Earlier this year, J.C. Penney was caught gaming Google. A New York Times article exposed that the company had been benefiting enormously from excessive paid links, which is obviously against Google's rules. They had ranked number one or close for some very prominent search queries like “skinny jeans,” “home decor,” “comforter sets,” “furniture", “tablecloths,” etc.
As the news came out, Google took action to penalize the site for its practices. A J.C. Penney spokesperson had stated, "J. C. Penney did not authorize, and we were not involved with or aware of, the posting of the links that you sent to us, as it is against our natural search policies."
Searchmetrics has uncovered data which shows that J.C. Penney has seen its search visibility rise again. "Searchmetrics’ Organic Performance Index recorded a dramatic drop in visibility at the time for the site but now it sees that there has been a significant increase in visibility," a representative for SearchMetrics tells WebProNews.
In a post on the the SearchMetrics blog, the company shows a couple of graphs: one showing the general organic performance, and the other showing a specific keyword: "jewelry":
"What happened? We cannot see a massive reduction/change in their link structure – this also would be way to fast and require more time," SearchMetrics says on the blog. "So it might be that the people at J.C.Penney have managed to convince Google that they really had no clue about what was going on at their agency – or the algorithm is giving them another chance. We have observed this happening for algorithm penalties many times before: after a couple of weeks or months the penalty has been taken back – at least partially. What’s surprising in this case is that the reinstatement did happen for what clearly was a manual adjustment."
SearchMetrics, which also shared a lot of widely-publicized data about the Panda update and it's victims, is careful to note that none of this is actually Panda-related.
J.C. Penney isn't the only site recently penalized by Google to bounce back. In February, Google penalized Overstock.com after the site's pages had ranked near the top of results for dozens of common searches. The site had been encouraging college and university sites to post links to Overstock pages for discounts, though by the time the penalty hit, the site had already discontinued the program.
Late last month, Overstock announced (even putting out a press release) that it was no longer being penalized by Google. Overstock’s CEO Patrick Byrne was quoted as saying, “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.”
Google, of course, would not comment on any specific site, so why should that be any different with J.C. Penney? Granted, this policy seems to only apply in certain cases, as Google's Matt Cutts did tweet about J.C. Penney after the New York Times story came out, saying, "I really wish that our algorithms or other processes had caught this much faster - I'm definitely not celebrating."