Damaging SEO Through Link Schemes: J.C. Penny

Posted on March 14, 2011 • Written by Brad Anderson

Recently, J.C. Penny made some waves in the SEO world when it got caught breaking the Google webmaster guidelines by employing some shady organic SEO boosting practices. The practices they used gave them a short-term boost, but in the long run, hurt their SEO efforts because Google found out and penalized their site. J.C. Penny fired their SEO services firm, said they were unaware of what was going on, and are now working their way back up the ranks of Google searches for a wide range of products. What happened to J.C. Penny is not unique, and many firms may be tempted to mimic their strategy, but ultimately these practices can not only get you thrown to the bottom of the search results, they can get you kicked off the Google index completely.

Fooling the System

It’s no secret that getting to the top of a Google search is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site. But Google wants to make their search engine as fair and as accurate as possible, so they try as hard as they can to bring results to the top of a search that are relevant and reflect real-world popularity of a website. But, of course, the algorithms and can be fooled and manipulated to give undue attention to a certain website. And that’s exactly what J.C. Penny’s SEO services firm did.

Instead of waiting or asking for links from independent websites and blogs, they decided to pay for links. Their SEO services firm paid bloggers and website owners to post the exact same anchor text with the exact same link back to a J.C. Penny product page, generating a massive SEO boost. However, these links did not reflect sincere endorsements of J.C. Penny’s products by the site owners and appeared completely out of context in many cases. Paying for links in this way violates Google’s webmaster guidelines, and J.C. Penny suffered.

Spammy Link Building Hurting SEO

But J.C. Penny got off easy. They placed the blame on their SEO services firm and were not removed from the Google index completely. But the punishment can be much worse. If you are caught using so-called black-hat SEO practices, you can be removed completely and not appear in any Google search results, which will absolutely kill your site traffic. Growing organic SEO is a good thing and will help you get to the top of a Google search results, but if you go too far, you’ll kill your SEO and end up hurting yourself in the end.

Brad Anderson

Written by Brad Anderson

Brad Anderson is the Executive Director and Founder of Fruition. Brad’s focus is supporting Fruition’s team to enable sustainable growth and excellent client satisfaction (EBITDA growth). With a strong statistical background, Brad built Fruition’s in-house software that is used to manage client success.

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