How Macy’s Uses Black Hat Methods to Improve SEO Ranking

February 12, 2011, was a nightmarish day for J.C. Penney. In a well-researched article in the New York Times, David Segal exposed how the retailer had been buying links to improve its search engine ranking. Google immediately took manual action, and J.C. Penney quickly disappeared from Google search results.

In December of the same year, I contacted David Segal regarding a solicitation that I received from a now-defunct company called Atrinsic that offered me $50 to link “shoes” in a blog post on Your Next Shoes to a specific page at macys.com. While he seemed interested, David Segal decided not to do a follow-up story, and I did not take the matter any further.

While I was surprised that Macy’s was trying to buy dofollow links in the aftermath of the J.C. Penney scandal, the solicitation that I received last week baffled me even more. The retailer now seems to have understood that they can not purchase links, but they’re are still doing so indirectly. Here’s the email that I received from Budapest-based agency Higher Click:

Hi,

I am Anita, a professional writer by day and a blogger on Life with the cats by night.

I would love to have a guest post on your blog as I found it relevant in topics and high on quality.
I can not grant you any payment, but I can grant you top-class content and some social shares. 🙂

Please, check out my references below:

http://www.careerealism.com/great-colors-wear-work/
http://healthmeup.com/news-diet-fitness/start-your-day-right-the-importance-of-breakfast/23264
http://weddingchaplain.ca/2013/11/11/finding-the-perfect-engagement-ring-4-things-to-keep-in-mind/

As you can see, my palette is quite wide, so I am sure we can find the right article for your blog.

Please, let me know if you are interested in working on a guest post  together.
Have a lovely day,

Anita Brayer

It seems like Macy’s is using Higher Click’s Guest Posting service, which charges from $90 to have a blog post published on blogs that are of “high quality and not part of any blog network”:

Guest Blog ServiceHigher Click’s Guest Posting service

If you attempt to purchase a blog post, you’re given the option of a higher ranking site by paying a few dollars extra:

Purchase Guest Post Links

As the email from Anita above spells out quite clearly, she is not able to offer a payment in exchange for a guest post. Strictly speaking, Macy’s is not paying the blog for a link, but they are indirectly doing so by paying a marketing agency in Hungary. Higher Click then hires freelance writers to contact bloggers and to offer them free content in exchange for a link in the body of the article or in the byline. The latter was confirmed by Anita in a separate email, and it’s also clear from the recent blog posts that she has published on behalf of Macy’s:

http://www.careerealism.com/great-colors-wear-work/
http://healthmeup.com/news-diet-fitness/start-your-day-right-the-importance-of-breakfast/23264
http://weddingchaplain.ca/2013/11/11/finding-the-perfect-engagement-ring-4-things-to-keep-in-mind/
http://www.lipoadvisor.com/aqualipo/
http://en.paperblog.com/5-crazy-things-we-do-in-the-name-of-beauty-do-they-actually-work-669504/
http://bigideasblog.infusionsoft.com/effective-conversion/
http://justchickflicks.com/2013/09/6-iconic-womens-movie-shoes-time/

It’s not clear to me how some of these blog posts can be considered high quality and relevant content. However, they all contain somewhat random dofollow links to Macy’s. For example the healthmeup.com blog post has linked “get your juicers ready” to http://www1.macys.com/shop/juicers?id=7583&intnl=true:

healthmeup

To make the links to Macy’s blend in naturally, they are made to look natural by pairing them with links to Wikipedia and other reputable websites. In this example from weddingchaplain.ca, only “traditional diamond engagement rings” is pointing to Macy’s while the other links are pointing to Wikipedia and CBSNews:

weddingchaplain.ca

Anita’s byline states that she is “an inbound marketing expert and a writer for Higherclick.com. She enjoys casual blogging and writing for huge brands, like Macy’s”. I do not understand how a retailer like Macy’s can take part in an amateurish link scheme like this. Perhaps such an effort could succeed if they did everything entirely in-house, but even then Google would eventually find out and there would be an even bigger mess for them to clean up.

Perhaps this will be a Christmas present to Macy’s in disguise. By exposing the matter sooner than later, hopefully it will not take long for them to get their house in order. Watching this short video from Matt Cutts is a good start:


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