For those of you who missed the wonderful article by David Segal in the 2/13/11 New York Times business section on JCPenney's foray into black hat optimization and Google's response to it, be sure to pour a cup of coffee and read Search Optimization and Its Dirty Little Secrets slowly.
What's really validating for the team here at DBE is how we've helped our clients win in the search engines through "Real" SEO--the kind that takes strategy, patience, great content, and the expertise to know when something is "too good to be true."
SEO not an overnight success, but it does consistently work and the results tend to be long lasting. Real SEO is an investment in strategic marketing that works with the rest of the marketing mix.
We have seen repeatedly that Google does seem to have a church and state separation between its natural listings and the paid ones. That being said, I find it hard to believe that Google knew nothing of JCPenney’s efforts. I also cannot believe all that SEO only delivered 7% of JCPenney’s traffic. It had to be much closer to 60-70% at a minimum for the period of time they were showing up for every imaginable search, unless in addition to spending money on a bad optimization program, they failed to invest in the right web analytics and CRM tools too.