“J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies,” Ms. Brossart wrote in an e-mail. She added, “We are working to have the links taken down.”
The links do not bear any fingerprints, but nothing else about them was particularly subtle. 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.
Some of the 2,015 pages are on sites related, at least nominally, to clothing. But most are not. The phrase “black dresses” and a Penney link were tacked to the bottom of a site called nuclear.engineeringaddict.com. “Evening dresses” appeared on a site called casino-focus.com. “Cocktail dresses” showed up on bulgariapropertyportal.com. ”Casual dresses” was on a site called elistofbanks.com. “Semi-formal dresses” was pasted, rather incongruously, on usclettermen.org.
What? Google caught JC Penney doing Black Hat SEO/link buying, probably knew for months and did not do anything until it blew out of proportion because of the shopping season... Maybe this can help understand the reason:
Last year, Advertising Age obtained a Google document that listed some of its largest advertisers, including AT&T, eBay and yes, J. C. Penney. The company, this document said, spent $2.46 million a month on paid Google search ads — the kind you see next to organic results.
But then the story explodes and it's bad for Google's image so they need to do something about it... well, JC Penney reached their year-end goal anyway, made their stockholders happy, so who cares if they lose traffic and earnings by now...
Oh remember the "Nope, there is NO WAY Google can manual change rankings"?
But the real damage to Penney’s results began when Google started that “manual action.” The decline can be charted: On Feb. 1, the average Penney position for 59 search terms was 1.3.
On Feb. 8, when the algorithm was changing, it was 4.
By Feb. 10, it was 52.
As well as recently, the Bing/Google story where Google made specific sites show for crazy search terms.
I am sorry, but all this really makes me lose confidence in Google's honesty about search. And in my own experience with the Halloween niche, i have seen cases after cases where websites reached rankings right on for the Halloween season although they used obvious paid link strategies to gain these rankings 8 to 12 months prior...
Google, i think your biggest challenge is going to gain user's, and mostly online marketers, confidence back in your search engine.
: really like this post from @arrington Search Still Sucks
. So much around search quality lately, but man this is not a new problem, so why is it getting so much attention right now?