How JC Penny made billions from link farming & what it teaches us!

If there was any doubt about the value of links in Google search rankings, it’s clear as daylight now. A huge number of links can push you to No.1 on Google, even if most of the links are from link farms and unrelated domains.

This has been proved by J.C. Penney, a major retailer in the US. The retailer bought links from a few retail but mostly totally unrelated sites. A lot of these sites had no content and were set up to serve as link farms. Such flagrant violation of the most basis SEO law (bad links and your site sinks) should have, at least, driven a few holes into the Penney cruise liner.

Time for the first surprise. The site was No.1 on Google for a remarkable range of keywords, such as “skinny jeans,” “home decor,” “comforter sets,” “furniture,” “tablecloths,” “grommet top curtains”. The second surprise – Google remained in the dark about the violation until a New York Times reporter broke the story.

The 1,100 stores and $17.8 billion behemoth dominated the search for the whole of Christmas sale season. How much money the company made from those rankings is anyone’s guess but we all know it is substantial. Eventually, Google penalized the store by manually pushing the rankings to Page 6-7 and thereabouts. So what is the lesson for other law abiding Google-zens?

Q1. Are link firms a good short term strategy?

It’s a gamble. So the answer is yes and no. You can gain rankings if you escape the Google anti-spam team. They don’t always fail. Your good run may last anywhere between a few months to a few days, if you are unlucky.

Q2. Will this episode lead to further devaluation of links in Google?

Google has been indicating for last few years about rationalizing the value of links. Currently, it uses 200+ algorithm points to rank sites, most of which are never disclosed. But links have not lost any value yet and it’s not going to happen soon.

Q3. Are there any effective alternatives to link farming?

Yes, there are. But the right path is always longer. Comprehensive off-page activities combined with regular links from social media sites can deliver results faster.

Q4. How can I keep a closer watch on what my SEO company is doing?

All good SEO companies share all activity reports with their clients, not just the rank/traffic reports. If you are not getting them, ask for it. Watch out for any sudden spike in your backlinks and demand a answer. At PageTraffic, we guarantee 100% white hat methods and share each and every report on an online project management system in a transparent manner.


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