Internet marketing services providers may want to take note of a case of a major brand that has been caught using unfair search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to boost its rankings.

An investigation carried out by the New York Times revealed that US retailer JC Penney's had used 'black hat' SEO strategies such as link schemes to boost its organic search rankings for queries on many products the firm sold.

It was described by expert Doug Pierce as "the most ambitious attempt I've ever heard of" and Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that the techniques violated the company's guidelines.

He added that Google would be taking "corrective action" to deal with the issue and the New York Times reported that the firm had begun "manual corrections" to demote pages that had artificially inflated rankings.

Commenting on the story, Search Engine Land's Vanessa Fox advised companies to avoid using such techniques to manipulate search engine algorithms, but to focus on solid SEO strategies to build links organically in order to avoid falling foul of Google's rules.

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