How to Cheat Google

Friday, February 25, 2011


Companies who find their websites on the top of Google's search results get a huge traffic boost, a traffic boost that can translate into millions of dollars in sales. Not surprisingly, this has led some companies to look for ways to game the system. New York Times reporter David Segal explains how one company, JCPenney, did just that.

Comments [13]

Oscar Romero

JC Penny's way of getting to the top in Google rankings was very smart. Its all about business. You gotta do what you gotta do to be succesful. JC Penny has obviously come to be a major business super power and they know how to advertise and make money. I don't feel that this could be considered cheating its just doing business.

Mar. 11 2011 12:43 PM
Brandon "the GREATEST" Burroughs from NC

though google is the most known search engine on the world i see no reason to cheat at getting your site known in a fair world. Since we kno the world isnt at all a fair place we know can see the true reason behind it like said in the exert which is money reaching even in the billions of dollars. The act JCP commited i think was not so much as an immoral act but taking an oppurtunity to increase profit by using a fualt found on the web

Mar. 10 2011 11:18 PM
Zach Hinton from Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School

It really is amazing how much power Google has in the online commerce. A way to try and "cheat" the system led one company to be in some serious trouble. I also agree with traivion, I wish they would have discussed a little more how much money it actually costs to get your name on the first or second line.

Mar. 02 2011 08:45 PM
Travion Mallette

One thing the Google rep forgot to tell you is one way to get to the top of a Google search page is to pay them. I have had two phone calls asking me to pay so when you type in "handyman in San Jose" my company will be at the top of the list. I declined and asked both times to be taken off the call list.

Mar. 02 2011 11:45 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Back in my days with my parents in Chancy Bros. Carnival (so I take exception to the inappropriate use of the word "rubes"), I was also spending off-season times with my sister's family in Idaho which brought me to Route 189 in Wyoming. Along that Route is Kemmerer and the house where J.C., himself, was born, or so said the sign.

My first time up that road, my companions (two dealers off a riverboat in New Orleans) told me anything could happen and, sure enough, soon an elk leaped from a 12 foot cliff on one side of the road, in one bounce, up a 10 foot one on the other side.

Eventually, I took to camping out in his house, as I made my way. Do it yourself. Serves them right!

Mar. 01 2011 11:11 PM
Quentin Hammonds from Raleigh North Carolina

Never knew that google had a page rank. But than again its google, google has mostly anything and everything. JCPenney is a good store i get my clothes from there but cheating to get to the top is something that I can't say good job on but that was a smart move they did. Ha Ha JCPenney's haves furniture I never saw that. I thought they were known for there clothes but I guess when you think about it you would understand why they was called out.

Mar. 01 2011 11:37 AM

That was very smart on JCPenney's part to make themselves at the top of the list. I'm sure they got a lot more business during the Christmas season then they would have. As a Google searcher, I am worried that more websites will do this to skew my Google search results. When searching, I want the best results to get the information that I need in a quick manner, is that not the point of the internet?

Feb. 28 2011 05:44 PM
Adam Parikh from Milwaukee, WI

As a 10 year search marketer I am glad when people get busted for gaming the system. It is a little troubling the NYT broke the story as there is a very healthy search and online marketing news community.

Search engines are not public utilities. They are businesses; run as their management teams sees fit. If one is a stockholder or an employee of Google (I am neither), you are pleased with the company from a financial view.

Google frames its decisions in the context of serving the users. They will tell you what you feel is best for your website is not what is best for the users.

There is a file called Robots.txt one can put in the root directory of the website. It is a document that manages how search engine spiders interact with your site. One can 'no index' their entire site if need be.

Feb. 28 2011 03:56 PM
Rebekah Bowen from US

I was glad the Mr. Garfield pointed out the difference in paid searches. While I'm sure Google looks out for its own interests to some extent (as any successful business must do), I don't believe they are intentionally trying to sneak in bad search results for their own monetary gain. After all, they want to be able to provide relevant results or searchers will start using other search engines such as Yahoo or Bing. These paid searches are at the top of the page in a pink/peach box labeled "ads" in the top right hand corner. They are required to follow the same rules as other advertisers about distinguishing paid content with the word "ad" or "advertisement" if there is reasonable doubt that the consumer will not be able to distinguish it from unpaid search results or promotional messages.

Feb. 28 2011 10:54 AM
Bob Garfield from spare bedroom

These interviews concerned UNpaid Google search. The paid results, to which commenters referred, are indeed auctioned -- but they appear separately from organic results, displayed on the right rail, or shaded in color above unpaid results. all of those auctioned results are identified as ads.

Feb. 28 2011 10:34 AM
Doug Coutts from Seattle

Your article left out the essential fact the Google sells the right to "game" its search algorithms through SEO term auctions. Their efforts to thwart so called "black hats" is nothing more than the actions of a monopolistic wolf in sheep's clothing.

Feb. 27 2011 09:55 PM
Richard White from San Jose, CA

One thing the Google rep forgot to tell you is one way to get to the top of a Google search page is to pay them. I have had two phone calls asking me to pay so when you type in "handyman in San Jose" my company will be at the top of the list. I declined and asked both times to be taken off the call list. I called the number back after the last call and the recorded voice said the Google sales rep I was calling was not available, so I know it was not just someone trying to do this outside of Google. I would like for you to have the Google rep back on and see what his response is.

Feb. 27 2011 05:57 PM
Micah Beck from Knoxville, TN

Here's how Google (and any search engine) works: 1) it collects a variety of information about every page it examines on the Web and creates a huge database; 2) for each search request, it runs a program which calculates an ranking of all the pages it has in its database using the information it has collected, and prints those in order as the "results" of the request.

Now, the relative rank of two pages may be obvious (eg page A is much more relevant to the query than page B). If two pages A and B are very close in relevance, then Google assigns a rank anyway. Even if Google can't really tell any meaningful difference between the relevance of A and B, it still assigns a rank.

Getting a good rank in Google's responses is worth money. To the extent that there is little difference between pages A and B, Google creates value for the owner of page A if it ranks A higher.

This is a strange system - why does Google not just admit it when it cannot chose meaningfully between two pages? Because people like a simple ranking, even if it is not meaningful, and giving people what they like is good for Google's search business (which is based on paid advertisement).

In principle, it wouldn't matter to Google's business model if all the search results they gave out were completely incorrect, as long as people kept coming back for more! Pretending to care if people "game the system" is a way to keep the rubes coming back.

If Google just told us what their database said about our query, and let us decide which choices fit our requirements best, we would be better served. Providing a linear ranking is good business for Google, but using it is a bad way to find things on the Web. Unfortunately there is no business model for a more accurate, more complex and thus perhaps less approach to search.

People like simple approaches to making hard choices. Google provides one, and it works out sometimes. Are you feeling lucky?

Feb. 27 2011 02:29 PM

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