Penalized by Google
It's not everyday that you come across a high-profile site that has been penalized by Google. And so it was with much interest that I read an article from Pronet Advertising about how they rank #1 for John Chow where the real John Chow used to rank. I'm not going to link to the official John Chow website since it's now flagged as a bad neighborhood, but it's probably worth checking out.
So why did Google penalize the John Chow website? I don't think anyone outside of Google can say for sure, but the most likely reason is his aggressive reciprocal link program. At this point John is saying that the impact from Google will be minimal, but his latest campaign to have people complain to Google that they're not happy with the search results leads me to believe otherwise.
A second culprit are the paid links. That is, John will place a link on his site to pretty much any other site if the price is right. The links are easy to spot and in the past I've seen some pretty irrelevant ones. Such links are usually purchased to game the rankings and so by having them, John has marked himself as an untrusted source.
John also does paid reviews, but I believe he has a clear disclaimer about such posts so Google shouldn't be penalizing him for these.
The really smart thing here is that people are capitalizing on John's misfortune by ranking for his name and undoubtedly receiving traffic because of it. For those that know John, you'll realize that this is in line with his "evil genius" way of making a buck.