You may have read from a number of sources of the recent New York Times article which ‘outed’ the link building practises undertaken by JC Penney or more accurately their SEO agency Searchdex. For those that haven’t read the story the following resources are worth reading:
- Search Engine Optimisation and its dirty little secrets – New York Times
- New York Times Exposes J.C. Penney Link Scheme That Causes Plummeting Rankings in Google
- New York Times outs major US retailer for link spam
– Search Engine Land
To provide a quick overview, it appears that JC Penney had utilised a load of low quality link sources as the basis for the SEO link building, primarily from the well known link network TNX. Its not the first time I have seen TNX work particularly well, it used to work fantastically for GHD counterfeit sites as well. However more worryingly it has highlighted a number of more worrying issues as regards Google and its ability to deal with any sort of simple ‘negative’ link building.
They have since taken action. On Wednesday evening, Google began what it calls a “manual action” against JC Penney, primary keyword level demotions specifically aimed at the company.
At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for “Samsonite carry on luggage.”
Two hours later, it was at No. 71.
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Penney was No. 1 in searches for “living room furniture.”
By 9 p.m., it had sunk to No. 68.
However the following key points would appear to stand out as regards the activity which entire issue:
- Relevancy or lack of it would appear to have little bearing on site success. The fact that a number of the links came from a number of ‘dubious’ link sources would be testament to this, and I have seen Russian sites within the TNX network work very well as well.
- Spikes in link building don’t necessarily mean Google will catch you. Lets face it, it wasn’t Google that caught this issue going on – it was the NYT and before that the site had seen some very aggresive link building taking place – which as mentioned earlier didn’t exactly have a blend that should have gone unnoticed.
- More importantly – why didnt Google pick this up. We are led to believe that Google’s network of human evaluators and cutting edge algorithm is more than capable of finding and punishing you if you overstep the Google guidelines – however it wasn’t until the news broke that Google took any action at all.
- Strangely it is a newspaper breaking the news. One better hope they never decide to offer any form of linkage which goes against Google Guidelines as one would suggest there are going to be a lot of people waiting to return the favour if they do.
At the end of the day, one has to say that Google does do a better job of sorting the wheat from the chaff than many of their competitors – however one can’t help that a certain level of competition wouldn’t go amiss – if not just to keep Google on their toes a bit more. Missing such an example sends completely the wrong message out, and goes against much of the traditional rhetoric that comes out from Google. After all its actions that often speak much loader than words.