19 SEO Horror Stories That Will Scare the Hell Out of You

Greetings, boils and ghouls!

Today is Halloween – one of the hottest U.S. holidays, with larger than 21 million searches per thirty days.

Clearly, this means Halloween should be celebrated by the digital promoting group.

So I decided to mark this Halloween in the spookiest methodology attainable.

I requested 19 SEO execs to share the most terrifying tales – the most horrifying situations they’d ever confronted all through their career.

This put up is simply not solely proper right here to entertain you, nonetheless to moreover remind you the means one small mistake can destroy the full web site’s SEO effectivity.

Hopefully, subsequent yr presently, you acquired’t be featured in a single of these ugly Halloween roundups!

Jason Barnard, Founder, Kalicube

Jason Barnard

Back in 2013, I was often known as in to have a information penalty lifted. I spent a yr disavowing 1000’s of spammy backlinks.

I moreover took the various to clean up the web site – deleting doorway pages, switching to SSL and HHTP2, reorganizing the categorization, optimizing the images, together with some funky Schema, and a few completely different good suggestions.

After three months, the penalty was lifted, and 6 months later we’ve got been seeing 10 p.c+ guests will improve every month.

One day I seen the Google +1 rely had shot up from 20 to 1,020.

Turns out, the boss had develop into irritated with the “slow” progress and bought them from what he often known as a “reputable” on-line service.

A pair of days later, information penalty.

Back to sq. one.

Jan-Willem BobbinkJan-Willem Bobbink, Founder, Notprovided.eu

A shopper decided to open up a market system inside their current ecommerce platform.

All these distributors obtained their very personal profile and distinctive URLs for his or her product range.

Next, to that, the widespread ecommerce environment added new sides for every explicit particular person vendor. They proudly launched the platform together with 120 distributors.

All these new sides and vendor pages added as a lot as over 1 billion new URLs for a web site that used to have 120,000 indexable URLs.

Nobody involved in that problem understood the implications of the new setup for SEO and it took us six months to clean up as soon as extra.

Clark Boyd, Founder, Candid Digital

Clark Boyd

I labored at an firm for barely bit whose “USP” was that they use freelancers to hold out all the common SEO duties.

My first problem there was to aim to coordinate 382 new landing pages, all of which have been attributable to launch on the similar day for an enormous event.

The firm used to advertise in these preposterous duties on the proviso that the “freelancer network” might ship.

The property have been delivered to me on time by the freelancers, nonetheless the shopper was decrease than impressed with the prime quality.

No, that’s too diplomatic.

They hated it.

With two days until launch, we’ve got been 382 pages from our purpose.

In the end, I and one colleague labored spherical the clock to jot down down titles, descriptions, and many of, many paragraphs.

I’m undecided it was any good, nonetheless the content material materials was at least barely increased than what we had…

Craig Campbell, Founder, Craig Campbell SEO

Craig Campbell

I was working with any person on their web page to help them rank increased inside the Lancashire area for a amount of phrases.

We have been making good progress with technical SEO – then they decided to maneuver from WordPress to Wix in an effort to “save on costs.”

And certain, it seems good; nonetheless the rankings at the second are tanking.

Adam Connell, Founder, Blogging Wizard

Adam Connell

When I was doing firm work a pair of years in the previous, my workforce and I spent 3+ years working with a shopper to develop content material materials property, assemble hyperlinks, and enhance rankings/guests.

One day guests and rankings plummeted. I opened up the web site to start figuring out why. The draw back was obvious – the weblog didn’t exist anymore.

Turns out {{that a}} buyer assist rep at their host “accidentally” deleted their whole weblog. Along with all their backups. And their ToS obtained them out of any responsibility.

The impression was very important: 400+ weblog posts and content material materials property worn out instantly. They wanted to be resurrected from drafts in emails and former Word paperwork.

The lesson:

Even in case your shopper solely hires you to work on content material materials/SEO, and even once they’ve an firm managing their web page – make certain they’ve redundant backups for each little factor.

And I indicate each little factor.

Rachel Costello, Technical SEO Executive, DeepCrawl

Rachel Costello

It appeared like merely one different extraordinary day in the office – how was I to know {{that a}} shopper was about to tell me one factor that will ship a horrible chill down my spine?

One morning I was checking the crawl error report in Google Search Console for a model new ecommerce shopper.

There had been an infinite spike in crawl errors, from decrease than 100 or so to 1000’s.

I started checking by means of the web page itself. Category net web page after class net web page was each totally empty or had just one or two merchandise left on it, when the closing time I checked the earlier day they’ve been full.

I then checked the back-end in the CMS and observed, to my horror, that over two-thirds of all of the merchandise had been disabled regardless of the undeniable fact that there was nonetheless stock left, which implies all of these product pages we’d been working exhausting to reinforce have been now serving 404s.

I organize a reputation with the shopper as shortly as I’ll to hunt out out what had occurred.

They knowledgeable me that “The SEO consultant we worked with before told us it was fine to disable products whenever we want. So at the end of each season, we disable all of the products and if they’re seasonal we just launch them again with new URLs when we want to showcase them on the website again. That’s still OK, right?”

Needless to say, some teaching on stock administration was scheduled immediately. However, the thought of all that wasted hyperlink equity over the years nonetheless haunts me to nowadays.

Blake Denman, Founder of RicketyRoo

Blake Denman

Early on after I started my firm, I was rebuilding a web page for a small enterprise on WordPress.

I constructed out the redesign on my native machine and would migrate the web site late one night.

When I migrated the new web site, there was an important error and the web page was displaying a 500 error.

I tried as soon as extra, the similar consequence. I tried, and tried, and tried, nothing was working.

It was about 12:30 am and I froze. I didn’t know what to do.

From 12:30 am on, I resorted to rebuilding the whole web site in the reside environment.

I accomplished the web site at 5:30 a.m.

I later found my very important mistake. Even though I had double, triple, quadruple-checked the database data, I made the slightest mistake in the password.

Nick Eubanks, Founder, From the Future

Nick Eubanks

So that is very easy nonetheless it was costing our shopper so rather a lot money (tens of a whole lot of 1000’s of {{dollars}} per thirty days), and all it was was a misplaced canonical tag…

This shopper had an internal net web page, correct off the root itemizing, that was constructed to concentrate on a key phrase with an precise match MSV of ~130,000, nonetheless there was a canonical to the web site’s homepage.

After a straightforward web site crawl, as quickly because it was acknowledged, we merely eradicated the tag and the net web page popped to Position 5 (and now generates truly tens of a whole lot of 1000’s of {{dollars}} in on-line earnings each month).

Dan Foland, Director of SEO, Postali

Dan Foland,

I as quickly as labored for an firm that handled the SEO for some of the largest and most well-respected healthcare applications in the U.S.

Every time one of our largest and most notable purchasers pushed an substitute reside from their dev server it moreover pushed sitewide noindex tags and robots.txt disallow pointers reside.

Jenny Halasz, President, JLH Marketing

Jenny Halasz

Working for a very big ecommerce mannequin about 5 weeks sooner than Christmas, we had a put up about the best objects get truly big attain and get a #1 score for “Christmas gifts” on Google.

The elevated guests triggered the web site to start throwing 503 errors!

We responded truly fast with two SEO performs:

  1. 302 redirect guests on that specific URL to a unique space hosted elsewhere until we might spool up additional bandwidth.
  2. Change the meta description to include the phone amount so that if people couldn’t entry the web site and hit once more, they could identify.

Both labored very nicely. We positively misplaced some product sales, nonetheless have been succesful of get higher masses.

Milosz Krasinski, Founder, Chilli Fruit Web Consulting

Milosz Krasinski,

My shopper turned as a lot as be multinational rip-off firm. Since I’ve been managing their web internet hosting as successfully I was halfway involved on this.

Thankfully all obtained sorted.

Ron Lieback, Founder and CEO, Content Mender


Back in 2008, all through the first yr of working Ultimate Motorcycling, we employed an firm to migrate us from Drupal to WordPress.

At the time we’ve got been doing spherical 1,000,000 uniques per thirty days, and the content material materials was stronger than ever.

But after the migration or rankings tanked by larger than half, and the SEO agency “lost” about 15,000 URLs, and over 30,000 images.

Yes – misplaced; it was super scary consequently of I assumed the whole enterprise would go under – advertisers pay based totally on publicity, and we couldn’t afford to go under.

That was the closing time I trusted an firm, nonetheless it pressured me to review SEO for myself, which led to the place I’m at current.

I can’t stand a hack, nonetheless thankfully that one bought right here into my life. ? As for rankings, it took nearly two years to get higher, nonetheless persistence and endurance paid off. And then some.

Karen Neicy, Director of Experience Strategy, OGK Creative

Karen Neicy

I as quickly as inherited a shopper web page that obtained hacked consequently of it was using some outdated plugins.

Turns out, the hyperlinks implanted on the web site ended up score it for every type of “adult” key phrases.

So the shopper was getting guests from some pretty unsavory verticals.

It was a big mannequin, and we’ve got been getting press inquiries about why they’ve been displaying up for such distasteful search phrases.

I was like, we’re coping with it, nonetheless why have been you in search of these points in the first place?

It took weeks to proper, nonetheless we put in malware security, eradicated the unhealthy hyperlinks (most of them have been in the sorts of anchored weblog suggestions), eradicated the outdated plugins, and switched to a safer, https certificates.

Andrew Optimisey, Founder, Optimisey Cambridge MeetUp

19 SEO Horror Stories That Will Scare the Hell Out of You

This is a primary SEO story of woe.

I’d merely started in a model new job, SEO was just one of the points I “looked after” (I was very rather a lot the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind).

All was going successfully after which I had some trip booked so was away from work for a bit.

Two days into my trip I had panicked messages from my boss (by means of LinkedIn, e mail, phone – they’d tried nearly each little factor to get preserve of me – I was in a low/no signal area).

In transient, the developer workforce had launched a bunch of updates and… included the “User-agent: *Disallow: /” in the robots.txt.


It took them two days to notice that the guests jumped off a cliff. After having the “hair on fire” second, they started trying to call me.

The, moderately, utterly happy ending is that it was a relatively quick restore (as a result of of a quick restore from the devs and Google Search Console) and the dev workforce didn’t make that mistake as soon as extra!

Bill Sebald, Founder, Greenlane

Bill Sebald

At an earlier firm, we labored with a very well-known ecommerce mannequin.

They have been immovable of their #1 rankings for lots of, a number of years. (I’d truly like to tell you who it was, nonetheless I can not – nonetheless, it’s all terrifyingly true!)

They decided to buy their #2 competitor in a very expensive buy-out (who was moreover immovable of their respective rankings). It was an infinite story that month in the trades.

This competitor had an precise match key phrase as their space. (The EMD substitute hadn’t occurred however.) The key phrase had larger than 1,000,000 searches per thirty days. It was an distinctive various.

We have been requested for our opinion on an SEO technique.

We acknowledged, “They are mighty, and you are mighty. We recommend you run the site and keep it as close to its current state, even if you change the fulfillment to your own infrastructure. After all, you’ll be owning your #1 and #2 spot – that’s a huge advantage against Amazon. Own that ‘above the fold’ real estate.”

The advice was not taken.

Instead, the web site was purchased and promptly dismantled until Google finally found little or no significance in the space. It dropped correct out of the excessive spot it had liked for 10+ years.

When the purchasers bought right here once more and requested how they may restore their mistake, we knowledgeable them their best guess was to revive to the distinctive state. But that was now inconceivable. The full course of had been fumbled.

To nowadays, that space is sitting with no web site hooked as much as it. It’s merely sitting in a very big agency’s portfolio. It’s a web site that has rather a lot vitality, and it’s merely being squandered. Now that is terrifying.

Deepak Shukla, Founder, Pearl Lemon

Deepak Shukla

I take into account starting a enterprise that was to be often known as Kukumber (an firm) and made some cool films that I printed on my web site.

My intern Catherine knowledgeable me she wanted to “publish the videos on other sites.” Great idea, I assumed.

What I didn’t know is that she found a multi-channel video uploader and didn’t create distinctive descriptions and even use an article spinner.

And I didn’t ask about her course of nor take into consideration she might not know the distinction between duplicated content material materials and syndicating content material materials; alongside mass importing of the similar content material materials.

Within each week, my films and web page have been slapped with a information penalty and also you probably cannot “Google” Kukumber for love nor money.

And that’s how the story of Pearl Lemon started.

Sal Surra, Senior SEO Specialist, Angie’s List

Sal Surra

I unintentionally put a meta noindex tag on a template for an enterprise web site that generates a whole lot of 1000’s of {{dollars}} from advert impressions on pure search outcomes.

Because we used Google Analytics, it took us a pair of days to understand what had occurred and get it mounted.

A pair day-long downside resulted in multimillion-dollar losses.

That was a really unhealthy day.

Glad I’ll maintain the job.

Marcus Tandler, Founder, Ryte

Marcus Tandler

An enormous telecommunication service provider used to produce white label retailers for his or her native outlets.

Local outlets may be paid an affiliate payment for all product product sales.

Good idea, nonetheless horribly executed consequently of all white label retailers have been merely put in an inventory on the main space with no canonical tag in sight. ?

This created big portions of cannibalization factors since there have been now a quantity of duplicates of the very same retailer.

Of course, this moreover ends in the most SEO-savvy native retailer score for all merchandise with their white label retailer as a substitute of the TSP’s very private, distinctive on-line retailer.

The native retailer’s subdirectory even ranked for a lot of of the mannequin phrases resulting in an infinite affiliate payout for this native retailer proprietor.

The worst half about this horror story: They didn’t even uncover.

They seen the decline in product sales in the distinctive on-line retailer nonetheless they’ve been captivated with the uplift in the internet affiliate marketing on-line channel.

It was not until 6 months later (!) after they started using Ryte Search Success and located this huge SEO screw up.

Dan Taylor, Founder, Dan Taylor SEO

Dan Taylor

Working with a giant, worldwide journey mannequin they’ve been going by way of factors not being on HTTPS, nonetheless attributable to their legacy infrastructure, they’d a limit of the amount of redirects they could implement on any given web site.

The first reply equipped by enchancment was to have the utterly completely different nation managers implement 10,000 redirects manually by means of the CMS – the nation managers rejected this as a result of it’s insane.

So the second chance was they found one different “SEO agency”, who agreed with (the enchancment workforce) them that redirects weren’t very important for a protocol migration and also you probably can merely change the hottest URL in Google Search Console.

The end consequence, every protocol variations open, every listed, and since the majority of the worldwide web sites have been English for various areas (with no hreflang so it was duplicate content material materials), this was a straw that broke the camel’s once more.

What are some of YOUR most horrific SEO tales? Scare us all in the suggestions, below.   

Until subsequent time, good screams!

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Featured Image: Created by author, October 2018

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