NYT uncovers the tawdry, seedy tale of the SEO games of J.C. Penney

The New York Times has run an incredibly detailed piece about a feat of Google search engine gaming which seems to have been done by or for JC Penney. We won't bore you with SEO basics -- we're pretty sure you've got those down already -- but suffice to say that The Times noticed that the retailer was at the top of Google's search results for many more terms than seemed possible or natural, so they started to do some digging. What they found was that thousands of links had been placed on what were essentially spam sites all over the web, resulting in the retailer ruling the Google juice for terms such as "little black dress," and even super generic ones like "rugs" and "bedding." This is one of the dreaded kinds of 'black hat' optimization that Google frowns upon, because it's so obviously cheating, and it's punishable by a massive sinking of the offending site's ranking in results (which is, of course, not the desired effect).

JC Penney unsurprisingly denies knowing anything about it, and no evidence exists to suggest it was directly involved, so on Wednesday, Google began 'corrective action' to bring Penney's results back to planet earth. One example -- before the action was taken, JC Penney held the number one spot for the search term 'living room furniture,' and after it stood at number 68 -- is enough to show the awesome power Google holds over the results it delivers, but the story also serves to show how truly broken search is, as well as Google's seeming nonchalance about the issue. Hit up the source link for the full story.