The New York Times (NYT) published an article last Saturday which provides interesting insight into how the Google search engine works when it comes to ranking websites. It covers how a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company doing work for J.C. Penney allegedly tried to game the Google search engine using what is known as “black hat” techniques and was able to successfully achieve first place positions for a number of valuable keywords like “furniture” and “home decor” beating out millions of other online pages.
The NYT article mentions that a spokeswomen for J.C. Penney, Darcie Brossart, said regarding the black hat techniques that were used, “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”. She added, “We are working to have the links taken down.”
The article also mentions how Google took manual action against J.C. Penney and now searches for these keywords are found in very low positions in the Google search engine. For example, they were No. 1 for “living room furniture” and a few hours later they were No. 68 in the search results for this search term. The lowering and/or removal of this search term and others can result in thousands of dollars in lost revenue for J. C. Penney.
The article mentions how Penney reacted to this by firing its search engine consulting firm.
The NYT further goes on to mention how in 2006 Google caught BMW using a black hat technique to get its German web site to the top of the search results. As a result of this Google was given what the BBC called “the death penalty,” stating that it was “removed from search results.”
So do you get the moral of this story? Be very careful of what consulting company you chose to do your SEO work. You should be especially wary of any company which guarantees they can get you in the No. 1 position on Google or offers to post hundreds or even thousands of links for you online for a ridiculously low price or similar black hat tactics. No one controls the Google search engine algorithms but Google and therefore no one can guarantee your web site positioning in the search results. The best procedure and most ethical is to follow Google’s search engine policies very carefully and work hard to produce valuable and relevant content for your web site over time to avoid being penalized by Google or even worse having them remove your web site completely from the search results.
In other words, play right, but try to game the system and you will eventually get caught.
You can read the complete New York Times article here: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search