You may have heard of a little game that companies play called SEO, or search engine optimization. The goal is to get a company's site to the top of search results (Google's, in particular) by manipulating text on a page, by choosing certain tags and by having incoming links from other sites. For the past several months, the undisputed king of SEO has been J.C. Penney
. Search Google
for "bedding," and at the top of the page was, until very recently, J.C. Penney. Searches for "dresses"? Same result. In fact, J.C. Penney was the number one result for a whole host of both incredibly generic and extraordinarily specific search terms on Google for months, including throughout the all-important holiday shopping season. How did the department store giant pull it off? According to the New York Times, thousands of links to the store were plastered on hundreds of sites across the Web, paid for by... somebody. J.C. Penney, though, is denying any connection to it.
Google has cleaned up the results, but it highlights part of the problem with algorithm-based searches: They can be manipulated through less than honest means. J.C. Penney is hardly the first and won't be the last company to cheat its way to the top of Google searches. The Times article
detailing how J.C. Penney gamed the system and how Google handled the situation is quite interesting, so hit up the source link for all the details.