J.C. Penney’s Dirty Little SEO Secret

I’m not sure if you saw the New York Times Article yesterday but J.C. Penney put themselves on the map.

In a bad way.

We’ve all heard of good ways and bad ways to get your SEO better for your site. I don’t have to go into detail here but they vary from domain name length, backlinks, and keywords.

But, according to Google, there are “black hat” methods and “white hat” methods. And JC Penney really skirted the line into the side of badness.

Here’s the interesting thing. When you type in dresses or area rugs you would expect to see maybe stores like Nordstrom, Macys, Dillards and or maybe J Crew.  But repeatedly, you know who came up? J.C. Penney.

Now let’s not be a hater right now. JC Penney is a reputable company. Heck, I grew up going to JC Penney’s with my mom. It was a special occasion type of shopping trip.  If we were going to JC Penny’s, we were gonna get good stuff.  The company itself made 17.8 Billion in 2010. Ironically, that 17.8 billion figure was the same profit figure from 2001, but that’s another story.

So what did JC Penney do? Well, you have to understand how Google works with backlinks. Imagine if you own a site on Blackberry Themes.  Your site’s Google ranking will improve as other sites link to it. The more links to your site, especially those from other BlackBerry sites, the higher your ranking.

But even non related BlackBerry links can help improve you in the eyes of Google. The line gets skirted when companies pay for these  back links. Allegedly, this is what JC Penney did. Tons of back links point back to them which, of course, rewards them with Google.

A spokeswoman for J. C. Penney, Darcie Brossart denies that JC Penney paid for any back links. “J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies,” said Mrs. Brossart.

UPDATE: JC Penney has replied to these allegations.

They claim they are actively taking the links down.

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure if I believe the fact that JC Penney didn’t know about this practice going on. I mean people just don’t do this for you.

2,015 pages with phrases like “casual dresses,” “evening dresses,” “little black dress” or “cocktail dress.”  When you click any of these links, guess where they lead you?


Sounds like we need a CSI for the web. But Google did take some punitive action.

Read the full article on New York Times and you will enjoy it.

  • Valerie Walton

    As we all know Black hat SEO could be an easy way to get your desired ranking but once Google and other search engines detected that your doing this technique you’re site would get penalized. I am still having a hard time to believe that a ig company like JC Penney is doing such kind of link building.