For many products, the first place consumers shop is on the internet using a search engine like Google. Marketing managers know that getting to the top of the “organic” listing. The organic listing is what appears in the main search area, not the sponsored links (ads) at the top or right hand side. Because of the importance of appearing on the first page of results — and hopefully at the top of the page — marketing managers often engage in various activities under the category of search engine optimization (SEO).
This article “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” (New York Times, February 12, 2011), gets behind the scenes and describes how J.C. Penney climbed its way to the top of Google results for many product categories. The article is kind of long, and goes well beyond what we might typically cover in an introductory marketing class. But for many firms, especially online retailers, SEO can be a very important source of customers. This behind the scenes peak is fascinating. It raises ethical questions, too. I recommend it.