NY Times Article: The Dirty Little Secret Of Search

How JC Penney Got In Trouble With Google

NY Times writer David Segal wrote a great article about JC Penney attempt to ‘’cheat’’ Google and increase their organic rankings. As we know, Google’s goal is to search every corner of the Internet and find the most important, relevant sites that match the query you typed in. But what is the cost of being a relevant website and ranking number one for numerous keywords? JC Penney unfortunately found out the cost of trying to fool Google into instant rankings across the board.  These sorts of tactics, known as “Black Hat” SEO, comes with consequences (and is of course not what we recommend).  This article brings up the issue of using Black Hat versus White Hat SEO.

What Exactly Did JC Penney Do?

JC Penney hired an Internet Marketing firm helped them improve their website rankings. The firm was able to get Penney’s website ranking to number one for terms you wouldn’t necessarily consider JC Penney to be the genuine best result for. The way they achieved this seemingly incredible feat was by linking hundreds upon hundreds of websites to jcpenney.com. This strategy is typically considered “black hat” and their quick rise to power alerted some analysts that something could be wrong.

Part of Google’s ranking system revolves around the number and quality of links to a site, essentially measuring its popularity. Google looked into some of the back links the company was using to boost its search rankings. The clear giveaway was that their webpages received links from irrelevant sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, diamond drills, tiles, and real estate. Upon further review, most of the sites that linked to them were all but abandoned. Google refers to these tactics as “link schemes.” Even though the abandoned sites had nothing to do with Penney products, with enough of them, they help. Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s Webspam team commented on the issue saying, “Am I happy this happened? Absolutely not. Is Google going to take strong corrective action? We absolutely will.”

So what did this marketing firm cost JC Penney? To quote David Segal, “The penalty for getting caught is a pair of virtual concrete shoes: the company sinks in Google’s results.” Google’s corrective action resulted in essentially demoting the company. Within a few hours, JC Penney’s rankings tanked.  This isn’t the first time a large company has been demoted by Google. BMW of Germany had their site was taken down for using doorway pages, or in other words, pages that users will never see, but attract search engine spiders like a bear to honey.

What is Black Hat SEO?

Black Hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One Black Hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similarly to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. Black Hat SEO also revolves around “Keyword Stuffing,” which is when a website has unnaturally written text that is just full of keywords, and wouldn’t make much sense to a reader.

What is White Hat SEO?

White Hat SEO is merely effective marketing, making efforts to deliver quality content to an audience that has requested the quality content.  In other words, you are achieving top placement from Google by proving to Google that your site actually is the best result in cyberspace for the given term.  Sounds hard, right?  You can do it by delivering quality content  through blogs, additional webpages and linking from RELEVANT sites. While the example in this story revolves around linking, it doesn’t mean linking is bad. Generating links from reputable, quality websites that are relevant to your brand or product is key! You should also be optimizing your sites keywords in all the right places like the URL, headers, meta tags and descriptions.  Good SEO marketing is done through transparency and exposure. Search engines are all competing to return the best result for the search, so their algorithms takes this into account.

Don’t Cheat – Utilize What You Have

This story focuses on bad SEO practices and how they can hurt your business. The reality of the fact is that you already have a great arsenal of tools at your disposal to help increase your SEO and don’t need to resort to tricks. It doesn’t matter if you are a multi billion-dollar company or a small business owner; if you are looking to increase your businesses online presence, you need to invest the time and money into White Hat SEO Tactics. SEO is a time-consuming process that requires patience and planning. Search Engines continue to evolve and it is very important to keep in mind what your customers are searching for, because that is what Google generates results for.

2 thoughts on “NY Times Article: The Dirty Little Secret Of Search

  1. Pingback: Make Sure Your SEO is Wearing a White Hat | The story of an entrepreneur's journey

  2. Pingback: I Feel Like Taking My Hat Off: | Cbcburke9's Blog

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