Blog » The Dirty Little Secrets of Search – How Bad SEO Killed JC Pennys (sort of) The Dirty Little Secrets of Search – How Bad SEO Killed JC Pennys (sort of) The NY Times is on some sort of SEO kick. A few days ago they wrote about how the Huffington Post, Demand Media, and (shocker) eHow are just content mills that churn out low quality content yet rank extremely well for natural search. This morning David Segal wrote a nice piece titled “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” essentially how JC Pennys hired some link builders to build low quality links for JC Penny’s targeted search. The problem is it worked. JC Penny’s ranked extremely well in Google organic search for years and dominated through the holiday season. How did JC Pennys get caught? It took a NY Times reporter, who must have been seriously pissed off at some ugly Christmas sweater his aunt bought him in the 5th grade to rat out JC Pennys to Google. The rest of us in the SEO services business who follow Google’s guidelines get shut out. The problem is pervasive and easy to spot. How do you spot a black hat link builder? It’s actually so easy I’m surprised that the Google’s quality team hasn’t taken the proverbial baseball bat to the knees of a few of my competitors. To find out if your backlink building is in line with Google webmaster guidelines simply take the total number of links and run a quick average of PR. Legitimate PR is always above 1.5. Blackhat is always lower. You don’t even need to run regressions. You don’t need a Stanford Ph.D. a quick spreed sheet of 10 competitors displays this very quickly. Are their going to be exceptions where this doesn’t work? Of course but I just did it for our own keyword targets including Denver SEO and SEO service and the results were pretty striking. We’ll see what happens with JC Pennys. My guess is they hire a legitimate SEO company, que shameless plug, i.e. FRUITION and we work on getting them back in the good graces of Google.