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How to Avoid Being JC Penney and Overstock of the Internet, and Dodge Google Slap
How to Avoid Being JC Penney and Overstock of the Internet, and Dodge Google Slap
By: Bikram K Singh

In a dark corner of the web world, far from the inquisitive glance of surveillance radar, there is a constant war going on between the search-giant Google and the collective forces of webmasters and SEO experts -- a lot of which are black hats and some are white ones too. We seldom get to hear about the battles being fought, all we come to see is the aftereffect of the war, some blood stains, and some defeated soldiers shouting foul.

A cacophony of one such battle could be heard these days, and this time again Google has outsmarted the black hat SEO experts stripping several giants off their page-one listing. Heads of major retailers like JC Penny and Overstock are also among the heads that rolled in this battle.

This is one of those few times when big authority websites are witnessing a significant drop in their rankings, from page 1 to page 5 or 6, for various keywords because of the algorithm change. This time the algorithm change is called Panda update.

Why these guys were penalized?

Before we move any further, let me tell you that Google has not manually delisted pages from JC Penny and Overstock\'s websites – though rumor mill suspects so. It has made some basic changes in indexing and retrieval algorithm that has upset quite a many apple-carts. JC Penny and Overstock were two of them.

These two retailers were penalized because they made their hand dirty in black hat SEO techniques like buying thousands and thousands of backlinks to get to the top for many buyer keywords.

The algorithm change came into effect after JC Penny and Overstock\'s rank fraud was exposed by The New York Times (Source: The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, NYT). By issuing this update and Farmer update which followed it, Google has saved itself from becoming butt of every SEO joke, and in the process it has demonstrated its strong allegiance to providing the best search result to its users.

How to avoid a Google penalty?

You do not need to try very hard to stay clear of Google penalties. All you need to do is work on three basic elements: content, design, and links. I am going to discuss each one of them in some details in the paragraphs that follow.

Feed your niche high-quality, relevant content

Google bots love quality content, and if you have a properly optimized, fresh, and high-quality content on your website then Google bots will love to come to your site for dinner. Not only will they come, they will fetch many human visitors as well. Quality of content is the primary thing that Google considers when its spiders go through your web pages consuming each bit of codes and content present on your website.

Do not just rewrite the PLR content that you find on the web. It may help you cut it for machines (Google bots), but it will definitely not impress your human visitors, which means higher bounce rate, and which inevitably convert into a severe blow on your Google ranking.

First impression is mostly the last

Among things that help your visitors trust you is the design of your website. Users hardly trust a website that looks like the one created in early 2000s. They either consider such a website dead, or mentally categorize it as a spam site. Make sure you have a modern look to your website, and a flat architecture. Google loves simple link and navigation architecture on a website, and so does your visitors.

Avoid bad neighbors - you are judged by the company you keep

Getting backlinks from porn, gambling, hack sites, and pirated warez websites, etc., may not reflect badly on you, but linking out to any such website will paint your face pitch black.
Avoid linking to any such site, and to be on the safer side, I will recommend keeping a close eye on your incoming links as well. If you are getting a ton of backlinks from infamous websites then you should try to blunt its edge. You may contact Google in this regard.

I will suggest using "nofollow" tag on the links that you send out, at least to the websites whose quality you are not aware of.

Let your stuff go viral

Fresh and high-quality content along with the quality and the quantity of backlinks form two pillars on which your website balances itself. Dig deeper in your niche, until you uncover a real pressing problem that needs a solution. Create content to solve the pressing problem of your niche and offer it for free. Everyone will love it, and they will talk about it, making your content go viral.
Following the advices given above will protect you from Google fiery algorithm updates. If you follow the advice, your website will remain protected against future algorithm updates as well.

If JC Pennys and Overstocks of the world can be penalized by Google then it is unwise to assume that you can survive the axe. It is, therefore, prudent to stay away from any black hat SEO techniques, whatsoever.
Tags: Google Slap, Google algorithm update, Google update, Google SEO, SEO techniques,  Google ranking, Panda update, Google Panda update.

Bikram K. Singh is an SEO consultant and a content marketing expert. He has helped many small and mid-size companies gain competitive advantage on the Internet through SEO, and Content marketing.
Since 1999, he is hooked to the Internet – first as a consumer then as a producer, and since 2006 as an SEO consultant and content marketing strategist. He develops and executes SEO and content strategies for small and mid-size companies.Of late, he has started offering free online marketing coaching and sharing free marketing resources on You can reach him on