Sometimes when you’re bad and you get caught, you’re punished. JC Penney experienced this with Google back in February, when the retailer’s search engine optimization (SEO) practices were deemed questionable. Google investigated a claim in The New York Times and decided that the nationwide department store had misbehaved. As a result, JC Penney was manually removed from Google’s search engine results pages. In other words, it was given a time-out by Google. The company could not compete online in the free, organic listings except through Bing or other search engines. For example, if you were shopping for dresses, you couldn’t find them from JC Penney. Even if you typed JC Penney dresses into the search engine, they were mysteriously absent. The retailer respectfully asked for reconsideration from Google and got it – 90 days later.
Matt Cutts of Google announced last week that the department store is out of the virtual doghouse. The punishment has been served. Sure enough, a quick check on Google this morning shows that JC Penney can now rank for its own name, but there is no telling how much revenue was actually lost online and by its 1,107 stores over the past three months. They missed out on seasonal shoppers searching for prom dresses, Kentucky Derby hats, spring clean-up equipment, patio furniture and more.
Questionable search engine optimization practices, called black hat SEO, have always been known to carry a penalty. It was certainly enough to open the eyes of the PTB at JC Penney. Statements from the company insisted that they were unaware of the digressions. Now that the department store is allowed to compete with the other boys and girls on the search engines, they will no doubt be monitored closely by Google and everyone else. At the very least, this escapade is a reminder to businesses with websites that it’s best to play nice and follow the rules. If you don’t, you might be punished.
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