Google Gives “The Death Penalty” for Black Hat SEO

The New York Times recently published an article on a search scandal involving mall staple store giant J.C. Penney. Penney had contracted search engine consulting firm SearchDex to handle its SEO responsibilities, and The Times uncovered evidence that they were using a black-hat strategy to bolster their Google search ranking for a variety of keywords.

One of the top criteria Google employs to derive its organic search results is links from one site to another. This means that the more other websites link to your website, the higher your ranking will be, especially if the site is similar/related to yours. The Times describes this by saying, “In a way, what Google is measuring is your site’s popularity by polling the best-informed online fans of [the product/service] and counting their links to your site as votes of approval.” However, even if websites that are completely unrelated to your business are linking to your site, it still improves your rank.

The Times spent some time Google’ing words like “dresses,” “area rugs,” and “bedding,” and found that JC Penney was outranking every other company for the number one spot, including a site with the namesake, arearugs.com. Teaming up with online search expert Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media, Pierce found that Penney was indeed utilizing black hat optimization practices to falsely increase their search rank. The article reported that, “Using an online tool called Open Site Explorer, Mr. Pierce found 2,015 pages with phrases like “casual dresses,” “evening dresses,” “little black dress” or “cocktail dress.” Click on any of these phrases on any of these 2,015 pages, and you are bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com.” Pierce found that of the 2,015 pages, few were related to the phrases he was searching for, including nuclear.engineeringaddict.com.

When The Times contacted the head of the Google Webspam team, Matt Cutts, he noted that they detected Penney’s guideline violations as recently as last November. Initially, measures were taken to reduce Penney’s search results, but since they were made aware of this most recent violation, their ranking has plummeted for the aforementioned searches.

This isn’t the first time a major, well-known company has used black hat strategies to increase their page rank; BMW was temporarily removed from search results in 2006 for the same offense. In order to avoid being given this “death penalty,” as BBC called it, search engine optimization must be achieved organically. If you hire an interactive company to handle your SEO, make sure they have a solid reputation. Blue Interactive Agency has provided natural SEO-friendly website design to companies for years, without incident. If you are looking for trustworthy SEO in Fort Lauderdale, please contact us today at 954-779-2801.