SEO Cowboys

Looking back on my blog entries for the last couple of months it’s no secret that Google has been an absolute game changer in the last ten plus years. Virtual estate has as much value as real estate and the abyss separating the first page of search results from the second page will make or break an enterprise. Google’s search algorithms are mostly a secret. It has been disclosed that you can boost your search rankings and Google profile for a specific search—let’s say french pastries—when sites dedicated to french pastries link to your site. They refer to this method as “white hat” optimization, whereas “black hat” optimization involves paying these secondary sites to link to you. Over the autumn quarter JC Penney started owning the number one search slot for a plethora of  searches ranging from the broad; “furniture,” to the popular; “skinny jeans,” to the obscure; “grommet top curtains” “area rug,” tipping Google off that an outlaw had gotten loose again to unleash chaos and disorder on the web’s range. The Google sheriff, Matt Cutts, recognized foul play when his team uncovered 2,015 mostly defunct web pages with phrases such as “casual dresses,” and “evening dresses” that would send you directly to JC Penney’s assortment of dresses when you clicked on them. Within a matter of hours Google undertook punitive action, relegating JC Penney to search result 68 for “living room furniture.”
For the sake of continuity and bromidic tropes, the web is less Classical Western, and more Spaghetti Western; less John Wayne, and more Clint Eastwood. In other words, a morass of ambiguous means separates appropriate SEO from illicit SEO.  The difference between Google Ads and Google Search have been maintained to be divorced from one another, yet there remains doubt as to whether this is true and in France inquiries are underway as to whether Google has been promising its biggest clients that their search results would be improved by taking part in Google Ads. Google heavily denies any such type of activity.

What intrigues me are the rubrics Google uses to differentiate an illegitimate site on which black hat links exist and a white hat site where the links have been authenticated. As it appears it might be possible that Google never would have caught on to JC Penney’s fraudulent activity hadn’t they consistently and suddenly appeared in the number one slot for a grip of articles. The NY Times tried to follow up with some of the black hat sites, to little avail, but were able to ascertain that these practices are becoming more and more commonplace with one operator claiming that JC Penney shouldn’t have been so greedy about their rise to the top of the rankings—slow and steady wins the race and can avoid Big Brother Google. What to make of the Google Western?

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