So this past Sunday JCPenney was featured in a article by the New York Times that exposed many of there search engine optimization techniques as black hat, specifically when it comes to link building.
How JCPenney Purchased Organic Rankings
The article exposed that through blackhat SEO techniques JCPenney was rankings in top spots on Google for just about every product they sell. The one thing it exposed more than just JCPenney’s way of manipulating the search engine is that it exposed what discourages many of us in the industry, which is that if you have a large enough budget you can rank for just about any keyword. Link building is one of the most effective ways to get top rankings and when all thing are equal, the site with the most links gets the top spot. Link building is a major factor in Googles ranking algorithm because it is supposed to show how popular your site it. If people are linking to you than it must mean that your have something of value, right? Well not necessarily. What has grown out of this aspect of Google Algorithm is that people have started to make links available at a cost. I am personally presented with website offering links, on a almost daily basis. And I will admit that I have used them before and they have work! JCPenney being one of the largest retail stores in the United States, with revenue of $17.8 billion in 2010 give them quite an available budget for SEO.
The problem with what they did and what countless other companies do, is that it is fairly easy to figure out when you are buying links. Years back at a previous company of mine we would use paid linking services whenever we needed it. If a client has the budget and is not willing to wait for rankings to come organically, we would just buy links so we could show result quickly and keep the client. This ended up backfiring on a few times and as a result we stopped doing it. But I can tell you first hand that it can be done and it works fairly fast. JCPenney of course denied any knowledge of the back hat link building and immediately fired their SEO company, but they are still the one to pay the price. Just FYI at ShopLine Commerce we only participate in white hat SEO techniques
A Good Payday Does Not Make a Successful Company
The larger problem with what JCPenney did was that there is no long term guarantee. Yes some would argue that they made some good money and got away with it for a while so it was worth it. The problem is that in the long term this is going to hurt them much more than it helped. Now they are in the Google penalty box and it will take some time to get out. On top of that all the money they spent on this is now wasted. If they would have done it the legitimate way, it would have taken a little longer but they would have long lasting affect. Google is going to be around for a while, so don’t think in terms of months think in terms of years.
Does This Mean That Blackhat SEO Dead?
Well the unfortunate thing is that no it isn’t. JCPenney is a huge company and had to be made an example of. People and SEO companies will continue to manipulate Google and buy links and it will work, but eventually you will get caught. In conclusion SEO takes times, if anyone promises or tells you otherwise you should be cautious.