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    JCPenney gets busted buying links...


    Here's an interesting article from the NYTimes about how JCPenney.com got caught using paid links for SEO.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/bu...ewanted=1&_r=1
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  3. Traffic drop sleuth. :)
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    And here's another article by Jill Whalen about big companies dominating the SERPS because of bought links...

    http://www.highrankings.com/anchor-t...01OTc1LA%3D%3D
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    Originally Posted by Dr.Marie
    Here's an interesting article from the NYTimes about how JCPenney.com got caught using paid links for SEO.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/bu...ewanted=1&_r=1
    This is a fairly good example of why not to overdo something.

    It is interesting that a) Google had investigated and taken action against them on previous occasions and they come back. This suggests to me the action was limited to the devaluation of the links and not penalising the site.
    b) Google admitting that this now needs to be delat with manually. This must mean the amount of sites that can ever be dealt with in this way must be fairly limited. c) It appears to have been discovered by a human report and not a clever google algo d) The company claims no knowledge of these links so is this an example of an attempt at Google bowling e)How responsible can a company be held for actions like this - The article seems to suggest it is still just a link devaluation that has occured.

    To me this tells us 1) Do not be excessive & 2) Mostly the worst that will happen is the links will be devalued.

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Great analysis. This is the type of post that you make regularly that really impresses me. Thank you!
    • jsteele823 agrees
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    EGOL
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    Great analysis. Many thanks for reading all of the details and thinking about it deeply enough to give this analysis.

    JCP should have been on a Google "Watch List"... JCP should have had their SEO on their own "Watch List"...

    Google was blind to a link scheme for some of the most commercial queries in their index and that links scheme could have had over 100,000 links all pointing to the same 50 pages on a single domain.

    I am REALLY surprised that they missed this.

    Originally Posted by gazzahk
    To me this tells us 1) Do not be excessive & 2) Mostly the worst that will happen is the links will be devalued.
    This seems to be what happened to JCP.

    I am curious to see what happens long term. What would Google do if they caught Joe Schmoe with links on 2000 sites pointing to a page about dresses and 50 other commercial keywords each with 2000 sites pointing to them?

    I believe that their domain would be permanently crippled or banned from Google's organic results.
    * "It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain
    * "Free advice isn't worth much. Cheap advice is worth even less." EGOL
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    Originally Posted by EGOL
    I am curious to see what happens long term. What would Google do if they caught Joe Schmoe with links on 2000 sites pointing to a page about dresses and 50 other commercial keywords each with 2000 sites pointing to them?

    I believe that their domain would be permanently crippled or banned from Google's organic results.
    I s'pose it comes back to the 'google bowling' issue really. If your site can get banned for inward links and this is made public then it would become possible to 'take out' another company's site. I do not think Google can do this and not start to see industrial sabotage on a large scale. I would think in the end all they could do is devalue the links.

    Like in this example the company denies any knowledge of this process happening. Assume for a minute they are being truthful. To nuke their site would be a very unfair action to take. It may even be possible that Google could face legal action. The company is not breaking the TOS by having other sites link to it. Google has publically stated inward links cannot hurt you. Therefore Google would be taking action that it has no justification for taking in its publicised material. It could be seen as vindicative, discramtory or anti competative (not saying it is but it could be) This is very different from the BMW example where they were using dorway pages.

    Thus I would think Joe schome would likley face the same consequence myslef.

    Oh and thank you for the kind words they were much appreciated.....

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Thank you!
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    EGOL
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    Originally Posted by gazzahk
    Thus I would think Joe schome would likley face the same consequence myslef.
    That sounds most logical. Thank you!
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    Originally Posted by EGOL
    That sounds most logical. Thank you!
    Extending on... What I think happens when people 'think' they have been penalized for buying links (the -30,-60,-90 penalties etc) is a direct result of Google not being very good at identifying paid links. Therefore when they devalue links many of a sites unpaid links get caught in the devaluation hence the fall below where they were before they started buying the links. When they confess to Google with a reconsideration request and identify which links were actually purchased Google reduces the devaluation to only those purchased links so therefore the site recovers it own rankings.

    I do not think it is a ‘penalty’ as such more just a ‘consequence’. The above story reinforces my view of how Google treats link buyers. I suppose it is possible to argue it is a penalty in that organic links may have been devalued but the outcome is that Google has been consistent with all its public statements about inwards links. Removing benefit is not the same as issuing a penalty.

    The problem though is when a site like this then goes and buys new links to return the benefit. How does Google deal with this. I think this is where they admit it needs to be done manually comes in because the normal “semi-automated process” no longer works ie kill all juice from links received in last 24 months for example.

    I imagine the manual process is now to (as you suggested) putting these sites on a watch list to see if new links are added.

    It may be quite ironic in that all the publicity around this case has probably seen their website get heaps of new links. Their rankings may again start to improve…

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees : Thanks!
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    EGOL
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    Thanks for sharing these ideas. Again, very logical.

    Do you have any ideas on how google might treat link sellers when they are caught?
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    Originally Posted by EGOL
    Thanks for sharing these ideas. Again, very logical.

    Do you have any ideas on how google might treat link sellers when they are caught?
    Lol…

    No not much of an idea really. If I was Google these would be the sites I would hammer. It is so easy to fix blame and so much a breach of their terms of service.

    Still I imagine it would have to be pretty blatant I cannot imagine they do much about 1 or 2 questionable links on a site. The amount of webmasters that are aware of the desire of Google to put nofollow after links that have been sold I imagine is a tiny % of webmasters.

    I do know that they kill the juice of sites that are thought to be content farms when discovered.

    Thus I imagine the easiest thing for them to do would be kill/reduce the sites ability to transfer juice. The extent they do this I have no idea.

    I do know I do not sell links from my site.

    Because as I said at the start if I was Google I would seek to hammer the sellers as this is the site owners own choice.
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    This letter sent by Google to Forbes
    ------------------------------
    Dear site owner or webmaster of http://www.forbes.com/,
    We’ve detected that some or all of your pages are using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which are available here: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769&hl=en.
    Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. For more information about our linking guidelines, visit
    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66356&hl=en.
    We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reconsideration?hl=en to submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
    If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters?hl=en.
    Sincerely,
    Google Search Quality Team
    1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
    Mountain View, CA 94043
    source: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread?tid=4d212d4d4f5964a8&hl=en

    Certainly suggests that Forbes were penalized for selling links. ie it tells them to clean up their act and file a reconsideration request. This would only be needed if the site had suffered a penalty.

    Still it also suggests that the penalty can be easily dealt with and removed simply by stopping doing it.

    I think that this could be a bit of an issue for Google really ie it suggests a company can sell links and reap the rewards until picked up by Google. Once this happens all that needs to be done is the paid links need to have nofollow added and reconsideration request submitted.

    What is interesting is Google sent them notification before action was taken (or after and told them how to reverse the action – this is a bit unclear). I wonder how normal this is….. I still think the problem for Google is they cannot assume companies know about their paid link policy or terms of service. Company’s do not submit their websites to Google they are just added without webmasters knowledge. Therefore there is no acceptance of the TOS and no reason to have read them. Just penalizing companies without notifying them would be quite harsh.

    Overall there is little in this example to make businesses fear selling a few links I would think. Still as said in my previous post I do not sell links on my site as I do not wish to take the risk of Google action as my site is to valuable to my business.
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    EGOL
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    I don't believe that google would bother to dig up an email address for some little Joe Schmoe website - especially if he had identity block on his WHOIS information to cut down on spam and marketing phone calls.

    Comments on this post

    • gazzahk agrees : Yep.. I agree there. So the sites probably do get treated a bit differently.
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    Originally Posted by EGOL
    I don't believe that google would bother to dig up an email address for some little Joe Schmoe website - especially if he had identity block on his WHOIS information to cut down on spam and marketing phone calls.
    The actual message was sent via webmaster tools though not an email. Thus I imagine if you do not have a webmaster tools account set up they do not notify you but if the webmaster tools account is setup maybee they do.

    I think this is once agin an indication of Google trying to live up to its unoffical motto "do no evil" they seem to be willing to give webmasters the benefit of the doubt. An excellent admirable company policy I think but definatley open to abuse and exploitation.
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    Good to see that Google does give some sites the benefit of doubt. Rarely do people get told why they are penalised though.

    As for how does Google treat a site that sells links, they seem to bundle it all up together in their guidelines:

    "Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results."

    So someone selling links will get their ranking reduced as well as the buyer. Maybe this is how they do it. The juice flows from the link, so punish the link seller, remove pagerank on those pages.

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees

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