David Segal, the same New York Times journalist who filed the fascinating 5,500+ word piece in November about decormyeyes.com is back again. The Dirty Little Secrets of Search with a great piece looking into an unwitting, client (and now victim) of black hat SEO, JC Penney. His piece goes into quite a bit of detail (for a mainstream newspaper anyway) on the underground mechanics of the link sharing economy but what I like best is the following description.
When you read the enormous list of sites with Penney links, the landscape of the Internet acquires a whole new topography. It starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.
Exploiting those hovels for links is a Google no-no. The company’s guidelines warn against using tricks to improve search engine rankings, including what it refers to as “link schemes.” The penalty for getting caught is a pair of virtual concrete shoes: the company sinks in Google’s results.
Sounds like a rough neighborhood.