Can you trust those search engine results? When you type in “best restaurants” and your city name, are you really getting the best ones? After all, marketers (including us) work hard to get their clients’ businesses listed higher in the search rankings. There are tips, you see.

And then, there are tricks. Naughty search engine malpractice tricks, also called “black hat” techniques. If Google catches you, they’ll slap you down, or even remove you from their results altogether. And if you’re not on Google, DO YOU EVEN EXIST AT ALL? That’s a serious question for businesses today.

So it was with great interest that I read this article in the New York Times on J.C. Penney’s search engine subversiveness. It seems that my grandmother’s favorite retailer has been up to no good. During the holidays, if you typed in “little black dress,” guess who shot up to the top of the rankings? J. C. Penney. Really? Really? Cuz when I think of a little black dress, that’s IMMEDIATELY who comes to mind.

Obviously, Google wants their results to be relevant, not head-scratching. I won’t bore you with all the details of how Penney’s managed to pull off this feat (read the article for more), because you shouldn’t be doing what they did! And they did get caught.

Also, I wanted to point out that I was thrilled to see this in the mainstream media. Search engine optimization is one of the most important marketing tactics for any business today – in fact, one could argue that it is THE most important thing a business can do – and I rarely see it written about outside of the marketing pubs and blogs. EVERYBODY writes about Super Bowl commercials but very few businesses ever have the chance to run an ad in the Super Bowl. Most of us do our marketing in other arenas. So kudos to the Times for this and keep ’em coming!