4 SEO Horror Stories

By Matt Bertram

By Matt Bertram

Matt Bertram is Head of Digital Strategy at EWR Digital. He is a nationally recognized expert in SEO and the Co-Host of the top rated SEO Podcast, "The Unknown Secrets of Internet Marketing." Author of Build Your Brand Mania: How to Transform Yourself Into an Authoritative Brand That Will Attract Your Ideal Customers with contributing articles in Forbes, Search Engine Journal and numerous other publications pertaining to digital marketing.

Your friend can’t stop talking about SEO. Especially since their new internet marketing company has been optimizing their website like the pros they are. That’s when you decide to take a look at SEO yourself.

“Why not?” You think, “Maybe it’ll be good for my business, too!”

That’s when you come across four SEO horror stories.

To see the spooky stories for yourself, and what a good SEO company can do to fix them, read on.

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Good SEO companies never ghost you. They like to check in with you to see if you’re happy with the progress.

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1. The Ghost

The Story: This story is less spooky and more cautionary. It starts off like many SEO stories. You have a business and a great website to promote it. And yet, no matter what you do, not many are seeing it. In fact, the more you work with it, the more Google ignores it.

At a networking event, an internet marketing agency approaches you. You could not be more thrilled.

“We’re well versed in SEO,” they say, “We’ve even raised websites from the dead in less than a week!” Now that’s exactly what you’re looking for! Their price is high, but you don’t care. If they can resurrect the digital dead, they must be good, right?

A week goes by. Your website hasn’t changed. “They must be busy,” you assume, “I’m sure they’ll get to me soon.” Another week goes by. No change. By the third week you decide to call. No answer. By the fourth week the message is clear: You’ve been ghosted.

The Lesson: The SEO company in this first horror story has all the markers of someone you shouldn’t work with. First, they take payment without showing their plan for your website. Second, they promise unrealistic results.

While it’s totally possible to “resurrect” or put a previously dead website back online, proper SEO takes about 3-6 months. Not less than a week.

Third, a good SEO company will check in with you periodically. It could be once a week, once a month, or anywhere in between. A good SEO company knows that their work won’t mean much unless you (the client) are happy. So if you’re working with an SEO company that’s promising you amazing results overnight, run.

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2. Out to Getty You

The Story: A small business was working with an internet marketing agency. Everything was going really well. They loved their website redesign, including all those great pictures!

“I don’t know who did those pictures, but they really work!” That’s when they found out why they work: They were taken from Getty Images and now Getty was asking for thousands in payment. Not only did this small business have to take down the pictures, but they also had to PAY their marketing company to find replacements!

The Lesson: Never use pictures that aren’t royalty-free. It might not seem like a huge deal, but as the story above shows, the cost of misusing pictures is enough to turn your hair white.

So when you’re looking at internet marketing agencies, go with one that uses royalty free images and has some in-house Adobe Photo talent.

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All the brand authority they had vanished to nothing.

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3. The Vanishing Rank

The Story: This story comes from Toys R Us. Long before their brand was sent to economic purgatory, they almost vanished off the internet for good! How? Well, it has to do with redirects.

According to Forbes.com, the giraffe-loving brand bought the domain Toys.com. They wanted to expand their online presence and thought this was the perfect way to do it. Unfortunately, that was the end of their thought process.

When they re-launched the website they forgot to put in redirects for all the previous links they had. Google re-indexed the site without them. All the brand authority they had vanished to nothing. Not only did it set them back years, it took several months to get back to where they were.

The Lesson: If your SEO company is handling your website transfer, make sure all redirects are in place for all of your link assets. You don’t want to spend time or money fixing what should be an easy thing to avoid.

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4. The “Doorway” to Nowhere

The Story: This last story comes from car maker BMW. What’s interesting about this story is that a company this size should have known better. But sometimes the promise of results are too good to pass up. So what did BMW do? They used doorway pages.

Also known as jump pages, doorway pages are created to trick people into visiting websites they normally wouldn’t. While they are frowned upon as “black hat” SEO now, in 2006 they were all the rage.

They worked like this: someone would Google a term. In BMW’s case, the term was “used cars.” Instead of seeing relevant searches results related to used cars, like CarMax and the like, Googlers were redirected to BWM. A lot search engines didn’t like the practice and often said as much in their terms and conditions. But this rule was often unenforced, so the luxury car maker didn’t think Google would punish them. BMW couldn’t have been more wrong.

Google punished them so harshly that their rank was dropped to zero. It took months for them to recover. 

The Lesson: Black Hat SEO is a lot like Black Hat hacking. They promise wildly good results but are often against the rules many search engines have. The good thing is that a reliable SEO company will not only know what black hat SEO tactics to avoid; they’ll also know how to get you the rank you want honestly.


Find out more by talking to the experts today! We’ll craft you a marketing plan that works for you to increase your ranking and grow your business.

EWR Digital is a great marketing agency that’s been helping businesses grow since opening its doors in 1999. Get to know us better by clicking here. Interested in a 15-minute call with one of our marketing experts? Call us at 713-592-6724 today!

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4 SEO Horror Stories | EWR Digital – Houston, TX