opinion

JC Penny And Algo Changes - SEO Fallout

Stewart Tongue
It's not all that often that Search Engine Optimization bubbles up beyond the desks of bloggers and webmasters to become main page news for a mass audience. The recent report published by The New York Times regarding successful attempts by JC Penny to achieve high ranks for profitable keywords is an important exception.

For many, the JC Penny article is their only window into what SEOs do every day. For that reason, the concepts and ideas stated in the piece become amplified and decision-makers with little understanding of what is allowed or disallowed by search engine guidelines are sure to get a distorted view of the things that SEO can or can not do for their companies.

At its core the article explores the danger of purchasing a massive amount of unrelated backlinks from sites with little relevance and no other discernible value. Yes, adding thousands of backlinks per day on landing pages with no real content of their own can and should eventually get your site sandboxed. However, that does not in any way suggest quality sites backlinking other relevant content sites will have any negative impact on your ranks. In fact, getting many backlinks from high quality relevant sites is exactly what Google has asked site owners to do all along.

Some SEO educated webmasters have done extensive work within systems like LinkSpun and its new mainstream spin-off counterpart TradeSpun. The system allows site owners to search for and find many relevant sites with a similar content focus for the purpose of backlinking them and getting links back from them.

"With LinkSpun and TradeSpun, the goal is simple" said Jdoughs, the owner of both sites. We want our users to be able to rapidly expand the pool of sites they work with together. Finding relevant sites for you to link to or arranging backlinks to your own content from other webmasters can be difficult to do without some kind of meeting place. Our system is capable of allowing members to sift through thousands of sites, match up relevant ones and identify other worthwhile publishers. It's very different from what JC Penny is alleged to have done and the results our webmasters achieve for thousands of keywords with their terrific content proves it is both safe and effective."

Couple that with Googles recent announcement that a major change in their algorithm is affecting as much as 15% of all search results and the paranoia about doing anything that positively affects search ranks grows to a fevered pitch. The change was designed to reduce the impact that 'content farms' had been having on search results. Sites like Mahalo, EzineArticles and eHow have been singled out by analysts suggesting that trying to cash in on trending search results with timely 'junk content' may no longer be an effective method of climbing to a top ranking for key terms.

EzineArticles.com CEO Chris Knight went to great lengths on his blog to post a new set of rules designed to raise the standards of the publication and require higher quality longer content to obtain publication approval. He stated in part: "While we adamantly disagree with anyone who places the “Content Farm” label on EzineArticles.com, we were not immune to this algorithm change. Traffic was down 11.5% on Thursday and over 35% on Friday. In our life-to-date, this is the single most significant reduction in market trust we’ve experienced from Google."

The content requirement changes posted by EzineArticles mention an increase in minimum article length to 400 words or more and a number of other moves designed to weed out submissions that use 'morphed' text or 'text spinners' to generate seemingly original work from a sample that was published previously.

As with any change, this one will come with plenty of winners and losers. The biggest losers are likely to be those who give up on SEO completely for fear that it may get them banned or sandboxed. The winners will be the writers, designers and content providers who have been generating real worthwhile source materials all along as the cheaper and less noteworthy 'articles' of bulk text uploaders finally gets tamped down by an algorithm less likely to be fooled by merely changing the word 'black' to 'green' when describing a pair of shoes in a prerecorded sentence.

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