Google Punishes J.C. Penney After Retailer Allegedly Pays for Links

Google has buried J.C. Penney links after learning of alleged “black-hat” marketing techniques employed by the 109-year-old retailer. According to a report in the New York Times, J.C. Penney paid for thousands of links to be added to hundreds of websites, an action that blatantly violates Google’s policies.

Paying for links is a big no-no as the more incoming links a site has the higher its ranking in Google and the easier it is for consumers to find. With the help of SEO Expert Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media, the New York Times found that many search terms linking to J.C. Penney from outside websites had absolutely nothing to do with the sites on which they appeared. For example, the phrase “Evening dresses” and a link to Penney’s appeared on a site called casino-focus.com, while “Cocktail dresses” showed up on bulgariapropertyportal.com. The Times presented their findings to Matt Cutt, head of Google's Webspam team, who found Penney guilty of wrongdoing.

“I can confirm that this violates our guidelines,” said Cutts after looking at a list of paid links to JCPenney.com.

Google reacted to the Penney's violation by burying the company's links. Not sure what that means? Last Wednesday evening at 7 p.m., the retailer was #1 for the term "Samonsite carry on luggage" (beating even Samsonite). Two hours later it was #71.

Penney’s, for its part, says it didn’t know about the links.

"J.C. Penney was in no way involved in the posting of the links discussed in the article. We did not authorize them and we were not aware that they had been posted," A spokeswoman for J. C. Penney, Darcie Brossart, wrote in an email. "To be clear, we do not tolerate violations of our policies regarding natural search, which reflect Google's guidelines."

Penney's responded to the allegations by firing their search engine consulting firm, SearchDex, and stating they will work to actively to retain their high "natural search position.”


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