JC Penney Feels The Wrath Of Google For Using Spammy Techniques To Get To The Top

from the don't-mess-with-the-goog dept

Over the weekend there was a fascinating NY Times article about how retailing giant JC Penney apparently had a massive black hat search spam campaign going, which put its homepage at the top of a ton of beneficial searches. In digging into it, the NY Times uncovered a lot of questionable behavior, and Google quickly responded by implementing some sort of "corrective behavior" that sank JC Penney listings. This is slightly less severe than the famous time that Google dumped BMW's domain for a period of time after that company was caught spamming. JC Penney, for its part, denies having authorized such a campaign, and apparently fired the search engine optimization company it had been working with.

Of course, there's all sorts of vague statements in the article, and it's not clear how Google meted out this punishment. Of course, since it's listed as a "manual action," it's going to get some anti-Google folks up in arms about how Google "manually" can and does adjust search results -- a point of anger that has been brought out before. But it's not clear that's actually what's going on, and even if there is a "manual" punishment functionality for spamming the Google index, isn't that a good thing? Shouldn't we want Google to be punishing companies that make the search results worse?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    JustMe (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 4:20am

    Interesting

    I wasn't aware that JC Penny was still in business, but this hardly seems like the best way for them to raise brand awareness. I'm in favor of Google's action, even if it was manual. I pay (via ad views)for Google to provide me with relevant results. I don't want results from people who game the system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 5:17am

    In the infamous words of Spartacus: Blood and Sand...

    KILL THEM ALL!!!

    I hate spammers no matter their form, even in the can.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 5:26am

    Doesn't seem like "punishment" if they are simply getting the results they "should" be getting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 5:49am

    Congruaece of Events

    While reading this, I hear a "solemn" Jeep commercial espousing the concept of personal integrity. "What you do says who you are". Commercials aren't noted for their real honesty, but it does point to JC Penney not being very upfront in their marketing.

    Interestingly, a very applicable Dilbert Cartoon today.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:03am

    Shouldn't we want Google to be punishing companies that make the search results worse?

    So basically, you're saying it's okay to spam to get ahead. Good job Mike. Wouldn't it be funny of someone googlebombed you and you got blocked?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:11am

    The headline of this story is a joke. Wrath of Google ha. So now they are found where they should be after holding the number 1 spot over the all important Christmas season?

    Oh, and this is the 3rd time that JC Penny has done this?

    Yeah, that puts the fear into companies to not do things.

    What is the risk? Either be number 1 or get caught and be found where you should be found? Black hat? The ones advocating white hat SEO are wrong. The quote "If you are not paying black hats, you are losing to rivals" is right.

    As for JC Penny's marketing guidelines, yeah, I can tell that they really follow their own rules.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Shawn (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:18am

    Re:

    Read the sentence you quoted and then explain how you turned that into what you think Mike is saying?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    In cases of obvious and massive spam-fraud to get good listings, Google has been known to pull the rug out from under companies in different ways. The manual penalty thing is often just a temp measure as the Google staff look at the techniques used and find ways to detect and ignore those methods in the future.

    With the massive rise of social media, we are no longer in a "black hat / white hat" situation. It's all grey now. Is creating a bunch of extra facebook profiles really bad? Having them friend hundreds of people, is that really bad? Having them like JC Penney stores a lot, would that really be bad? How about fake twitter accounts, automated twitter bots, and the like? How about 5000 wordpress free hosted blogs that just happen to all talk about great shopping exeriences and link to Penney's main page?

    The thing about social media is that it is so easily faked.

    A friend of mine created a fake profile for a classmate that never existed. He graduated 20 years ago. He included some basic in things in the profile, graduating school, likes, things that are pretty normal. That profile regularly gets friend requests from people who "remember him from school" or "like the same things", though mostly classmates. He was invited to the school reunion. I think he has even been tagged in 20 year old photos... but he doesn't exist.

    As a single experiment, it is amusing. As a wholesale system for social influence, it has potential to rip social media into little pieces. How long before someone is paying people for "like" traffic? How long before people are paid to post on their twitter, facebook, and my blank accounts?

    Grey hat social spam. It might even hurt Google.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:45am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Shon Gale (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Well Google Search sucks and anyone that watched Jeopardy last night knows what a real search engine can do. Google is a stupid word search in a database with unverified links and as a business person I wouldn't spend a dime on it. How innovative is that?
    JC Penney on the other hand should know better. I like to go to JC Penney and shop. It is a welcome alternative to Macy's(Crap) Sears(more crap) and the real crap WalMart. I actually really like JC Penney Jeans and still wear them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Joe (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 7:16am

    Re: Re:

    That's easy. Mike said it and he don't like Mike. Content doesn't matter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Joe (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 7:18am

    Wow, 9 repeats posts in a thread about a company spamming. I love irony.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's more the other way around... you love the mighty Mike thus everything he says must be true. The line speaks volumes, and Mike clearly says spamming to get ahead is not wrong, spamming to make things worse is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So let's all spam techdirt to see how Mike loves spamming to get ahead.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    David Muir (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I find it frustrating to read comments that say "so-and-so clearly says... whatever interpretation the commenter wants." The only thing that's clearly stated is what's ACTUALLY stated. But of course the even the words that are actually there can be interpreted differently.

    In this case, I think the problem is with the interpretation of the word "worse". Mike (and most of the readers here) interpret "worse" to mean "more inaccurate" -- in other words they are worse when someone games the system to rise to the top. You seem to interpret "worse" to mean exclusively "lower in the rankings".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 10:17am

    The penalty for abusing a search engine...

    ...should be permanent blacklisting. Just as the penalty for spamming should be permanent blacklisting. There is no reason to give filth like this another chance, ever. The Internet doesn't need them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are exactly why logic needs to be taught in schools.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 15th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    So basically, you're saying it's okay to spam to get ahead. Good job Mike. Wouldn't it be funny of someone googlebombed you and you got blocked?

    Um. Reread the sentence you're quoting. I said the exact opposite of what you claim I said.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2011 @ 3:30pm

    Why was it the NY Times that caught it and not Google? That's the real question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Feb 20th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    The link in the article is broken. It does not go to the correct content (a news story about this spam campaign by JC Penney). Instead it appears to go to a login form of some sort.

    Please edit the article to correct the link. A correct link will go directly to an article on the topic of the spam campaign without any mess, fuss, or detour and independent of the link-clicker's browser, geographical location, or any other factors (save whether their network connection is working properly of course).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    lrobbo (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    Like all companies haven't paid for links and spammed?! Yeah, OK . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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