A recent expose by the New York Times has revealed that JC Penney has been gaming Google’s search results in order to keep themselves in the number one spot for a variety of keyword searches from dresses to bedding to Samsonite carry on luggage.
As per the New York Times report, it was noticed that when popular keywords like dresses, area rugs, beddings, home décor, skinny jeans etc were searched for, unrelated false pages containing these keywords and a direct link to the JC Penney website appeared up on the first position of Google keeping the retailer on the top slot for the entire holiday season.
Google’s anti-spam head, Matt Cutts told New York Times that they did have a hint of similar efforts by JC Penney in the past but they did not keep a strong vigil on the company to check if they were still breaking the pagerank rules. Once made aware of the issue, Cutts’ team moved into action by pushing down these fake pages to unusually low rankings in the SERP’s which will now surely have a direct impact on the pagerank of jcpenny.com .
In its defense a spokesperson from JC Penney denied all allegations and said that the company had hired a search optimization firm to improve their Google page rankings. The company reportedly fired the firm immediately after this expose.
What has taken the SEO world by surprise is not how JC Penney fooled Google, but how Google could have let such a big scam happen under their nose. Is it because Google reportedly receives $2.6 million per month from J.C. Penny for the paid ads? Or did they seriously not know anything?
Whatever the reason, this incident has some experts questioning the credibility of Google’s page rank algorithm and its vulnerability to such manipulations. Also after this expose, it makes you wonder just how many other high-profile retailers are doing this and is Google knowingly turning a blind eye to such malpractice by their high profile advertisers?