Remember, J.C. Penney was outed by the NY Times leading to a Google Penalty and seriously impacting how J.C. Penney ranked for the past 90-days.
But the penalty was lifted 90-days later and now, J.C. Penney seems to be ranking as well as ever!
Matt McGee has some stats on their rankings after the penalty was removed and it is looking good.
To me, this proves that the links acquired through means that were not in accordance with Google's webmaster guidelines played an insignificant role in their rankings prior to the penalty. If anything, the story about Google penalizing them helped their rankings by getting thousands of links from the media and bloggers, and all those Tweets and Facebook shares.
The question was, was this a manual or algorithmic penalty. The answer seems obvious, because the penalty was only instituted after NY Times spoke to Google about it. That being said, we know manual penalties are revisited after X months, depending the penalty or sooner based on a reconsideration request. I assume J.C. Penney's SEO took the necessary steps and here we are today.
Do you think the penalty was severe enough?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.