Did J.C. Penney sidestep a PR disaster?

A big story in Sunday’s New York Times exposes a scheme to push the department store to the top of Google rankings. The company has denied any wrongdoing and avoided the issue on social media.

On Sunday, a 3,000-word story dropped in The New York Times about the department store’s questionable ability to rank No. 1 on a plethora of Google searches. The article was widely circulated on Twitter, and it was the most e-mailed story on NYTimes.com.

You can read the full story here.

The story, by reporter David Segal, is based around this fact: During the holidays, Google searches for terms like “dresses,” “bedding,” “area rugs,” “skinny jeans,” “home décor,” “grommet top curtains,” and much more, resulted in J.C. Penney as the No. 1 result. The department store beat millions of other websites for the top spot each time.

The Times thought this was awfully peculiar, so it reached out to an online search expert, Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media of New York. He told the Times that this scheme to essentially game Google searches was the “most ambitious attempt” he’d ever heard of.

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