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J.C. Penney Busted For Using Black-Hat Trix

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by The Scarlet Pimp, Feb 13, 2011.

  1. The Scarlet Pimp

    The Scarlet Pimp Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

    PRETEND for a moment that you are Google?s search engine.
    (don't actually do that...)

    Someone types the word ?dresses? and hits enter. What will be the very first result?

    There are, of course, a lot of possibilities. Macy?s comes to mind. Maybe a specialty chain, like J. Crew or the Gap. Perhaps a Wikipedia entry on the history of hemlines.

    O.K., how about the word ?bedding?? Bed Bath & Beyond seems a candidate. Or Wal-Mart, or perhaps the bedding section of Amazon.com.

    ?Area rugs?? Crate & Barrel is a possibility. Home Depot, too, and Sears, Pier 1 or any of those Web sites with ?area rug? in the name, like arearugs.com.

    You could imagine a dozen contenders for each of these searches. But in the last several months, one name turned up, with uncanny regularity, in the No. 1 spot for each and every term:

    J. C. Penney.

    The company bested millions of sites ? and not just in searches for dresses, bedding and area rugs. For months, it was consistently at or near the top in searches for ?skinny jeans,? ?home decor,? ?comforter sets,? ?furniture? and dozens of other words and phrases, from the blandly generic (?tablecloths?) to the strangely specific (?grommet top curtains?).

    This striking performance lasted for months, most crucially through the holiday season, when there is a huge spike in online shopping. J. C. Penney even beat out the sites of manufacturers in searches for the products of those manufacturers.

    Type in ?Samsonite carry on luggage,? for instance, and Penney for months was first on the list, ahead of Samsonite.com.

    With more than 1,100 stores and $17.8 billion in total revenue in 2010, Penney is certainly a major player in American retailing. But Google?s stated goal is to sift through every corner of the Internet and find the most important, relevant Web sites.

    Does the collective wisdom of the Web really say that Penney has the most essential site when it comes to dresses? And bedding? And area rugs? And dozens of other words and phrases?

    The New York Times asked an expert in online search, Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media in New York, to study this question, as well as Penney?s astoundingly strong search-term performance in recent months.

    What he found suggests that the digital age?s most mundane act, the Google search, often represents layer upon layer of intrigue.

    And the intrigue starts in the sprawling, subterranean world of ?black hat? optimization, the dark art of raising the profile of a Web site with methods that Google considers tantamount to cheating.

    Despite the cowboy outlaw connotations, black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google. The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and ?white hat? approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site?s visibility.

    Penney?s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google?s search results that he has ever seen.

    ?Actually, it?s the most ambitious attempt I?ve ever heard of,? he said. ?This whole thing just blew me away. Especially for such a major brand. You?d think they would have people around them that would know better.?

    TO understand the strategy that kept J. C. Penney in the pole position for so many searches, you need to know how Web sites rise to the top of Google?s results. We?re talking, to be clear, about the ?organic? results ? in other words, the ones that are not paid advertisements.

    In deriving organic results, Google?s algorithm takes into account dozens of criteria, many of which the company will not discuss.

    But it has described one crucial factor in detail: links from one site to another.

    If you own a Web site, for instance, about Chinese cooking, your site?s Google ranking will improve as other sites link to it. The more links to your site, especially those from other Chinese cooking-related sites, the higher your ranking.

    In a way, what Google is measuring is your site?s popularity by polling the best-informed online fans of Chinese cooking and counting their links to your site as votes of approval.

    But even links that have nothing to do with Chinese cooking can bolster your profile if your site is barnacled with enough of them. And here?s where the strategy that aided Penney comes in.

    Someone paid to have thousands of links placed on hundreds of sites scattered around the Web, all of which lead directly to JCPenney.com

    Who is that someone? A spokeswoman for J. C. Penney, Darcie Brossart, says it was not Penney.

    ?J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies,? Ms. Brossart wrote in an e-mail. She added, ?We are working to have the links taken down.?

    The links do not bear any fingerprints, but nothing else about them was particularly subtle. Using an online tool called Open Site Explorer, Mr. Pierce found 2,015 pages with phrases like ?casual dresses,? ?evening dresses,? ?little black dress? or ?cocktail dress.?

    Click on any of these phrases on any of these 2,015 pages, and you are bounced directly to the main page for dresses on JCPenney.com.

    Some of the 2,015 pages are on sites related, at least nominally, to clothing. But most are not. The phrase ?black dresses? and a Penney link were tacked to the bottom of a site called nuclear.engineeringaddict.com.

    ?Evening dresses? appeared on a site called casino-focus.com. ?Cocktail dresses? showed up on bulgariapropertyportal.com. ?Casual dresses? was on a site called elistofbanks.com. ?Semi-formal dresses? was pasted, rather incongruously, on usclettermen.org.

    Read entire looong article...
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html?_r=3
     
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    Last edited: Feb 13, 2011
  2. belko002

    belko002 Registered Member

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    Don't you mean J.C Penney in the title? Not J Crew...What PR nightmare for J Crew! Hah!
     
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  3. JohnnyQuest2011

    JohnnyQuest2011 Newbie

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    interesting. so you can just get a bunch of backlinks from high PR sites that hve nothing to do with ur niche and show up on the 1st page?
     
  4. fiesta

    fiesta Junior Member

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    any idea how they got those links there? do they own all these sites?
     
  5. fiesta

    fiesta Junior Member

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    apparently so

     
  6. Dollarsfordays

    Dollarsfordays Newbie

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    incredible information that really showcases the power of backlinks. Anyone who's in the back-link building service just needs to waft the fact that a company using the right link-building strategy can amass a yearly profit of 17.8 billion and they're in business. (providing that they can recreate even a fraction of the godly amount of backlinks J.C. Penney's been rockin'.)
     
  7. L3arn1ng

    L3arn1ng Newbie

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    This is just a confirmation, that... backlink is king...

    Backlink, Backlink, and backlink....
     
  8. The Scarlet Pimp

    The Scarlet Pimp Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    got this from shoemonkey...


    "Three years ago Google took a stand against people who were purchasing links from websites. They consider this a 'black hat' tactic because you are artificially get your site to rank higher than it naturally would.

    When they came out and said that this is officially against their rules, their goal was to stop it, but what it did was point out how effective it really was. Overnight companies that were selling text links increased sales volume by ten fold.

    Now let's use common sense for a second: if Google honestly could completely remove your site from search engines because you purchased links then obviously it would be incredibly easy to eliminate your competition by buying them paid links and reporting them to Google.

    From this one could interpret that Google not only showed how effective paid links are but at the same time there is nothing they can do to detect and enforce their guidelines.

    In the last five years we know people that have purchased millions of dollars of paid links to their website and I can't think of one of them who has ever had their site banned.

    So obviously your next question is: where should I buy links from? Not so fast skippy. You need to be smart about it. While it's very hard for Google to detect you're buying links, let me go over some basic guidelines on where and how to go about it.

    * Never buy a link on a site that you can easily detect they are selling links. For instance if you are on a political website and at the bottom you see links for Online Poker, obviously this is not a good place to purchase a link.

    * The most ideal place you can purchase a link is on a site that is relevant to yours. For instance if your site is about weight lifting, you would want to find an article about weight lifting and approach the site owner about purchasing a link in their blog roll or recommended sites list if they have one.

    The best case would be if you were able to purchase a link in the context of an article and use your keyword that is relevant to your website as the link.

    For example:
    o Lose fat, gain muscle start weight lifting tomorrow.

    All this sounds great right. You are probably looking for sites to contact right now. But WAIT. There is a huge risk in doing this. Google encourages websites to report people who are soliciting them to buy links. This is a huge liability to you, to randomly approach websites.