SEO falls under two distinct categories: white or black hat. This refers to the honesty behind the method of how you get your website boosted in Google’s ranking algorithm. Dodgy SEO practices involve paying off external sites to link to your site to give it clout in the eyes of Google.
These types of practices work about as well as a student cheating on a test. At first it seems all good when the student is coming up with the right answers and pulling high marks. This euphoria though is soon crushed when the professor notices this crafty little pupil sneaking peaks at the notes cleverly written on their baseball cap bill and puts a stop to it with expulsion.
Dodgy SEO generates a similar dismal outcome. Paying off external sites to build an extensive amount of links or submitting articles to link farms. Google sees the more links that point back to your website as valued votes that help boost your site up in rankings.
Even though sketchy link building, keyword stuffing and other crude SEO tactics are not illegal, Google frowns upon black hat SEO approaches that cheat the system of organic rankings and does its part to ‘discipline’ culprits. In severe cases Google will perform manual action to reverse your high ranking results causing your site to plummet within search results… no matter how small or big your company or brand is.
A strong example of this arose about a year ago when J.C. Penney, the popular American clothing retailer with over 1,100 stores across the states bringing in over $17.8 billion annually, was exposed for implementing dodgy SEO methods. Within a couple of hours their site went from ranking as number one in organic search results for terms such as, ‘little black dress’ and ‘throw rug’ to being buried about 6 or 7 pages back.
Before the downfall, J.C. Penney was dominating all fashion and home furnishing search results. They were even topping Samsonite’s own website for search queries such as, ‘Samsonite carry-on luggage’.
Google noticed that J.C. Penney had placed thousands of links pointing back to their website on hundreds of sites; many of which being not even closely to the J.C. Penney page it linked to. For example there were links found for ‘semi-formal dresses’ found on usclettermen.org, ‘casual dresses’ on elistofbanks.com, ‘black dresses’ on nuclear.engineeringaddict.com and the list goes on. Upon discovering this, Google was not impressed to say the least and took immediate ‘corrective action’ to rectify the violating site.
Google’s guidelines are put in place to ensure that the websites appearing high in organic search results are the best relevant sources to meet the searches queries. Honest SEO works within these guidelines and employs tactics which make it more reputable and legible to search engines and consumers.
J.C. Penney reported not to have known their hired SEO consultants were implementing such shady behaviour and working outside of the Google guidelines.
J.C. Penney spokesperson, Darcie Brossart stated, “J.C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent you to us, as it is against our natural search policies.”
Needless to say J.C. Penney is no longer working with the SEO company and has been working hard to restore their credibility on Google.
Be careful not to learn the hard way and when optimising your own site, be sure that your SEO consultants are implementing an honest strategy to optimise your site organically. Good SEO takes time, but the long term results will give you an ROI and recognition that’s worth the time and effort.