If you have a business, and you run a website for that purpose, you already have a great idea about the importance of SEO. Yes, SEO when used in a proper way can turn your business upside down, for good. Your website gets a lot of visibility and thus referrals, which leads to profit at the end of the day. But, have you ever thought that what would happen to your business, if there is any wrong step is incorporated in the SEO process? I am pretty sure that you think it won’t matter that much. That is where you are wrong! SEO if done in the wrong way, can kill your website. Something exactly like this happened with JC Penney. Let us talk about the JC Penney Black Hat case today.
JC Penney was a departmental store company, and it was not just any departmental store, but had a big set-up! With more than 1,000 stores and $17.8 billion in total revenue in 2010, Penney was certainly a major player in American retailing. The departmental stores had a great location and they used to be the middle-income family’s favorite, especially for men’s and women’s apparel, children’s clothing and household goods and commodities. Once, a family went there and shopped for men’s and women’s apparel and JC Penney made a profit from that, accounting nearly for half of their sales! Thus, we can easily draw the point that it was a big name in the American market at a point of time. But, then what actually went wrong? Let’s now talk about that, shall we?
Okay, now if someone types “dresses”, “bedding”, “area rugs”, “home decor”, or “furniture”, what will be the very first result? You could imagine multiple contenders for each of these searches. But, throughout the 2010 holiday season, JC Penney was suspiciously at the top of Google’s organic search rankings for nearly every product imaginable! Seems quite unbelievable right? Let’s see how that happened.
Link Building SEO Strategy is one of the best ways to improve a site’s online performance is to get other websites to link to it. Therefore, the more backlinks that your site can get, the better it will rank. Now, let us dig deeper to find out JC Penney’s Link Building Scheme. Keeping in mind the importance of linking on website ranking, they can be bought and sold. This is exactly what JC Penney was doing!
Everything was going smooth, until the New York Times got to know about this. The New York Times found out that around 2,015 other websites linked to the portion of JC Penney’s website dedicated to dresses. The vast majority of these links came from websites that had nothing else (Dummy Sites). Further investigations found out that the owners of these sites were being paid to host these links. Finally JC Penney was exposed by the New York Times. This is where everything started to go downhill!
In 2020, JC Penney filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection and announced the closure of many stores across the country. This is how such a business mafia-like JC Penney had gone down. JC Penney was even successful to overpass the Depression phase in the business cycle, but ultimately a factor like SEO ruined them. That is why it is said, you should never take anything lightly. Incorporating SEO in your business is a great step to take it forward and is definitely a great leap to grow your business, but if you are using it the wrong way, it can cost you even the last of your penny!
At this point, Google intervened. Google came down hard on JC Penney for their black hat link building scheme. JC Penney’s online ranking, for some keywords, fell from number one to well past the fifth page.
JC Penney’s response to the penalty was, of course, to let go of its online marketing firm and claim ignorance of their practices. Google and other search engines caught up with the practice and honed their algorithms. Now, backlinks from sites of disrepute can actually penalize the website getting the backlink.
So, we see that incorporating and implementing a proper SEO strategy is important. Excessive greed for anything can result in a huge loss, so it is always better to go slow but steady! After all, our ancestors who wrote such valuable quotes knew the adversity that was going to fall on the whole of mankind, in one way or another!