buyer_beware-300x227 Buyer Beware, Black Hat SEO Firm Strikes JC Penny DownLast week we wrote about the negative impact Black Hat SEO can have on a website. Interestingly enough, four days later the New York Times released an article about a search engine optimization investigation of J.C. Penney.

The reason behind the investigation was due to the confusion of how well JCPenney.com was performing in organic search results. The New York Times quotes “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 blandly generic keywords to specific keywords.

The investigation found blatant Black Hat SEO tactics that resulted in top rankings for JCPenny.com. Essentially they found thousands of unrelated web sites (of which many that seemed to contain only links) linking to JCPenney.com.

Once the investigation was complete the New York Times submitted their findings to Google’s web spam team. Google later confirmed that these tactics did violate their webmaster guidelines and that action has taken place.

At that time, JCPenny.com was still number 1 for the keyword “Samsonite carry on luggage”. Within two hours they had dropped to number 71. They were also number 1 for “living room furniture”, and within that same two hours they had fallen to number 68.

At one moment, JCPenny.com was the most visible website for these terms. The next moment, they were plunged into the depths!

What is so amazing about the entire investigation is that J.C. Penny had no idea these tactics were even taking place. They were working with SearchDex, an outside SEO firm, which was handling all their web optimization. As we had mentioned in our previous Black Hat post, “The types of companies that hire black hat seo firms or use those methods are usually companies that are looking to make a quick buck or don’t know about the true consequences. Reputable companies who are looking to build their business online really need to learn about doing things the right way. They need to research white hat techniques so that they know the proper ways of doing things. If a company doesn’t have the internal talent to take on these tasks, they can hire a white hat seo company that is well versed in the appropriate ways of gaining search rankings.

In closing, when hiring an SEO agency, make sure you do your homework first. You want an agency who will work with you to improve your site and content. If the agency guarantees you number one rankings or won’t give you specifics on how they work, be wary. Follow these tips from Google on hiring an SEO company.