Looks like the Overstock took their SEO tactics a little further than Google likes. According to WSJ.com, Overstock has been penalized (or put down where they should be) for offering discounts to universities and students who put links on their .edu sites that lead to overstock.com. Overstock had been asking people with access to the websites to link product terms in exchange for discounts on those items. As most people in our industry know, Google values links from .edu sites more than the average site and enticing universities, staff and students to add links would lead to better search results.
As a result, Overstock had ranked at the top spot for hundreds of their products but recently those same products now list Overstock closer to the bottom of the first page or even lower. Google has made clear they believe these links should not factor into their search algorithm,” said Patrick Byrne, Overstock’s chief executive, in a statement. “We understand Google’s position and have made the appropriate changes to remain within Google’s guidelines.”
According to the Wall Street Journal ”
In Overstock’s case, the retailer offered discounts of 10% on some merchandise to students and faculty. In exchange, it asked college and university websites to embed links for certain keywords like “bunk beds” or “gift baskets” to Overstock product pages.
Until recently, links to Overstock pages were among the top three results for such words on Google search results. By Tuesday afternoon, links to Overstock for those same searches dropped to between No. 40 and No. 70 in the rankings”
Google has been increasingly more stringent on what they consider “proper tactics” for search engine optimization. Recently Google came down on JC Penny for their SEO tactics with Penny’s blaming a hired SEO specialist and subsequently firing him. And exactly how was Google alerted to Overstocks’s .edu discounts for links scheme you may ask? A competitor complained about it. The good old American way. If you can’t beat them, tell on them.