The risk of silence on your company news page or blog…

Content is an amazing way of building up a business, but there are certain requirements you need to meet for it to be successful. I wrote a while ago about the time it can take to build up a content site organically, and a key part of that is adding content on a regular and consistent basis.

The good news is that your competitors are handing you a massive advantage every day, week, month or even year that they leave their website dormant, particularly when it comes to news sections and blogs.

And in an emergency or crisis, the days of being able to keep quiet until an official statement can be prepared are pretty much gone. You really need to have a crisis communications plan in place right now – you’ll understand why if something goes wrong without it, and the option of waiting for an official statement to calm everything down has gone the same way as the daily news cycle. Even if your staff can’t give out full details and solutions, they should be trained and prepared to acknowledge events and provide whatever assistance and information they can.

silence is spoken here by Mr Kris on Flickr

'Silence is spoken here' by Mr Kris on Flickr (CC Licence)

Obviously there have already been a number of examples, such as Eurostar, but technology companies are no better. Take for instance, the recent New York Times article covering the ‘secrets of search’ which led to JC Penney dominating Google results for lots of top product purchases in what appears to be the largest example of linkbuying and other ‘black hat’ practices.

The bottom of the second page reveals that JC Penney has terminated its search engine consulting, SearchDex.

‘PENNEY reacted to this instant reversal of fortune by, among other things, firing its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex. Executives there did not return e-mail or phone calls.’

So someone at the firm is theoretically aware that the NYT is doing a story on the events surrounding JC Penney, and that article was published on February 12th, 2011.

So when you visit the news section of the SearchDex website on February 15th, 2011, you might do a double take –

Searchdex JCPenney News 2007

You can click to enlarge, but the latest news on the SearchDex website three days after the NYT published the JCPenney story online is the March 15, 2007 announcement that JCPenney has signed for a ‘an unprecedented 4th year of service’ – and goes on to say ‘JCPenney has trusted SearchDex to handle all of their organic search marketing efforts’.

That’s 4 years ago, and 3 days after a huge news story concerning the brand, with anyone involved in the search business taking a look. Just scroll down the first page of Google results for SearchDex and see what you find… #5, #7, #8 and #9 are discussing what is going on, and one of them is Doug Pierce, who shares all the data that uncovered what SearchDex was doing.

If SearchDex did decide to update their news, there are a number of routes they could take. They could deny all knowledge, blame a scapegoat, or debate the data.

Alternatively, and here’s where I’d really like your views, they could take a different tack. They could come clean and admit everything, perhaps referencing how competitive search rankings can be, the fact that they may have known they were being dishonest, but that digital marketing companies are often under pressure to deliver results and using dishonest tactics are hugely tempting. If that was followed by future transparency, would that alter your opinions of the company, in comparison to your views after reading the NYT piece?


  1. I can’t agree more. Actually having been a past employee of SearchDex,Inc. this does not come as a surprise to me at all.

    The owner & CTO; Thom Adams ironically of all things, holds a Masters in Artificial Intelligence from Stanford, where all these geniuses from Google come from. He his very removed and lazy from my first hand experience and founded the company taking another persons idea claiming his proprietary software concept to be his own. Mr. Adams, if he hasn’t already fled the country to Chile or South America, where he likes to run off and not work with people, will most certainly not answer any calls regarding this mess and will likely claim no knowledge of the external links ever having been purchased; however, someone had to invoice the client for this initiative.

    Ask Mr. Joey Burzynski, VP Business Development, if he is still there. One could only hope that with such a screw up, that he implemented, was let go on insubordination, unless he has some strong-hold on Mr. Adams claiming validation for his position. It was his masterful idea to assist JCPenney attain these significant results I’m sure in order to help this 28 year old, with a questionable education, pay for his Aston Martin and Maserati… I will say there had been mention from the top executives at JCPenney how this unseasoned guy could earn a salary that surpassed or perhaps rivaled the best paid CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. It is very clear that greed played a very large part in their plan for personal success and not for the best interest of the client(s).

    I enjoyed reading how the SearchDex website has been manipulated since the breaking article from NYT, it should make you question the amount revenue that comes into a small company; however, most of this company’s pay is given out to a staff of very inexperienced people and to Mr. Adams shell company Oneiros, Inc. where he moved money to and from for years. I should know, I received pay as a vendor from this very sided company… I paid taxes on.

    It would be much better had he taken the money and invested in smart people with proper educations, some with college degrees and not varied backgrounds in real estate who run your Marketing department or managing your Operations coming from a Chili’s restaurant manager, but building a business worthy of such high clientele by reinvesting the money and or taking shares from a past partners who built the business who honestly regarded “best practices” as a golden rule.

    Regardless, their name is mud, their presence at E-tail or any other industry function should be regarded as shameful even having the nerve to show their face as a viable honest business. Anyone you chooses to entrust their brand with these guys (if they are still around in the next month) should too consider their value as a valid retailer.

    Worst part is these guys just hired a new CEO a month ago, who invested in the firm seeing JCPenny as the staple of their core business… Mr. Dave Chaplin, CEO, should most certainly sue Mr. Adams for false impressions. It is virtually impossible to believe as “experts” in the industry, Mr. Adams or Mr. Burzynski has no prior knowledge of warnings from Google that inevitably lead this poor guy down a path of darkness as he took the company over from Mr. Adams. How suspect is that?

    My hope is that JCPenney seeks retribution for all the losses from a now virtually invisible mark in their search presence, they will lose millions until they slowly regain a retail footing in cyber space again. Hopefully JCPenny uses this opportuity to review the details of their contract with SearchDex, Inc. as a clause specifies if any “unethical” practices puts them in any compromising position that they “SearchDex” are liable for actions to be taken against them. They should sue equal to the daily loss JCPenney is now incuring. It is time to show all the genuine e-tailers how SearchDex must become the example of unethical industry practices and this is what happens when you risk the credibility of such an established global brand and tarnish an image they have spent billions overtime building. Hopefully their entire list of current clients are questioning their ethics, insisting on a audit and investigating whether any similar practices have been performed on their brand and fire them like JCPenney has and never reconsider doing business with such a nefarious group of SEO’s

    It’s times like this that Mr. Adams should have thought about taking all that money for himself, unfortunately he and Mr.Burzynski will be living a life unbearable litigation with no chance of ever reclaiming any credibility in our industry again.

    I hope you enjoyed the ride.


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