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Before 2011, J.C. Penny had the top search results on every product they sold. The company had quietly built up on online empire that brought in billions of dollars of revenue per year. They were considered a success story, a pillar of SEO excellence.
By the end of 2011, however, their online presence had all but vanished.
What J.C. Penny’s executives did not realize was that their SEO consultants had engaged in “black hat” SEO techniques. This cautionary story is an example of how no business is exempt from Google’s penalties.
In order to avoid being penalized, it’s important to know that SEO techniques can fall into two different categories:
White hat: these are the good techniques. With these practices, the information needed for the search engines and the human visitors is clearly presented on a website. This leads to a website that is easy to find, that draws customers in, and that can potentially become influential in its subject area.
Black hat: these techniques can be less expensive than the careful optimization of “white hat” SEO, but often do more harm than good. They increase the likelihood that a website will be penalized by Google and banished from the organic search results. They can also sometimes cause customers to leave the web pages without considering the idea, product or service.
The following infographic further explains some differences between white hat and black hat SEO techniques. It provides some examples so you can determine whether the techniques you or your webmaster use are acceptable.
So, where did J.C. Penny go wrong?
During the spring of 2011, the New York Times published an article on the SEO work of J.C. Penny. J.C. Penny’s search results seemed almost too good to be true. The writers consulted an SEO management firm, which lead to a quiet investigation on J.C. Penny’s marketing work. They uncovered a huge link-building scheme. Basically, instead of actually creating such compelling content that people would want to link to their website, J.C. Penny’s SEO team created hundreds of other “unrelated” sites and used them to link back to the J.C. Penny product pages. Google caught wind of the scheme. Because this was “black hat” SEO – a scheme that fraudulently built up the importance of the product ads, Google severely penalized the website.
J.C. Penny disappeared from the listings on the Internet. SearchDex, the SEO firm they were using, was immediately fired.
By hiring a firm that was willing to engage in questionable techniques, J.C. Penny didn’t save money. Instead, they ended up losing a lot of money, good will, and opportunity.
A lot of their marketing was situated in Internet platforms, which meant a loss in potential revenue. It’s estimated that they lost about 350,000 customers per day.
They had to spend money to get every bad link manually removed. Until each bad link was removed, Google would not lift its penalty.
The J.C. Penny site was devalued by Google’s algorithm. That means that the influence they had on the Internet was severely reduced.
High-quality SEO work is an investment. Choosing to do cheap or questionable SEO work now might mean having to spend even more money later.
SEO Ann Arbor is a team of SEO and web professionals that will tailor our work to the needs of your company and your target customers. Our work always complies with Google’s ethical requirements. We use white hat techniques that help to get your website high in the organic search results.
If you’re worried that your current company is using “black hat” SEO techniques - or if you’re simply not satisfied with the search results of your website – contact us TODAY. We’re always happy to look over your current strategy and help educate you about what it takes to develop a truly healthy online presence!
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