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Website owners have been trying various tactics to build inbound links ever since Google started ranking pages.  There have many different tactics used, some ‘white hat’ and others ‘black hat’.  The New York Times recently ran an article titled “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search,” which discussed the link building program of J C Penny.

According to the article, J C  Penny engaged in a wide campaign of securing links to specific internal pages. The problem was, these links fell under what is generally termed ‘paid links’, a link building method that Google has stated is against their terms of service. For J C Penny, the campaign worked well with their websites ranking number one in organic search for a wide range of keywords – and they did so throughout November and December, the peak online buying season.

In fact, they would probably still rank number one if it hadn’t been for the New York Times article.  The inherent danger in any paid link campaign is that detection is always around the corner – and once detected, your web pages could faced severe penalties (note – Google doesn’t use the word penalty, but there’s no other word for it really).  BMW suffered a Google ‘correction’ several years ago that resulted in their web pages being removed from Google’s search index completely.

J C Penny have got off lightly in comparison with their search ranking dropping from number one to number fifty – that’s a drop from page one to page five or six. That’s still enough of a drop to see their online traffic dry up. Link building using any black or gray hat activities is a risky approach. While white hat approaches will take time, once you do work your way to a reasonable search position, you know you’re there legitimately, and that you’re not going to be knocked down tomorrow. Sites that buy links could go from hero to zero overnight – how much are those links worth then?

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