The announcement of JCPenney‘s SEO spamming recently by the New York Times may have caught a lot of people off-guard, but I think a lot of people in the SEO industry were already aware of what was going on.

A few months ago we had seen many of the links in question for JCPenney during research for another client. When we checked the rankings of several keywords we observed in their anchor text, we were stunned to see them ranking (very well in fact) – “comforters”, I believe was the first one we had identified. JCP no longer ranks for this keyword, but ironically their PPC ad is front & center this morning on Google AdWords.

We were blown away that such a big company was using these questionable link sources – expired & re-purchased domains, fake business websites, etc.

Why would JCPenney chance their Google rankings & earnings on these (crappy) link sources?

In the end, it looks like $$ is the key factor, because JC Penney likely raked in huge amounts of income & profits over the holiday season.

JCP execs have responded indicating that they had no idea what was going on & that their SEO company was responsible. However, failing to monitor the work of your vendor would seem to fall flat on these same JCP execs & the marketing team, regardless of what the SEO vendor actually did. Did they think their improved rankings were magic? Please…

Why Did It Take So Long To Expose?

Everyone is quick to jump on JCP for their actions, but why did it take so long to come to the forefront in the first place? If everyone knew it was happening – why didn’t they get penalized earlier? (Actually, Google claims to have penalized them at least 3 other times in the past couple years)

Here’s the real reason why this SEO strategy worked so long for JCPenney – check out the quote from Brett Tabke, owner at

JCPenney succeeded because (almost) the entire industry is doing this. Big brands, little brands, white-hats, black-hats, you name it… Not all are doing it to the same degree or so blatantly stupid as SearchDex & JC Penney were apparently, but find me a site ranking for their target keyword and I’m sure we can point out some pretty questionable link sources.

The real question is… Would you report every business you found to be purchasing paid links and/or engaging in these tactics?

Do you know how far & wide that net is? (think Fortune 500 companies & other top authorities online)

Tell us what you’d do.