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Overstock.com Hit with Google Penalty

Overstock Search Rankings Plummet

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There is an interesting trend of big brand sites getting busted for gaming Google, and gaining mainstream media attention lately. A couple weeks ago, JCPenney was busted for paid links, then Forbes attracted some similar attention.

Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google has penalized overstock.com on somewhat similar, but different grounds. WSJ’s Amir Efrati reports:

Overstock’s pages had recently ranked near the top of results for dozens of common searches, including "vacuum cleaners" and "laptop computers." But links to Overstock on Tuesday dropped to the fifth or sixth pages of Google results for many of those categories, greatly reducing the chances that a user would click on its links.

The incident, according to Overstock, stemmed in part from its practice of encouraging websites of colleges and universities to post links to Overstock pages so that students and faculty could receive discounts on the shopping site. Overstock said it discontinued the program on Feb. 10, before hearing from Google, but said some university webmasters have been slow to remove the links.

Overstock Search Results take a hit in Google

Overstock’s CEO Patrick Byrne is 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. 

It’s quite interesting to see big brands taking a hit from the search giant. Google appears to have a renewed focus on search quality in recent weeks, probably due to the large amount of criticism the company has received lately. A recent algorithm change was implemented to further crack down on spam, and Google has said it is shifting its focus to content farms. 

Google has since released a Chrome extension searchers can use to block certain sites from their own search experience, while sending signals to Google that could be used in its algorithm down the road.

Overstock.com Hit with Google Penalty
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There are 10 Comments. Add Yours.
  1. Guest

    Following the JCPenney I bet more to come in the coming days. But I don’t see anything wrong with the Overstock technique anyway.

    • Chris Crum

      It’s just interesting to see evidence that big brands aren’t immune.

  2. Thomas Abacoa

    So there are 3 big sites compared to how many getting away with it. Seems like Google turns a blind eye until there is a public outcry. Why are reporters and forums members doing a better job at identifying these tactics than Google? Well Google is probably getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPC ad money from these guys. I’m Just saying!

  3. RJD International Search

    You don’t see anything wrong with people getting discounts from a company in return if they post a link to their website?

    Similar to paid links…

  4. RJD International Search

    You don’t see anything wrong with people getting discounts from a company in return if they post a link to their website?

    Similar to paid links…

  5. Adsense Publisher

    So what happens if they have them replace the links with an affiliate link that gives the buyer 10% off?

  6. Mason

    Google under “Criticism”? Criticism from who? A bunch of web spammers, blackhatters and marketers which tricks didn’t work? Google is a royal joke. There is no common sense at Google. Google is destroying the web by dancing to the tune of those three. You will never read a comment from a non techy person about Google’s search results NEVER.

    Now they are playing God and trying to appear “cool” trying to develop (or already did) an algo. that would identify what content is copied and what is original, penalizing and destroying the web with it. Unless you are God, there is no possible way to know whose content is original and whose copied!!!! Sometimes I think Google’s engineers are 14 year olds with no common sense. Thousands of business and sites are killed everyday because of these morons. Overstock, Jcpenny seem afraid of this giant. They should call for search engine regulation. Now if you buy or somebody posts something that “God” considers “paid links”, your site goes to hell. Really? The government needs to get involved and regulate Google. This is ridiculous! We are not talking about Yahoo and Bing here. They can do whatever they want but Google can’t.

  7. Guest

    This is great news to any smaller, independent business out there who have to compete with big brand companies one after another. Woohoo!

  8. Susan

    Funny – I just googled vacuum cleaners and Overstock was #1

  9. Lisa

    Tats good about google. Which means such link techniques won’t work lol :)

    nice discounts anyway.