Global outdoor apparel brand The North Face is on the retreat this week, having apologised for an SEO stunt that damaged their marketing reputation. The incident has brought a renewed focus to the value of white-hat SEO practices and the importance of integrity and reputation in the marketing world.
What did The North Face do?
The North Face seized on a popular target among SEO agencies – the coveted featured snippet.
A featured snippet is an expanded search result appearing at the top of the page, often featuring an image and an excerpt of text from a web page that Google thinks will succinctly satisfy a user query.
For many queries about topics of general knowledge, Google’s featured snippet is from the topic’s Wikipedia page. Searches for popular tramping or adventure destinations, for example, would feature Wikipedia snippets. Importantly, Wikipedia is a Photo Editing Services publicly edited and sourced online encyclopedia. Any user can write, edit, correct, or add to any Wikipedia article. This is where The North Face decided to exploit the system.
The North Face took advantage of Wikipedia’s public editing platform to add images that featured branded North Face apparel. Editing Wikipedia pages for destinations like the Cabo Peninsula in California, the Guarita State Park in Brazil, and several others, North Face manipulated Google into featuring images of their branded outerwear in the resulting snippets.