JC Penney has been getting aggressive with their SEO efforts lately. They were doing things that are considered to be black hat like buying paid links to their site and have recently been targeted by Google.
I had noticed in recent months that JC Penny had been targeting young girls with Youtube channels asking them to review jewelry from their company. JC Penny would give them a gift certificate which they could use to purchase jewelry. After receiving the jewelry the young girls would review the jewelry on their Youtube channel mentioning that they got the jewelry from JC Penney. Google says that you can not pay for a link. Many sites in the past have been manually penalized by Google for doing the same thing. The youtube paid links were not even mentioned in the article that exposed JC Penney’s breaking of Google’s rules because that was small stuff compared to what else they were doing. They were buying probably hundred of thousands of links through network of websites that were only built to sell links. These links pointing to JC Penney were like little votes of relevance to Google which was landing JC Penney at the top of the search results for many high traffic jewelry search terms.
This was all exposed by an article in the NY Times which triggered Google to make an algorithm change which dropped JC Penney in the search results. The change moved 59 position one keywords to around position 7 to 10. Then Google made a manual adjustment to JC Penny which put those listing buried down 70 positions in the search engine results. JC Penny fired the SEO firm they had been working with and said that paid links are not part of their company policy.