. Really, the only time I’d suggest this kind of strategy is for a massively seasonal/weather related product, I’m thinking along the lines of Snow Tyres etc etc. You buy a thousand links, you get instant rankings, sell out fast and eventually you get caught (by which time the snow will have melted, you’ll have made your money and setup a purely white hat site that sells snow tyres all year round).
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