Recently, several high-profile companies have found themselves in violation of Google Search TOS by either buying or selling paid links. Forbes, in particular, was the first company to face warnings from Google over links delivered by Conductor, an SEO firm. Today, Overstock.com joins the list of Forbes and JCPenney’s of sites getting punished by Google for SEO violations.
Today’s news highlighted the continuing ripple-effect coming through several big-name sites and retailers from a link building practice seen by Google as a violation of their TOS. The Forbes PR drop and JCPenney’s punishment both were well documented and saw drops to their site’s PageRank for their participation in buying or placing these links on their site.
Today’s news, broken from the Wall Street Journal, highlights Overstock.com and their link-building tactics. It seems that Overstock was promoting company discounts through college websites and breaking through to .edu domains.
Education domains, or .edu, are seen by Google as the cream of SEO links back to to sites. By doing this practice, Overstock was able to get hundreds of .org and .edu to link back to their top-level pages. A quick search for the text of the add yielded 383 results linking back to Overstock pages. Removing a few keywords reveals 1000′s of results using the phrase “overstock.com has extended”.
The idea here is that Overstock and other companies are taking advantage of the Google algorithm in ways that were not anticipated. Google’s reaction is understandable, but rest assured they are probably already coming up with a detection technique for this and the next level of link building that they would consider in violation.