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Google Punishes Overstock for SEO Gaming

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Retailers of America, do not attempt to game Google. You will lose.

Few weeks back, the New York Times reported on how J.C. Penney’s attempts to move up in Google’s search rankings ended disastrously for the retail giant. Today, we learn that Overstock is paying the same price.

The WSJ reports:

Overstock's pages had recently ranked near the top of results for dozens of common searches, including "vacuum cleaners" and "laptop computers." But links to Overstock on Tuesday dropped to the fifth or sixth pages of Google results for many of those categories, greatly reducing the chances that a user would click on its links.

The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site. Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links.

What’s particularly dastardly about Overstock’s strategy is that educational sites are valued higher by Google’s search algorithm because they rarely link to commercial sites. In other words, by placing Overstock links on college websites, the company effectively tricked Google into elevating its rank all the while poisoning the naive hearts and minds of America’s youth with seriously awesome deals on everything from book shelves to shower curtains.

Still, there is something delightful (if not eerily scary) about the power Google has to punish SEOffenders. With virtually no competition (sorry, Bing), Google remains the unfathomable bouncer in front of every virtual shop. 

The lesson? Play nice.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.
TAGS:  GOOGLE, OVERSTOCK    SOURCE:   Wall Street Journal