When it comes to search engine rank, a company’s placement within the results can determine how successful that company will be in terms of online business. All search engines, including Google, use algorithms to determine this placement. Understanding these calculations can give you an advantage.
Naturally, this makes online marketing a profitable business, as more companies want to learn secrets to improving their ranks. However, not all search engine optimization (SEO) techniques are useful. Some, known as black-hat SEO, can cause a search engine to ban your company.
J.C. Penney vs. Google
A recent example of black-hat SEO gone bad is J.C. Penney. Throughout the holiday season, the department store giant consistently ranked first for several suspicious categories.
- It beat out Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath & Beyond for area rugs.
- It topped Samsonite’s website for terms like “Samsonite luggage.”
- It ranked higher than specialty stores, like J. Crew, for common apparel search terms.
While the placement certainly gave J.C. Penney a boost through the all-important holiday season, it left many suspicious, including Google. It didn’t take SEO experts or the search engine long to realize the success boiled down to black-hat SEO. Which dark art technique did the company use? Reports are indicating “someone” paid for links on other websites.
You may ask, isn’t that just a form of advertising? The answer would be no. In Google’s world, this falls into a forbidden category: link schemes. Websites that hosted these links covered a wide range of topics with no relation to J.C. Penney or the items listed in the links. For example, the following topics linked back to J.C. Penney’s dress page:
- Aluminum sheets
- Bathroom tiles
- Online games
J.C. Penney’s Web Rank
The most extreme punishment for using black-hat SEO is a ban from the search engine. This happened in 2006 when Google banned BMW because of doorway pages. BMW designed these pages to attract search engines and to redirect traffic to its German website. J.C. Penney will not suffer this action; however, Google is working to take “corrective action.” Beginning February 9, 2011, Google started to adjust J.C. Penney’s rank manually. J.C. Penney’s moved from the first spot on several keywords to a ranking of 68 or 71, eliminating the company from a first-page ranking.
How to Avoid Black-hat SEO
Whoever handled J.C. Penney’s SEO campaign — which the company claims no knowledge of — didn’t really help the company. It will take time to rebuild its search engine rank, and it will be on Google’s bad side for a very long time. Fortunately, you can avoid this mistake with the following tips:
- Work with a company that understands the line between white-hat and black-hat SEO.
- Research guidelines. Google offers webmaster guidelines, as do other search engines.
- Create quality content that provides consumers with information related to your business.
- Take advantage of approved SEO methods, like using meta tags, site indexing, and keyword placement.
SEO is an important component to getting your website a higher ranking. Taking the time to do it right will be better in the end, and it will prevent damaging your SEO efforts.