In the ongoing battle to acquire the highly coveted number 1 spot in the Google Search Rankings, some companies resort to using unsavoury tactics and grey-hat or even black hat techniques link building techniques.
In the wake of the recent Google algorithm update, several notable companies have been caught employing some of the same slippery tactics. Recently, both JC Penny and Forbes had their ranking penalized for resorting to improper link building or link exchange practices.
It was reported today in an article from the Wall Street Journal that Overstock.com is the latest online retail giant to be penalized for utilizing link exchanges and violated Google’s policies in an effort to effectively game the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Overstock.com is based in Salt Lake City and was founded in 1999 . Overstock is known for discount merchandise and had approximately 10 million unique visitors last month, according to comScore.
Overstock allegedly offered 10% discounts to teachers and student in exchange for links on highly searched phrases such as "futon" and "vaccum cleaners" and asked them to embed links in their college and university .edu websites.
The Google PageRank system gives better ranking in the search engine result for pages that are heavily linked to from external sources and to links coming from certain domains (such as an .edu) as these carry more weight than others.
Patrick Byrne, Overstock’s chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal:
"Google has made clear they believe these links should not factor into their search algorithm. We understand Google’s position and have made the appropriate changes to remain within Google’s guidelines."
The practice of exchanging links for a discount clearly violates the Google’s Guidelines. Google has always been very clear that they can and do penalize sites for websites that participate in practices that are intended to manipulate Goggle’s PageRank algorithm.
Until recently, links to Overstock pages were among the top three results highly searched specific keywords in Google’s search results. Links to Overstock for those same searches have now dropped to between number 40 and 70 in the Google SERPs.
The “take away” from this post is to always be sure that your SEO company only employes white-hat link buiding strategies and practices.