And the Big Name Brand Blunders Just Keep on Coming
May 27, 2018
May 27, 2018
First it was the Gap logo fiasco, followed by the Kenneth Cole Twitter faux paux, then the tacky Groupon Super Bowl Ads and now JC Penny's is trying to justify shady link building activities. As a PR or marketing professional, I am not sure if you can say one situation trumps another in the severity, but all three would make exceptional consumer loyalty case studies.
The upside of JC Penny's recent blunder is that the general public knows little to nothing about "link building" and SEO best practices. They will read the article in New York Times and skip over to the Entertainment section to check out the best and worst dressed at the Grammy's. However, to us search marketers that live and breathe SEO, this is big news.
So what exactly is black-hat link building? Link building is a way for websites to generate inbound links. Link building is a fundamental component of off-site SEO and helps increase visibility and traffic for a website, that driving conversions or sales.
Black-hat link building tries to essentially cheat the process. Trying to "trick" Google is an illegal occurrence and punished by "the death penalty," which would mean the site would have been removed from search results. It seems JC Penny dodge a bullet and will not suffer that strong a cost, but they are subject to something Google calls, "corrective action." In an interview with Matt Cutts last Wednesday, he confirmed that JC Penny's had violated Google guidelines, and it was not the first time Google had detected guideline violations with JCPenny.com.
The first piece of the puzzle that baffles most people is how did the JC Penny's marketing staff not know their search firm was practicing shady linking techniques? Who at corporate was in charge of interpreting linking reports and search campaigns? As a marketing firm, we always have a point of contact, in-house, for all our client accounts. We communicate with our contacts on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily basis.
In an article from the New York Times, a spokeswoman for JCPenny.com, Darcie Brossart said, "JC 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."
JC Penny's has fired their search firm, SearchDex who they had been using since 2004, SearchDex represents big brand names such as Armani Exchange, Anthropologies, Banana Republic, Best Buy, Blockbuster, Gap, Orbitz, Old Navy and Nike Town, among others.
According to Google, these irrelevant links have only been around for 3 to 4 months. What is most curious about the situation is how, all of the sudden, did these nefarious links appear?
Another interesting fact is that JC Penny spent close to 30 million dollars in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaigns. PPC campaigns are innate to the Google search model and Google reaps massive amounts of cash from this advertising platform. A conspiracy theory surmises that Google was willing to overlook this extensive black-hat SEO campaign, because it helped one of its larger advertisers.
Google is not known for full disclosure when it comes to its search engine algorithms, so it is doubtful that any of the questions postulated above will be answered with any immediacy. The moral of the story is, for small businesses or big brands, any good and pure search campaign takes times. Search marketing is something that should be looked at as a long term solution and investment, not a quick fix to make a quick buck.