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Search Engine Optimization, Google, and Hat Colors

The online marketing tactics of retailer J.C. Penney have come under fire the past few days and it’s shed some light on Google‘s search algorithm and what can happen to those who try and cheat its system.


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The New York Times has written a comprehensive overview of the situation, including background, strategy execution, and Google’s response. It’s definitely worth reading.

The key takeaways from the article and the situation in general involve how best to get your site to rank highly in Google’s organic (unpaid) search results. To start, Google publishes some helpful ideas in its Webmaster Guide. To rank highly, Google takes many things into account, but one factor is deemed crucial – links from one site to another, otherwise known as a ‘vote’ for a site. Sites that have the most links to it are deemed more important by Google.

However, a site needs to be careful about how it obtains these links. Gathering links from sites that have a limited amount of content or aren’t related at all to your site itself are two red flags with Google. This is part of the reason why J.C. Penney found itself in hot water with Google.

As a best practice for your own youth sports organization, check the Open Site Explorer to see what sites link to yours. You should recognize many of these links. If not, be sure to do some research to find out why that particular site is linking to you. To build links, consider …

  • Asking your local community organizations – the local Parks & Rec Commission, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Make sure they link to your site with some descriptive anchor text.
  • Sites YOU link to. If you link to a sponsor, partner organization, etc, ask to be linked back!
  • Running the report for similar organizations in your area – do they have links from any worthwhile locations? Should your site be linked from there as well?

Kris Baker

Kris Baker is the President of Demosphere and has been serving the Youth Sports Community since 2006.