If you haven’t read it, here is a link to the JcPenney “links gate” article.
To give you a recap of the article, no doubt during some unauthorized web shopping at work, a New York Times reporter found that JCPenney was consistently #1 in Google for keywords like “casual dresses,” “home decor,” “skinny jeans,” “comforter sets,” etc. As stated in the article, the reporter felt it was odd that JCP outranked cooler (albeit more expensive) stores like J.Crew and Crate & Barrel and so an investigation ensued (aka they asked an SEO firm to explain what was going on).
What they found was that JCP had allegedly purchased or placed links on spam blogs and double gasp, those links were placed on pages related to what JCP was selling (dresses, rugs, jeans). The result was that JCP owned rank during the holiday season. The New York Times reporter felt that JCP cheated their way to the top and set up a meeting with Matt Cutts. But all Cutts did was irritate them with his, I-should-be-the-poster-child-for-the-calming-affects-of-medicinal-marijuana laid back attitude.
In the end, JCPenney.com received penalties across the board (from #1 to #70ish) for violating Google’s guidelines despite JCP’s claims that they had no knowledge of and were not involved with the links. Their SEO firm, SearchDex, got the axe. Matt Cutts got a vanity slap from the New York Times, and the NYT basically let the world know they’re in the dark ages. Whether you agree with the tactics or not, as an SEO you have to admit that JCP just shed its outdated image for something more…renegade…cowboy…defiant. Yeah, that won’t do anything to boost sales. Are they cool enough for you now NYT?
What are your thoughts? Do you admire JCP’s ambition? Think their SEO firm was totally irresponsible?