JCPenney SEO Scandal

The New York Times announcement of JCPenney‘s SEO spamming recently caught many people off-guard, but most of us in the SEO industry were well aware of this and probably shrugged it off.

Some SEO research on JCPenny a few months ago showed their website ranking extremely well for several keywords like “comforters”, which is highly competitive and for most people impossible to rank for. Of course JCP no longer rank for most of the keywords they were ranking for months ago, but its obvious they are still targeting this audience with Pay Per Click and Google AdWords.

It is surprising that such a big name company would use some very questionable link sources like expired & re-purchased domains, fake business websites, etc.

The Big question is – Why would JCPenney risk their reputation, Google rankings and earnings on these bad quality link sources?

At the end of the day it seems like dollar signs is the only real factor, as with any business. JC Penney most likely made a ridiculous amount of income & profits during the holiday season.

Whilst JCP execs basically responded by denying any knowledge of these SEO happenings and blamed their SEO company, it shows terrible ignorance on their part. Regardless of what the SEO vendor’s strategies were, there are no magic techniques for improving rankings – especially for ridiculously competitive terms and JCP execs and/or marketing department should be well aware of this.

Why Did It Take So Long To Expose?
The media and their competition is quick to jump on JCP for their actions, on top of that most people in the internet marketing industry were well aware of JCPenney’s SEO tactics. Then why did it take such a long time to be exposed? Why was JCP not penalized earlier? (Actually, Google have stated to have penalized them at least 3 times in the past already)

Brett Tabke, owner at WebmasterWorld.com saids “For every JCP standing in the limelight, there are a thousand shaking in the shadows“. This is perhaps the true reason why this scandal was not exposed earlier.

The Blatant Truth
The entire industry (almost) is doing this, obtaining back links is obviously not a walk in the park. Big brands, little brands, big businesses, small companies, white-hats, black-hats, you name it… Not everyone is using the same techniques to the same degree or so blatantly abusing the system as SearchDex & JC Penney were apparently, but find us ANY website ranking for some mildly competitive target keyword(s) and we are absolutely certain we can find some questionable link sources.

The truth is the ethical line is now very grey for SEO practices and techniques. At times all that separates the first page rankings and second page rankings are simply how far one is willing to step on that grey line for a website’s SEO strategies.