The Interwebs have been in a tizzy today over an article recently published in the New York Times that called JCPenny out onto the carpet for using tactics designed to game search engine rankings.
Among the tactics employed by JCP.com were doorway pages, link stuffing in navigational elements and using a proxy type of solution from a company called SearchDex.
According to the article, JCPenny and/or agencies they employed were also engaged in some very, shall we say, less than desirable linking strategies. The article states that JCP purchased links from link networks; many of these links were from very non-relevant sources.
Purchasing links is nothing new. There are hundreds if not thousands of services that sell links to webmasters. But if you purchase links for the sole intention of improving your search engine rankings, you could be in violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines. Google does say that as long as you add the “nofollw” attribute to your links, you are okay. But in adding that link attribute, your paid link is essentially worthless. Here is Google’s official language:
Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
- Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
So, in layman’s terms, purchasing paid links is essentially drunk driving. People, in this case agencies and webmasters, know it is against the law. But offenders will likely continue to do it until they either get caught, or someone gets hurt.
“Well we’re not as bad as those links purchased by JCP,” you might be thinking.
But I have to ask you this: Is it worth the risk? If you are currently purchasing links, and you got caught, and your rankings were heavily devalued, how long would it take you to re-establish your link equity? What would it cost you? What strategies would you use?
And you’d likely also be spending some money explaining to you anyone else with a stake in your company what went wrong. Not to mention what to do about all of the lost revenue because your site isn’t being found for that high volume search term “x”.
All things to ponder before that next round of link buying. Mark my words, JCP is not going to be the last major company to get swatted with Google’s paid link paddle.