Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the young-girls'-underwear dept.

Google 154

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The NY Times has an interesting story (reg. may be required) about how JCPenney used link farms to become the number one google search result for such terms as 'dresses,' 'bedding,' and 'samsonite carry on luggage' and what Google did to them when they found out. 'Actually, it's the most ambitious attempt I've ever heard of,' says Doug Pierce, an expert in online search. '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.'"

cancel ×

154 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

What do you mean by "know better?" (5, Insightful)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192444)

The whole idea of an SEO budget is to push your name out to the top line of google, bing or anything else people use to search.

The intent was to game the system. And by doing so, make a ton of money. There are no laws for internet search ... unless you can use trademark laws to push a competitor who's doing that to your brand name.

Unscrupulous yes, ruthless yes, but that is the true face of capitalism anyway. Google can try regulating, but only enough to make the same people put in pennies into their sidebar offering of less-worth, but clearly marked advertising.

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192492)

"Know better" than to land in google's penalty box, almost invisible in search results, like Penny's currently is.

That said, yes, everybody acknowledges this is just business. If you search for an example from the article (Samsonite carry on luggage), Penny's is no longer on the first page of search results. Yet their paid advertisement appears (with several others) before the very first search result!

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (0)

Spaseboy (185521) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192602)

J.C. Penney knew exactly what they were doing, their largest investor is LVMH. Not only did they get the traffic during the gaming period, they get the traffic during the blowback because people want to see what Google now won’t show. Google only vaguely discusses how PageRank works and people found a way to use that to their advantage. Words like "Fair" and "Unscrupulous" don’t apply, there are no rules for the internet and the idea of imposing morality on how a person decides to code websites they own or partner with to your best (legal) advantage is just ludicrous.

It’s a fault with PageRank and Google that this happens, not with how people choose to fuck with Google’s spiders on their websites. Google clearly needs to fix PageRank.

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192660)

Yes, clearly Google needs to come up with an algorithm that both responds to outside input (in order to give relevant results) while simultaneously ignoring outside input (so that no one can mess with it).

You can't have both.

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194080)

Exactly so.

In spite of their denials of persuing a link-spam scheme their first action upon getting their Google Spanking was:

PENNEY reacted to this instant reversal of fortune by, among other things, firing its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex. Executives there did not return e-mail or phone calls.

.

So they essentially said "We didn't do it" and promptly fired the bunch that they hired to do it for them. Plausible Deny-ability lives.

But Google already had started repairing page rank well before this story broke. It appeared in the Official Google Blog [blogspot.com] and was discussed here [slashdot.org] just last month.

I, (and I suspect Google) would sure like to hear your suggestions on how this sort of thing can be prevented. The best minds in the industry from at least two companies have been struggling with this for over a decade, and you could pretty much name your salary if you have a solution.

The simple fact is it is almost impossible to reliably detect cut and paste web sites who's only purpose for existing is to host google ads or which embed links directly in their text to game page rank. If you've figured this out, Google is hiring [google.com] .

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (2)

ballwall (629887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195220)

I'm sure it's much more complicated than this, but off the cuff: You need a manual process to find cases like Penney's. Then, when you find a Penney's, you see all the sites linking to Penney's and they immediately become suspect. Not all of them will be selling links, but a lot will be. If you find a few Penney's's you start to build a spamrank(tm), narrowing in on sites that use stuff like TMX. You make outbound link weight inversely proportional to spamrank(tm, remember), and when you cross some line in your spamrank your outbound links become invisible altogether. Permanently. Additionally, the spamrank would add up like pagerank does on the target site and you make spamrank, say, 10x the weight of pagerank. You buy links, you get punished.

But it sounds like Google hates manual processes, they want to fix the algo. I don't see how that's possible without some crazy AI stuff going on (not that they couldn't go that route, mind you). Whereas I (a person) can look at a page and immediately say "link farm," doing that with a computer would likely be crazy difficult. Mostly because the best spam sites are legit sites, they just also sell links.

Speaking as a small business owner it's frustrating as hell. We've tried going to 'SEO' route, but A) there are a ton of super shady businesses out there selling this crap, and B) THIS IS NOT THE WAY IT SHOULD WORK. It's annoying when Blekko has us #1 for almost every related search term [blekko.com] , but on google we don't even hit the first page [google.com] for half of them. And if I take a handful of the people above us, scan their inbound links, the vast majority are all paid links. ARG. (Not that I think blekko has a better long term strategy, I think it's just as easily gamed, it just hasn't been... yet.)

I guess we just need to get as big as stackoverflow and complain [codinghorror.com] , that way we can get customized changes [ycombinator.com] . /END RANT

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192582)

there are no laws for internet search

Good thing too. If this something that was actually illegal, the punishment would not probably not be swift nor harsh. I would think companies would try t a lot more if they tended to come out ahead of the game in some way.

Re:What do you mean by "know better?" (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194106)

make the same people put in pennies into their sidebar offering of less-worth, but clearly marked advertising

Fast forward to some hypothetical situation: one pretty much has to do it, to be visible - would that be evil? ;)

Company cheats Google, gets punished (4, Insightful)

geschild (43455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192456)

News at 11.

Reasonably written article.

If you already know the ins and outs of search or have no interest in it's specifics you can spare yourself the read, though. Ymmv.

3rd Party? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192500)

To play devil's advocate, who says that JC Penny did this themselves? Maybe their head of IT that was just some lay person that worked himself up through the ranks got one of some SEO spam and thought "Hey, this sounds like a great idea!". Not knowing how they conducted business he just went with it.

Sure enough, JC Penny is #1. He looks like a hero, pays off the small spamming firm and everyone is happy until they're caught.

I'm webmaster for 2-3 smal town rugby websites. I always get "BE #1!" spam. Except I'm already #1. Search for "Rugby " + your nearest decent sized town and you'll only find one website.

Re:3rd Party? (1)

geschild (43455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192536)

"To play devil's advocate, who says that JC Penny did this themselves?"

I'm going to be rude and answer a question with a question: does it matter?

Unless you've been hiding somewhere dark for quite a while, you would know these things happen.

Companies act like assholes all the time. If they act like assholes against Google and Google finds out, they react to them to keep their business 'safe'.

How is this 'news' to a nerd? To a marketing droid somewhere, maybe but even that I doubt in this day and age.

Re:3rd Party? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194128)

How is this 'news' to a nerd? To a marketing droid somewhere, maybe but even that I doubt in this day and age.

Please do not insult us nerds by even the hint of parity with marketing droids.

Thanks.

Re:3rd Party? (1)

geschild (43455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194214)

"Please do not insult us nerds"...

If you feel insulted by that, you better thicken your hide, nerd! You're going to need it... :D

But honestly, I never intended to insult anyone, not even marketing droids...
(Or perhaps, especially marketing droids, since they might have a modulating armour and heavier weapons ;P)

You're welcome!

Re:3rd Party? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192548)

Search for "Rugby " + your nearest decent sized town and you'll only find one website.

Nope, apparently not so [google.com] .

Re:3rd Party? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192800)

Maybe their head of IT that was just some lay person that worked himself up through the ranks got one of some SEO spam and thought "Hey, this sounds like a great idea!".

More likely, they enlisted some SEO consultant and didn't ask too many questions about their phenomenal results.

The "black hat" guy is right -- commercial search is already a lost cause. As a result, I am more likely to use their paid links for shopping, since these tend to be somewhat legitimate sites. Coincidence?

Re:3rd Party? (2)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193580)

So their IT guy hired an SEO firm without the board's knowledge, does it matter to Google? No. A company gamed the system and they punish the company. Too bad for JC Penny they hired the wrong guy for the job. You can't expect Google to start investigating who in the company originated the SEO move.

Re:3rd Party? (1)

yeshuawatso (1774190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193642)

SEO is usually a marketing function along with the website in large organizations like jCPenny. It's not IT's duty to drive sales from a website, but to provide the technical tools necessary for the other areas of the business to manage the business. While keeping the site up and running is delegated to IT, what the site looks like, what's on it, and who promotes it came from a marketing exec.

Re:3rd Party? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194108)

To play devil's advocate, who says that JC Penny did this themselves?

They didn't do this them selves. They hired it done.

From TFA:

PENNEY reacted to this instant reversal of fortune by, among other things, firing its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex. Executives there did not return e-mail or phone calls.

Hiring digital taggers to spray your graffiti all over the net and then insisting you are innocent is a transparently thin defense.

Re:3rd Party? (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194120)

To play devil's advocate, who says that JC Penny did this themselves? Maybe their head of IT that was just some lay person that worked himself up through the ranks got one of some SEO spam and thought "Hey, this sounds like a great idea!". Not knowing how they conducted business he just went with it.

    There's another option here. If I read the article right, JC Penney denied doing it. Searches can make or break a company. So someone who wanted to sink them could have been the one doing it. Throw their links up on every gray market location they can find, and when the target makes it big, start notifying folks (media, search engine abuse departments, etc) about the "blackhat" methods that the target is using.

    Who would want to see JC Penney die? Big department stores (Sears, Macy's, Belk Lindsey,etc). The lower box stores (Walmart, KMart, Target). Online retailers (Amazon, eBay, etc). It could have even been a random irate customer, and anyone who's ever worked with customers knows that there's always an irate customer.

    Most likely it was a marketing decision by JC Penney themselves. I'm sure the decision was "Do it. Don't get caught. If you do, we don't know anything about it." If it ends up traceable to us, we're firing you over it." Since there wasn't a positive finger pointed, someone got a raise rather than getting fired.

Lying to humans by lying to robots (3)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193292)

The job of a search engine is to find web pages that are interesting to people, and it does that job by using a lot of robots with models about what's interesting. If you've got a web site you want the search engine to tell people is interesting, you can either do that honestly, by making it actually interesting, or dishonestly, by lying to the robots so they'll tell the humans that it's interesting, and sometimes that's cheaper and easier because robots only have models.

To the extent that there are "white hat SEOs", they're either doing the basic web design jobs of making sure that your information is findable (e.g. putting the keywords in text, not in images played by flash animation that other web designers told you would look cool), or else they're doing editorial work by telling you to write more interesting web content. For the most part, those people don't call themselves "SEOs", they call themselves "web designers" or "editors" or "graphic designers", though there are some companies that really do need to hire somebody to clean up bad web design.

Real SEOs are the black-hat types, who'll offer to get results for you by methods other than making your web site actually more interesting. They're lying scum, but sometimes they're good enough at lying to robots that they get results. Unfortunately, one of the big results they get is garbage all over the web, from link spam in blog comments to garbage that search engines find that's really just copying bits of content to attract advertising. Makes the web as a whole a lot less interesting.

Re:Lying to humans by lying to robots (1)

geschild (43455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193980)

..."lying to the robots so they'll tell the humans that it's interesting"...

Precisely. In the Google case, lying to robots==lying to humans. Not Google employees, but the people that use Google to search for something. Google understands very well that if their customers get lied to and Google doesn't stop that, they'll go elsewhere for their search results and Google will do anything it can to prevent that. If that makes Google behave ethically, that's fine with me.

In other words: all this is, is a turfwar by companies. Some behave worse, in the common ethical sense that most humans share, than others, but this is always by proxy because it's always humans making the decisions. Ultimately it's about the bottom line. As long as you know what the bottom line is for a certain company, you can figure out how its overlords will act and thus how the company will act. Capitalism may, and probably isn't, the end-all of social systems, but at least normal humans can understand it if they care to, because the drivers are both open and something that most humans 'get'.

Again, ymmv ;).

Re:Lying to humans by lying to robots (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194154)

Real SEOs are the black-hat types ... They're lying scum, but sometimes they're good enough at lying to robots that they get results.

    So you're saying that SEO's belong in the sales department, eh? :)

How badly were they punished? (1, Informative)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192458)

I didn't want to RTFA in order to know how badly miffed Google was by all of this, so here's a snippet.

“Am I happy this happened?” he later asked. “Absolutely not. Is Google going to take strong corrective action? We absolutely will.”

And the company did. On Wednesday evening, Google began what it calls a “manual action” against Penney, essentially demotions specifically aimed at the company.

At 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, J. C. Penney was still the No. 1 result for “Samsonite carry on luggage.”

Two hours later, it was at No. 71.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Penney was No. 1 in searches for “living room furniture.”

By 9 p.m., it had sunk to No. 68.

In other words, one moment Penney was the most visible online destination for living room furniture in the country.

The next it was essentially buried.

Re:How badly were they punished? (-1, Troll)

theskipper (461997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192476)

Do you find it ironic that your blatant attempt at karma whoring is essentially equivalent to JC Penney's efforts with link building?

Let's see if the end result is the same...

Re:How badly were they punished? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192550)

Don't really see how it was analogous. He doesn't appear to have an agenda, or even have a sig, journal or homepage, so to me it does seem he was just doing it for those who never RTFA. If you did RTFA you'll see his comment is nothing like what JCP's SEO company did, which was essentially spam up a load of dead sites in order to improve their pagerank.

Re:How badly were they punished? (-1, Offtopic)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192568)

Back in my day, we liked it when people RTFA and used the knowledge gained to supplement TFS for those who won't/can't RTFA. Not sure what's up with the idiocy of "karma whore" accusations. What are you, an 8 y.o.?

MOD HINT: This post is informative.

Re:How badly were they punished? (-1, Flamebait)

theskipper (461997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192872)

Umm, no. He didn't read the article, and you didn't bother reading his post. And, by definition, karma whoring is copy-pasting without using anon.

Re:How badly were they punished? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35193010)

Wrong. I did RTFA, and you're an idiot.

Re:How badly were they punished? (-1, Flamebait)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193136)

IOW you're so confident that no-one will RTFA you feel lying is just fine and will work out for you. Trouble is, there'll always be someone who knows you're a liar...

Pro-tip: Slashdot karma has no value IRL to anyone not promoting something. Use of the term "karma whore" to describe someone performing a public service is pure asshattery.

Re:How badly were they punished? (0)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193260)

Ok I'm not done -- how stupid, petty, mean, and childish does a person have to be to criticize someone based on the idea that when that person created their post, they hoped to be modded up for it? OMG, what kind of a monster does it take to post, wishing to be modded up?!

People with attitudes like yours, theskipper (461997), are one huge fucking problem in society today. Take that moronic, childish, envious, nesty, stupid little attitude of yours and just fuck the fuck right off.

Re:How badly were they punished? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35194026)

Pro-tip: Slashdot karma has no value IRL to anyone not promoting something.

Also, it takes about a week of reading the articles, posting intelligently and otherwise acting like a sentient adult to max out your karma. Karma whoring was a problem back when karma was a number and people spent a lot of time trying to get that number as high as possible. But if you're not at excellent and you've been actively posting for more than a month, you should probably stop posting, read and learn more and otherwise grow to the point where you can contribute to the conversation in a positive manner.

Re:How badly were they punished? (1)

dc8e6589a1e4fb80f1f8 (1395761) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195154)

He posted something that other people wanted to read. Try it.

Will google get sued? I used to work for JCP (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192634)

I wonder if Google's action could lead to a lawsuit? It's one thing to re-jigger the ranking equation to block linkfarms, but something else entirely to purposely punish a company and make them essentially invisible.

BTW I used to work for Penney's. They were a good company in the 90s, riding high, and matching 90 cents for every dollar their employees put into an IRA.

Then they got hit hard by the rise of Web shopping, were forced in 2002 to layoff all their managers, eliminated 2/3rds of the clerks, promoted some of these non-degreed clerks as new "managers" but at 1/3rd the pay, and just barely hung on. (Same thing happened with Sears, Kohls, and so on.) The store's quality and service has been lousy ever since. I'm not surprised to hear they would "cheat" to rank on top of search engines, as the Corporate Office went from a Golden Rule-led organization to an "anything to survive" mentality.

Re:Will google get sued? I used to work for JCP (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193276)

I wonder if Google's action could lead to a lawsuit? It's one thing to re-jigger the ranking equation to block linkfarms, but something else entirely to purposely punish a company and make them essentially invisible.

It wouldn't be the first time. Look up SearchKing.

They're still on top for samsonite (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193316)

I just did a Google search for "samsonite carry on luggage". While the text link for JCPenney's is about five or six pages down, Google starts off with a row of Shopping images, and JCPenney's one of them.

Let's help them (4, Funny)

RockMFR (1022315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192472)

This is totally unfair of Google to punish JC Penney like this. We need to help them restore their page rank. I'll start.

Nazi memorabilia [jcpenney.com]
abortion factory [jcpenney.com]
murder weapons [jcpenney.com]
penny stock [jcpenney.com]
worst place to work [jcpenney.net]
token black guy [jcpenney.net]

Re:Let's help them (4, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192522)

I was going to tell you that's a waste of time, because Slashdot adds rel="nofollow" to all links, but I thought I'd better check that it still did before making an assertion. It turns out that the source code for this page only contains one link with the nofollow flag set - the one to timothy's homepage.

Re:Let's help them (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192566)

Another failure of the redesign? Oops. I wish they'd sort out comment viewing so you didn't have to drill down through everything when you get a reply.

Re:Let's help them (2)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192654)

1 - Change to Classic Discussion.
2 - Turn-off dynamic discussion.
There that should fix your difficulty.

Re:Let's help them (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194578)

Thank you so much. I'm so used to having a bad browser experience, that I assumed that it was me, or perhaps bad web site code.

Re:Let's help them (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194464)

That's AJAX at work! It's like DRM for the web.

Karma bonus (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195260)

Slashdot adds rel="nofollow" to all links

I thought rel="nofollow" applied only to links in posts without the karma bonus. (checks page source code) Yes, that's still the case.

Re:Let's help them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192572)

Don't do that. There are only two ways this can play out: Either Google ignores these links, then you're just annoying us for no reason at all, or Google takes these links into account, then you're increasing the page rank of these targets, not just for the commercially irrelevant anchor texts you listed but for all other search terms as well. (And Slashdot doesn't use rel="nofollow" for user-placed links, so unless Google has sweepingly discounted links from this place, you're helping a link farmer.)

surprise surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192482)

Surprise surprise. JCP execs claim total ignorance of the whole thing, yet they fired their SEO consulting company the second word of what happened got out. There wasn't even a chance to stop to ask "Hey, what's going on here?" Was what they did illegal? Not in any way. Were they aware that it wasn't exactly ethical? Absolutely, despite what their public declarations are.

Re:surprise surprise (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192592)

That doesn't follow. It's quite possible they didn't know they were using dirty tactics. Normal business people know hardly anything about SEO. They pay someone to improve their search rankings - how are they to know whether they're doing it in compliance with Google's rules or not?

The guys redesigning our website were spouting a whole heap of bullshit about how Google has changed its PageRank algorithms so that links from other pages make little difference now, which I wasn't sure about, but clearly links from external sites are still pretty valuable if this worked for JCP. Unfortunately the CEO didn't consult me before contracting these guys to redesign the site, and ignored when I asked to get someone better. He said he chose them because they were a "local company".. wtf. I just hope they haven't pulled a stunt like this on us. They wanted us to buy multiple subdomains of our site to "improve our rankings", I told them to get stuffed because our search rankings are already very relevant, usually number one, otherwise first page (sometimes with news articles about us, etc).

Re:surprise surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35194632)

That doesn't follow. It's quite possible they didn't know they were using dirty tactics. Normal business people know hardly anything about SEO. They pay someone to improve their search rankings - how are they to know whether they're doing it in compliance with Google's rules or not?

You know that's a funny coincidence!

I ran a company once, and this guy offered services of "competition handling".
Well, the competition had such a head start on my company that they were blowing me out of the water, so I figured I would hire him and see what he could do to help.

The next morning on the news I saw the head execs of 6 companies that were in the same line of work were assassinated in their homes the night before.
Not five minutes later the feds busted in my door!

I told the judge the exact same thing you just said.
It was so unfair, she said because I paid this guy for "handling my competition" that it was some how my fault too, and that I should have looked into it a bit more!
Hell, I don't have time for that sort of thing, I'm a high dollar CEO! She wasn't having any of it of course :/

After a totally unfair 20 year jail sentence, my company is of course ruined, and it's all this guys fault and not mine! Oh and capitalism's fault too...

Retail is hell... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192496)

Really, anyone who hasn't worked retail for at least some time in their lives doesn't have any understanding of what really happens when you are in that position. I know this item is more about the empowered management and their bone-headed decisions (nowhere is the dilbert principle of management applied as much as in retail), but we should keep in mind the poor retail slaves who end up on the chopping block because of this kind of shit.

In a partial shout-out to my comrades - both past and present - in arms in retail, I will point you to retail hell underground [retailhell...ground.com] , where those of you who were so privileged as to never have to take a retail position can get a glimpse of what some of us have had to whether.

Re:Retail is hell... (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192688)

And just to be contrarian:
  - I liked working retail. Sure every now and then you'd get an asshole customer, but you could usually bribe them with 50% off (or whatever), and make them go away.
- Overall there were more benefits than downsides, such as flirting with cute coworkers, or looking down blouses when the dumb college girls bent-over in front of you (duh - don't bend over)
- But of course the pay was only 1/10th what I make in the office, so that's why I left.

Hey editors, do some actual editing for a change (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192502)

The company is "JC Penney", not "Penny".

Re:Hey editors, do some actual editing for a chang (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35193244)

whatever you call it, it is an awful chain

It's all about the money... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192516)

..nuff said!

Cracks in the Google Facade (1)

thebian (1218280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192552)

The Times did a good job on this, but there are some questions.

They did mention that Penney is (or was) a big Google advertiser, but you've got to wonder who else has succeeded in doing this.

I read a blogger Whither the NY Times [blogspot.com] who's doing a pretty funny review of the Times day by day, with the looming paywall in the background.

He asks who else, and wonders how did the Times scope this out?

Businesses seem to rise and fall in their Google rankings in weird ways. Maybe the search engine optimizers have figured something out. Or maybe Google just looks the other way once in awhile

Laws are so hard to follow (2, Insightful)

dschmit1 (1353767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192556)

It seems these companies, J.C.Penney, BMW, on and on, are as interested in keeping up with Google's "Laws", how to adhere to them, how to avoid them, how to get around them, than they are with actual civil laws of employee treatment, customer safety, and societal taxes.

Re:Laws are so hard to follow (3, Insightful)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192584)

I suspect this is a case of a company trying to play the same games they play in meatspace. Basically is boils down to "follow the letter of the law, not the spirit" with a pinch of of bending the letter of the law every now and then under the assumption that their size and influence will make those upholding the law ignore their transgressions. Unfortunately for them that's not how the "laws" of the internet work...

Black hat SEO? (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192562)

The Article Saith:

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.

I find it interesting that they are using 'black hat' and 'white hat' to distinguish between different actions and motives in search engine optimization, when the same terms cannot seem to catch on in public discussions of hacking, cracking and computer security. Makes me jealous.

Re:Black hat SEO? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192598)

"Article Saith"?

Good grief, I'll bet you say "boxen", too.

Get out of your mom's basement more often.

Re:Black hat SEO? (2)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192750)

I'm not in my mom's basement. I'm in my office, finishing my PhD. Just as secluded, but more socially acceptable.

Language is hardly worth using if we can't have fun with it. Perhaps you need to think outside the boxen.

Re:Black hat SEO? (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193254)

"think outside [those] boxen."

Fixed.
Plural noun.
Requires plural article.

Re:Black hat SEO? (1)

Homburg (213427) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193812)

The parent doesn't need fixing; the definite article doesn't have separate singular and plural forms in English.

Re:Black hat SEO? (1)

gnapster (1401889) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194006)

Hmm. A fair point, if one is talking about a specific collection of boxen. "Bobby, be sure to grab all those lunchboxen on the way out the door so that you and your sisters can eat today."

In the case of our intrepid AC, perhaps we have the "Arcane language is dumb" box and the "Slashdotters live in parents' basements" box. Perhaps these two are the exact boxen outside of which the AC needs to think. But what I wrote was meant to suggest something more holistic: "I don't know what your problem is, but you ought to lighten up!" It suggests thinking outside an indefinite number of boxen. 'The boxen' sounds more abstract than 'those boxen' to my ears. It's not like the AC and I were sitting at a table with a collection of cubes in our hands.

Re:Black hat SEO? (1)

JustNilt (984644) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194000)

I find it interesting that they are using 'black hat' and 'white hat' to distinguish between different actions and motives in search engine optimization, when the same terms cannot seem to catch on in public discussions of hacking, cracking and computer security. Makes me jealous.

The terms have been pretty much universally adopted by the SEO "community".

I have a friend that is constantly trying to get his blog up in the rankings. A site he refers to is http://www.warriorforum.com/ [warriorforum.com] and the black hat/white hat distinction is pretty constantly discussed. I think the real trouble is when amateurs think a black hat SEO campaign is actually a white hat one.

At least my friend asks questions of me before doing some of this stuff; it's like Amway and spammers rolled into one. Crazy stuff.

Bing (3, Interesting)

eison (56778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192620)

I see they are currently #1 on bing for Comforters and #4 for dresses. I wonder if it would be possible for the search engines share data on who is cheating?

I'm actually really surprised by the article, that it took so few sites to affect results and that such obviously off-topic links still helped. I thought the algorithms were already smarter than that.

Re:Bing (1)

32771 (906153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192934)

> I thought the algorithms were already smarter than that.

I have the suspicion, that Google is like any other company, in that they only innovate if they must and the bottom line is most the important.

So I would have to applaud JCPenney for causing some progress in the world.

I also have the suspicion that since google seems to be market leader it could be the most affected by search engine circumvention devices. Less well known companies with different algorithms could yield better results just because of that

Also, competition doesn't necessarily require the same kind of effort.

Re:Bing (0)

whoop (194) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195730)

Give it a couple days, Bing will see that JCP isn't #1 on Google, and lower it accordingly.

Here we go... another monopoly in the making (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192636)

Ah yes, our friends at google find themselves in a wonderful position...where multi-billion dollar companies bow to them to get their rankings up. Isn't there something wrong with that? Sure, google was within their right to drop jcp from their ranks for being a tad too clever; but on anther hand, what alternatives to these companies have? IF this was a free service, governed by a non-commercial entity then all is well; but google is no different than Microsoft these days: huge, multi-billion dollar beast who can make or break you.

We need a p2p-based, decentralized search engine that cannot be governed by ONE commercial entity!

They are still third or so down on the right bar. (1)

GarryFre (886347) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192720)

I just did a search and JC Penny are right there on the first page in the right hand column. Probably because they are local here but its still funny. Most of the sites I see taking JC Penny's place are sites I never heard of so I guess that shows the statement about what one might expect to see when typing in search terms, is just a made up guess or untested literary license.

Re:They are still third or so down on the right ba (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192912)

As the article says, JC Penny is one of Google's biggest paid sponsors so that cushioned the blow, you don't whack your best customers. I just did a google search for "Izod" (men's shirts which are carried by many stores) and J.C. Penny had a yellow-boxed link (presumably paid for) at the top. They're the #2 boxed result for "Lee Jeans".

Re:They are still third or so down on the right ba (1)

rbayer (1911926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195378)

Or it could be that you're looking at the Paid part of the site...

Google penalty box (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192776)

And who declared Google the "decider" of what should top search listings?

Any algorithm is going to have winners and losers. Why should any business simply accept Google's arbitrary ranking without trying to do what they can to improve that ranking? Google penalty box? Sounds like Google is taking it upon themselves to decide "right and wrong" on the internet and inflict punishment on those who don't comply with their dictates for what constitutes "fair", without anyone having any recourse. Color me not impressed.

Re:Google penalty box (1)

Nkwe (604125) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192906)

And who declared Google the "decider" of what should top search listings?

Google did. It is their web site and their search. They can rank web pages any way they want to. No one forces anyone to use Google and Google is not an "official" part of the Internet.

Re:Google penalty box (1, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193968)

Google cites its supposedly unbiased search results page as an argument against it being a monopoly. If Google is deciding what should go where, it's contradicting itself.

Re:Google penalty box (2)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193296)

Sounds like Google is taking it upon themselves to decide "right and wrong" on the internet and inflict punishment on those who don't comply with their dictates for what constitutes "fair", without anyone having any recourse. Color me not impressed.

No they're not. In case you didn't know, Google has their webmaster guidelines [google.com] posted for all to see. The motivation behind these rules is to ensure (or at least try to ensure) that their search results continue to be relevant and useful for--wait for it--the user.

So, you can either play by the rules or not. If you break the rules, don't go complaining about Google being "unfair."

Re:Google penalty box (2)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193874)

The guidelines say:

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as "cloaking."

And I believe they smacked BMW Germany for that.

However pay-wall sites (like elsevier) appear to present different content to Google from what nonsubscribers can see. And they've been doing it for years.

For example, do a google search for: site:elsevier.com cancer +"lower percentage"
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Aelsevier.com+cancer+%2B [google.com] "lower+percentage"

Compare what you see in the search results to what a nonsubscriber can actually see. Yes many Google users might be subscribers, but far many more aren't.

NOTE: yes I have site:elsevier.com there, but for many similar searches minus the site:elsevier.com term, Google often shows up lots of elsevier links that nonsubscribers would NOT be able to read. e.g. cancer +"lower percentage" nasopharyngeal
or: carcinoma cervix +"lower percentage"

To me BMW Germany's "doorway pages" would have been less of a problem. Apparently their site had doorway pages with lots of stupid crap like "used car" (in German) repeated.

How much problems would that cause for Google's users? At least those who weren't interested in BMW's site in the first place.

Re:Google penalty box (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195046)

As a non-subscriber, to me it looks like an excerpt from the abstract, and lo, the abstracts are visible to non-subscribers!

Re:Google penalty box (1)

syockit (1480393) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195290)

And yet, it isn't the abstract. Have you tried comparing the text that appears on the search result with the actual abstract?

Re:Google penalty box (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35193334)

Ahh. You're one of those people who think Google is "the Internet." Congratulations on graduating your perception beyond AOL and IE being "the Internet." I'm afraid you have a ways to go yet before you have a clue. But keep trying. You'll get there.

SEO = SRP (1)

toriver (11308) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192782)

What is search engine optimization to a corporation is search result poisoning to users.

Then again, an opportunity arises for a smaller non-SEO-attacked search engine to rise and take Google's place like Google took Altavista's.

RTFA, seriously (1)

talcite (1258586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35192810)

This is a great article. I would really recommend other to read it.

It gives great insight into the world of searches and profiles both viewpoints from a SEO company and also Google's anti-SEO team.

It's a bit long, but definitely worth your time.

Google is being too lenient. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35192926)

Google should permaban any company that does this. FOREVER. Google should go one step further even. Explicit searches for a company that does this should instead link to competitors and negative reviews.

Re:Google is being too lenient. (3, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194076)

No. There are mom & pops who get suckered into SEO promises on a daily basis. There are two kinds of customers who use SEO: those who don't know any better, or are unaware their "designer" is engaging in black hat SEO, and those who entertain the idea for a while and decide to take the risk.

Those who risk black hat SEO

Here's the situation: unless you are in a totally saturated market it is extremely easy to achieve high placement organic search results if you follow Google's guidelines. You don't have to cheat at all but you do have to pay careful attention to having relevant content, clean HTML, and following accessibility guidlines helps a great deal as well. Don't spam your META tags but don't ignore them either.

We've had a couple clients leave to go with SEO specialists who happen to also build web sites, because we do web development but take advantage of Google's recommendations in the process. One client in particular - we'll just refer to him as P. for now, kept asking us about SEO every time traffic power contacted him (always under a new and different operating name because as you know every time Google finds them they punt them from the index, along with all their clients). P. did listen to us about not going with that company but has been suckered by six or seven different independent "SEO consultants."

Now, P. is in a very competitive, saturated market but even so we had achieved respectable search results. We recommended he start submitting his product to third-party distributors and ask them to link back as part of the effort to increase distribution, maybe get a few contractors to exclusively rely on his products and link back to P.'s site, and maybe get a few independent review companies and labs (like Consumer Reports) to review his product, and they would of course link to his site in the review. We also recommended a good Google adwords campaign until his product achieved critical mass.

Another thing you need to know about P.: He is not frugal but he is cheap. He would phrase things like "can you do me a favor and. . . " or "how hard would it be to. . . " and try offering $100 or even as low as $25.00 for something that would require 20 hours or so to implement, test on a staging server, then back up the live server, deploy, and re-test. He just doesn't value anyone's time. I don't understand how but one of my partners had the patience to deal with him, but by the end my patience had long run out, and one time I asked P.: "Oh, you want that for $100? Say, can you come and $foo my $bar in three different $zags for $100.00? No? Then let me ask you this: why is it your time is so valuable, but no one else's is? (The truth is I wanted him gone since he kept one of our engineers on the phone hours each week picking his brain, under the guise of negotiating but unfortunately he was with us another two years. I also worded it a bit more diplomatically than that, but it was the general point). In fact it is my fault we ever got involved with P. in the first place. He suckered us and I believed he was having a hard time getting his product out there, so I convinced my partners to take him on and help him out, giving him a fully-populated web site for $1,200.00. It was based on OS Commerce to save ourselves time so the HTML output wasn't the cleanest but we explained the pros and cons to him up front, and he decided to go with it. Over time we cleaned up some of the HTML output but over the years he was with us he kept asking for better search results, and a nicer design. We would come back with a detailed quote including graphic design time, implementing the design and then development of the features he wanted, and even though we gave him a really good deal, he would come back with something about how the original site cost him only $1,200.00. (hint: don't ever do favors for a cheapskate; they never appreciate it)

Within a couple of years he was netting $360K per year. For a one-man shop doing what he is doing, competing against very well-established brands who don't blink at spending several million dollars per month in advertising, that's not too shabby. But, he cries poor.

Every month or two he would run such-and-such SEO company's techniques by us and ask us about them. Every time, it was just a new label applied to cloaking, doorway pages, and link farms. Every time we had to explain to P. that so-and-so is not doing anything new, they are just renaming old techniques that Google frowns upon, and even huge companies like BMW do not enjoy immunity from those rules. But, he always wanted to believe the promises of people who gave him low-ball prices.

Eventually he stopped trying to be cheap - he asked us for a quote on a design but went with someone else (thank God!) whose initial price was a couple grand lower than ours. Before he left us P. was complaining about how the schedule for his new site got pushed way out and the price ended up a bit higher than ours (they didn't anticipate the inevitable feature creep; see "how a web design goes straight to hell" on the oatmeal [theoatmeal.com] ), but hey it's not our problem, is it? He fired them (they also warned him about the dangers of black hat SEO) and went with another company (I think an Indian company) after spending a lot of money. He was still looking into the promises of black-hat SEO companies, in vain hope that one of them will magically turn out to be legit and allow him to become one of the big boys. (interestingly I've queried for results we had him fairly highly placed for organically, and his new site is buried. So, either the new company has broken the rules, the content isn't as good, or he took the plunge and went with the black hat SEO techniques)

P. has actually switched back and forth between the original site we implemented for him, and other web sites, and the feedback he has given us was when he switches to other sites his revenues decrease. I haven't bothered to check out what the other sites are doing, so I don't know whether it's because respectable, already established results are now 404, or if our somewhat-cleaned-up OS commerce site was cleaner than the new sites, or if he is just too damn impatient to let a new site be properly crawled and indexed, I have no idea. I am just glad he's not calling every day trying to pick our brains any more; he is someone else's headache now.

He's been wanting to do black hat SEO for a long time, so he deserves to have his site buried.

Now, for a completely different example

Another client (we'll call her S. - she's a friend of mine) had us do updates to their site on occasion. Now, it wasn't our design, but the "designer" who built their site is a relative who happens to know frontpage, not HTML or even any real web editors. They asked if I could process their portfolio (mostly under-exposed photos in .jpeg format), and also help them a little with search engine placement. We were up front and told them no one can guarantee search engine placement but for very specific searches relevant to them, we might be able to do okay, but we can definitely improve on it by cleaning up the HTML and eliminating errors. Their main concern was the portfilio and the SEO was a minor concern. So, a few days of postprocessing the images making them usable enough to show off, and that part was done, then another day or two of cleaning up the HTML (it is a relatively small static HTML site) and working with them on some new copy to drive organic search results, built a google sitemap, and just waited. It got crawled, and the new results added. They didn't hit first place but did make it to the first and second pages, and the higher results were less relevant so they considered that great.

So we were done. I kept my eye on it though since S. is my friend, and much to my surprise they went to #1 on the search results a few weeks later, and then they suddenly dropped out. I looked at the site and didn't see anything out of place, except the shorter pages (such as home, contact, etc.) had a vertical scrollbar. So, I hit ctrl-a, and sure enough their was text the same color as the background. I viewed source, and there was Frontpage poop around the new content, and this had been done to every page on the site. Very spammy repeated terms. So, I called S. and told her that her site had disappeared from the search engine, and who made the changes? She made a call and it turned out her sister saw what results we had achieved by cleaning up the HTML and working on the content (and image names, and making it ADA compliant, etc.) so she did a bit of "research" and decided if a little was a good thing, then maybe doing some of the other stuff is better?

So, I explained to S. the bit about Google's guidelines, and that her site was removed because of the hidden text. S. asked me to fix it, so I undid the changes S.'s sister made and then emailed Google explaining what was done to the site, that the person who made those changes didn't know any better and when I noticed those were done I contacted the site's owner and removed the hidden text, and that I didn't see any further problems that Google would frown upon. It didn't take long for them to be returned to Google's index.

Conclusion: A perma-ban is the BFH

A perma-ban is a BFH; it isn't the appropriate tool for all cases. Some people genuinely don't know any better and are just victims of ignorance, and that is easily rectified. Other people however, do know better, but don't value anyone else's time or resources, and despite warnings decide to go forward with it anyway.

And then, there are the unscrupulous black hat companies which reportedly have succeeded in burying companies who turned down their services by setting up link farms and doorway pages in so-called "bad neighborhoods." I don't know if that is true or not, but wouldn't it really suck to be the victim of someone who said no to a black hat SEO firm, only to get penalized because they turned down the black hat's proposal? (this is one reason one should never even start a discussion with companies calling about SEO services; just hang up).

So, it is something that has to be determined on a case by case basis, and it can be a tough call to make. Chances are if it happens once, the violator is a "victim" or was simply ignorant. If it happens repeatedly over time, it's almost surely intentional and might deserve a permanent ban.

Two observations: (2)

wickerprints (1094741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193070)

First, I noted that in the article, Google claims to try to keep the "money" side separate from the "search" side. Okay, but the fact remains that if you don't crack down on cheating, then companies will have less incentive to buy paid links from Google. The fact that the quality of the results would decrease for the user is secondary. So Google surely is motivated to prevent companies from gaming the system, not out of some altruistic sense of honesty or service to the user, but because cheating threatens their paid advertising model.

The other observation is that SEO tactics could easily be used as a weapon against competitors. If you're a top-listed company and your competitors want to knock you down...all they have to do is put up spam links to your site, then report it to Google. Next thing you know, you've been de-listed.

Re:Two observations: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35194702)

Google surely is motivated to prevent companies from gaming the system, not out of some altruistic sense of honesty or service to the user, but because cheating threatens their paid advertising model.

Why can't it be both? Their advertising model depends on providing a search engine people want to use.

check facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35193242)

when the word dresses is put in google J C Penneys is not first it is the 4th listing

Re:check facts (1)

Cryect (603197) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193674)

Being Slashdot and all I shouldn't be surprised but RTFA before stating check facts.

Shame on you, thespec.com! (4, Insightful)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193426)

"The NY Times has an interesting story (reg. may be required) ... what google did to them when they found out. [thespec.com]

Copying a New York Times article wholesale, and then using a Slashdot post to bait-and-switch readers into visiting your website rather than the Times?
Ballsy.

Doing so when the article's content is about using malicious links to artificially inflate your site's visibility?
Just. Not. Cool.

The original NY TImes article is here. [nytimes.com] Whether you approve of the Times' registration policy or not, you shouldn't support people who steal their content and use it to make money.

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (0)

bonch (38532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193976)

Oh, yeah, let's suddenly start caring about content theft on pro-Piratebay Slashdot..

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194876)

Oh yeah, let's suddenly start assuming everyone who reads Slashdot is a black-hat script kiddie living in their mother's basement downloading torrents of Japanese tentacle porn while dreaming of moving to Sealand.

Did I miss any stereotypes?

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (2)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194048)

I'm not so sure. TheSpec's article's first line says "THE NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE". Perhaps they have some sort of a deal with the NY Times allowing them to reprint articles. At the least, it's not as malicious as you suggest since they give some attribution.

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194858)

Point taken, I didn't see that line.

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (1)

FrootLoops (1817694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195642)

Point taken, I didn't see that line.

I wish I could mod this up. Someone on /. admitted to a mistake!

Re:Shame on you, thespec.com! (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195316)

Copying a New York Times article wholesale, and then using a Slashdot post to bait-and-switch readers into visiting your website rather than the Times? Ballsy.

That's funny. I recently purchased some dresses via thespec.com (along with some grommet top curtains).

Black-hats (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35193750)

David Segal is quite the inane journalist. He equates SEO hucksters with "black-hats". True black-hats are too busy commiting crimes to waste their time on such mundanity.

Bad day at Mountain View (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194016)

This is one of those press events which gives CEOs nightmares.

There's been press criticism of Google before, but it's mostly been anecdotal - blogs, op-eds, and other commentary. This time, there's real reporting, with the New York Times naming names.

Usually, after criticism, Google says nothing, or perhaps replies in a blog posting. Google people rarely speak in forums that they don't control. This time, Matt Cutts had to sit down with New York Times reporters for an hour long interrogation.

Google's vaunted claims that they can detect link spam were shown to be false. Google didn't catch the spam, the New York Times did. Then Google made an algorithm change and claimed that fixed most of the problem. The Times tracked Google's results and showed that it didn't. Only a "manual action" moved J.C. Penny down.

Now the rest of the business press is going to take a hard look at search. Expect follow-up articles in Bloomberg, Fortune, etc. Google management has weeks of pain ahead. After their feud with Microsoft last week, their troubles with European antitrust regulators, and Blekko nipping at their heels, they didn't need this. Attention may be focused on those "manual actions". Should those be published? The European Union has specifically asked for that data, and Google can no longer deny that it exists.

I've been critical of Google's anti-spam efforts, mostly on the Places side.I thought they were better at detecting link farms of junk sites, though. That's old-school SEO. If they missed this, they have worse problems than I'd thought.

Re:Bad day at Mountain View (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35194752)

yep, if this is all it takes to get ahead you have to wonder my more people arent doing it.

Re:Bad day at Mountain View (1)

horza (87255) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195460)

Google's vaunted claims that they can detect link spam were shown to be false. Google didn't catch the spam, the New York Times did.

That statement isn't true. They may detect it but correcting it may need more care and attention. Plus there may be a waiting lists of thousands of cases to be examined. It is not the swiftness of the execution that BlackHat SEOs fear, it is the severity.

Google management has weeks of pain ahead.

I don't think they do. JC Penney's might though.

The European Union has specifically asked for that data, and Google can no longer deny that it exists.

On some frivolous case that will shrivel and die. As for trying to 'turf Blekko as a competitor, they rely on manually adjusting their results which kind of holes your own arguement.

Phillip.

Who's Really To Blame? (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#35194344)

I really don't think JCPenney had any idea this was going on. I'm thinking they paid some company to make them float to the top of the search engine results and had no idea how that company would do it. I'm thinking the "SEO" company is the bad guy here and JCPenney just looks like the mastermind.

Re:Who's Really To Blame? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35194932)

I agree that the "SEO Company" appears to have been the wrongdoer here, but that doesn't obviate the need for JCPenney to ensure that their contractor is playing nice. Although not held to the standard of "respondeat superior" (or "let the master answer") in which an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of an employee, a company hiring a contractor cannot be willfully ignorant of the actions taken on its behalf and be surprised when there are negative repercussions.

User attitudes towards search are the problem (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 3 years ago | (#35195064)

I can't help but think the only long-term way to reduce the effectiveness of these kinds of SEO tricks is to remove all storefronts from Google results. Even that isn't foolproof certainly, and I'm sure that online shopping sites will then just use non-store entry pages. But these SEO tricks work because many people, when they want to buy something, just go to Google and click on the first link presented, which I don't think anyone knowledgeable about web search will think is a good idea. That behavior has to change, and until Google gets serious about informing users about it, or Google somehow loses its place as the #1 search provider and whoever takes its place does so, SEO will probably continue to be big business, and Google/Whoever will continue having to run around putting out little fires.

Secrets of SEO, Yes - But is it the right way?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35195448)

Here is something very interesting I read. A different perspective about the importance being given to incoming links. I have seen no one question the very essence of link building and so called democratic polling : http://www.wdgtech.com.au/blog/?p=407

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>