Technically they did nothing wrong. Here are a few things we offer 10% off on. Bam! The sites linked and it got too popular so Google acted.
They basically bribed their customers in exchange for cheaper items. You even had to link to exact URLs. Bit dodgey?
I remember a few years ago Belkin were paying people to write 5 star reviews for them on Amazon. Is that OK with you? Reading product reviews that are all fake?
Why didn't Overstock pay people with blogspot or wordpress.com domains? Why only .edu domains? Their campaign was to artificially inflate their rankings and it worked. If nothing happened, the SEO firm who worked for these big guys would be applying their same strategy to all their other site portfolios. Sooner or later you have all these .edu sites filled with commercial crap. Google index becomes less relevant.
I have to say, these big shot SEO firms are really ahead of their game. Google should hire them to improve their spam algo.
Seems like Google is sending out a clear warning to all these fortune 5000 companies thinking they can play dirty tactics by hiding behind their huge brands and unlimited marketing budgets to outrank real relevant personal/mum and dad sites with virtually no marketing budgets except great content.
I wonder how many giant corporations are now scrambling to undo their blackhat SEO? People thought JC penny was a once off, this second one is hitting it home.