A Big Advertising Budget

If you were to hazard a guess into the kind of results you would get if you searched for some kind of popular item to buy on Google, say mattresses, what would you think of? Perhaps the few local results from mattress stores in your area or perhaps something from a major mattress manufacturer or a Wikipedia result? What if you were to search for furniture or curtains? You would probably expect something from say Bed, Bath and Beyond or Walmart. Over the holidays, something very strange happened. No matter what you searched for to do with clothing or home furnishings, there was only one company that came to the top of your searches – it was JCPenney. Sometimes, even if you searched for a specific brand, JCPenney would still come up ahead of the manufacturers’ websites for the brand. Certainly, JCPenney is a major company that deserves to be somewhere near the top for relevant searches. But how is it that they managed to make it to the very top for scores of kinds of products? Especially when there are other retail companies vying for that coveted spot? Was the retailer on to some kind of super successful search engine optimization techniques no one else knew about?

As it turns out, the only thing super successful about their methods was how they managed to stay clear of Google’s scrutiny for this long. Everyone really knows about black hat search engine optimization techniques; if people don’t try these more often, it’s because Google will then flag the company down as a cheater and penalize them. “Somehow”, JCPenney got away with what they did for as long as they did. One wonders why on earth they felt that they could do something like this and not have it hurts their reputation. So what exactly is it that the company did? It’s the same thing that BMW did a while ago (and got caught for it).

How does Google know what website to buoy up to the top of its search results page? If there are enough reputable websites on the Internet with links to a given page, Google thinks that there’s probably something pretty special about that page. It gives that page to boost. That’s if you want valuable organic results that you don’t pay Google an advertising fee for. There is another way to pay to get your results bumps to the top. But this one requires going around Google. If, you happen to own a website about embroidery and you want to see your website move up in the search results when someone searches with the keyword phrase “embroidery craft”, for example, you need to contact other websites that deal in embroidery-related stuff and ask them to link to your website for that keyword phrase. If you can’t find any other embroidery websites to link to you, you can just go to any no-name website that deals in garbage of any kind, pay them a fee and ask them to link to your website just the same. If you have a thousand websites (dealing in any kind of stuff that bears no relation to what your website deals in) like this linking to yours, Google is still going to be impressed until someone alerts it as to what is going on. And that is what this retailer did.

Or is it? The European Union is questioning major advertisers on Google to learn if Google gives them preferential treatment in the organic search results in return for a lot of advertising revenue from them. If things like this didn’t happen, how would one explain how JCPenney got away with it for so long? There’s no way to prove it right now; but if these are the search engine optimization techniques the search engines are rewarding, there really is little hope for regular businesses with small budgets.