Shady SEO tactics create a reputation crisis
While it can certainly net you temporary gains, in the long run it doesn’t pay to be dishonest. Retailer J.C. Penney is a perfect example, having been outed by The New York Times this week for using “black hat” SEO methods to unfairly raise its rankings in search results. A quote, from the Times article, by David Segal:
There are links to JCPenney.com’s dresses page on sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, aluminum sheets, travel, snoring, diamond drills, bathroom tiles, hotel furniture, online games, commodities, fishing, Adobe Flash, glass shower doors, jokes and dentists — and the list goes on.
Some of these sites seem all but abandoned, except for the links. The greeting at myflhomebuyer.com sounds like the saddest fortune cookie ever: “Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.”
When you read the enormous list of sites with Penney links, the landscape of the Internet acquires a whole new topography. It starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.
So far Penney spokespeople are denying responsibility, but unless the organization is 100% sure its hands are clean the smart crisis management move would be to cop to the mistake sooner rather than later. The mistake might have been an all-too-common one: trusting that your alleged SEO expert was using “white hat” techniques, and not knowing the difference yourself.
My advice to the retailer would be to humbly and apologetically admit its lapse in judgement, then publicly describe what it is doing to have the problem links removed and how the issue will be prevented in the future. While Google may issue its own punishment, saving face in the court of public opinion will help limit reputation damage and the loss of sales that could follow.
The BCM Blogging Team