Google has manually demoted Overstock.com in its search results to penalize the company for trying to game Google’s search algorithm.
The Wall Street Journal reports that for queries like “vacuum cleaners,” Overstock used to be in the top few results. In the last few days, it has dropped to the fifth or sixth page.
Google gave no reason for the demotion, but Overstock thinks that its practice of encouraging college students to link to the site is the problem. Google’s algorithm assumes that links from .edu domains are from academic sites and gives them more weight than links from other kinds of sites. Overstock discontinued the program on February 10, but some sites were slow to remove their links.
Google has come under fire lately for spam in search results, and the company recently cracked down on JC Penney for gaming search results over the holiday season.