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NY Times Article on JC Penney Paid Links

 7:56 pm on Feb 12, 2011 (gmt 0)

The New York Times has quite an article about white hat and black hat SEO - entitled "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search."

It seems that all through the holiday season, Penney's website was at the top for all kinds of retail searches, including single keywords like "dresses". Given the amount of competition for all these keywords. something smelled funny to the Times. So they brought in an SEO consultant firm, and they found a large number of backlinks, strewn around thousands of nearly abandoned websites. It sounds like many of these were on abandoned sites - and possibly were parasite hosted, though that is not clear from the article.

Last week, The Times sent Google the evidence it had collected about the links to JCPenney.com. Google promptly set up an interview with Matt Cutts... "I can confirm that this violates our guidelines," said Mr. Cutts during an hourlong interview on Wednesday, after looking at a list of paid links to JCPenney.com...

On Wednesday evening, Google began what it calls a "manual action" against Penney, essentially demotions specifically aimed at the company. At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for "Samsonite carry on luggage." Two hours later, it was at No. 71.


A Penney's spokesperson denied that they had authorized those links - and they fired their search consulting firm.



 10:55 pm on Feb 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Re: Forbes, I am curious to know if it's possible for a poser (i.e., an unauthorized person/competitor misrepresenting a website/url) to post messages in Google Webmaster Central, to get Google's attention on a competitor's site? Are there safeguards (i.e., you must post from within your GWT account)? Seems to be a lot of outing and tattletaling lately, I'd hate to think that Google would respond/react to a fake post. Given the fact that the Forbes poster specifically referred to a message received in their GWT account, I imagine it was legit, but I just hope there are safeguards to prevent false claims.


 6:23 pm on Feb 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Does anyone have a list of URLs or screenshots of the sites that were used in this linking scheme?

Be great to see what sites were used, and exactly how many links were used.

The article only mentions a couple thousand links - this isn't a huge quantity of links for a major retailer like Penny, so there must have been many more then this. I'd like to know if they were all coming from crap sites and how the sites were related to each other.

Personally I can't belive Google would demote Penny on this - what's to say one of there competitiors didn't buy these links? What evidence (other than quantity and relationship) does Google or this other SEO company have that Penny had anything to do with aquiring these links?

Sounds like Google is taking advantage of this very public event to make an example of someone alleged to have bought links - but again, what actual proof says Penny did this and not a competitor?

Perhaps this is what everyone should consider doing to their competitors (if you have the budget of course).

Scary thought really...


 8:26 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

> Perhaps this is what everyone should consider doing to their competitors

Good point. But it's more useful to invest your resources to build yourself rather than destroying others.


 8:35 pm on Feb 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Does anyone have a list of URLs or screenshots of the sites that were used in this linking scheme?

I don't have the list. Sorry :)

They didn't target meta tags or validated code.

The issue was paying for links that pass PR, links with specific anchor text that pointed to specific landing pages. Those pages were not ranking on top for years for general unbranded query terms. But they still made a fortune (probably). Their problem was that someone, someplace, someTimes revealed it.


 3:08 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

i dont understand how a company like JCpenney use a few measly, irrelevant links to boos their rankings. They probably get 1000s of quality ones, like the one in the NY times article!...weird.


 3:33 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

The one in NYT indicates that JCP is in the SEO business.
Now, that's irrelevant.


 4:29 am on Feb 24, 2011 (gmt 0)

irrelevant myabe...powerful nonetheless.


 5:25 am on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

NY Times has exposed a widespread issue

Getting to the top of google, even if your a newcomer domain-wise, is as easy as overwhelming google with your backlinks, they don't have to be even remotely relevant.

You can be selling nuclear rods and get backlinks from a cooking website!

and for the google maps? well, just make up addresses all over town and you'll be ok.

If you tell me google will catch up with you....well i know of sites, such as my competitors, getting away with this for over a year now

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