NY Times Interviews Us Regarding JCPenney Black Hat SEO Techniques


One of the members of our marketing team, Doug Pierce, was called upon for a New York Times story published online today uncovering fraudulent techniques employed in improving's Google rankings. Head of the Google spam team, Matt Cutts, was also interviewed as part of the story, after which's rankings dropped from top positions for search terms like "bedding" and "area rugs" down to what we call "nowhere to be found".

Doug helped NY Times reporter David Segal by providing evidence of JC Penney's questionable SEO techniques. He used and found this. Segal then spoke to Spam Czar Matt Cutts and his response was as follows:

“Am I happy this happened?” he later asked. “Absolutely not. Is Google going to take strong corrective action? We absolutely will.”

And the company did. On Wednesday evening, Google began what it calls a “manual action” against Penney, essentially demotions specifically aimed at the company.

At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for “Samsonite carry on luggage.”

Two hours later, it was at No. 71.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Penney was No. 1 in searches for “living room furniture.”

By 9 p.m., it had sunk to No. 68.

In other words, one moment Penney was the most visible online destination for living room furniture in the country.

The next it was essentially buried.

Read the full NY Times story here >

UPDATE (5:11pm EST, Feb 14):

Here is Blue Fountain Media's response regarding JC Penney's official response, posted here:  "The New York Times failed miserably in neglecting to disclose that it hired a competitor to the search firm working with us and used that competitor firm as the primary source...":

1. When the NY Times contacted us, it was to help them verify whether or not there had been Google Webmaster Guidelines violations, not to out a "competitor". We were not informed by the NY Times that there was another search firm involved.

2. The information we provided to the NY Times reporter is publicly available. We had the know-how to look in the right place. The NY Times knew it could trust us as we are often a source for this type of information. You can visit our press section for other such mentions.

3. The NY Times did not hire us. They called us, and we were glad to help them answer a few questions they had.

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Comments on this post

  1. Yeah I like how JCP spun it to sound like you were chosen because you’re in direct competition with SearchDex, with the premise being your “findings” were “suspect”. Which is clearly a case of JCP trying misdirection / deflection. Typical corporate spin in that.

  2. Robert Jakobson said:

    Also a closer look on all the clients of the SEO company in question is in order. That would really leave a mark of tough but real love on the SEO industry

  3. Does anyone have any tips on doing validation or checkups on a SEO program that is currently running to be sure the agency isn’t doing anything “black hat?” In other words, if I hire a SEO agency, how can I confirm that they’re not doing anything that might not be kosher. Also, I understand that some techniques might fall into a gray area and I’d like to be able to discuss that with the agency.
    I’d appreciate any articles or insights you could point me to. Thanks!

  4. Wow. How embarrassing for Penny. I wonder how long it will take for them to recover. How long before Google lifts the ban? Is it like an NCAA sanction? Are they temporarily banned from bowl games? How embarrassing. And I agree with Robert Jakobson. The SEO firm should be questioned and outed.

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