Posted by Emma Komrska & filed under Digital Marketing.

As you may be aware, SEO can be a terrifying industry to work in at times. The simplest mistakes, even typos, can doom your website and turn away crucial traffic from your website. Today, we have put together for you our list of top horror stories regarding digital marketing to get us in the Halloween spirit. Thankfully, these instances are not from our own experience, but rather experiences from other SEO organizations.

Trusting the Right Agency

Trolling Motors entrusted its SEO campaign and other digital marketing efforts with an SEO agency. Trolling Motors chose to pursue a “hands-off” approach and did not feel the need to supervise the agency.

Everything seemed fine until Google’s Penguin update rolled out. Trolling Motors’s rankings fell and lost 80% of website traffic. How come? The SEO agency has been using manipulative and unethical tactics such as spammy, keyword-rich anchor text, and artificial posts to bring in off-site source links.

So what do we take away from this? When selecting an SEO agency, investigate, research, and ask serious questions. The relationship with an agency should be completely transparent and open to any scrutiny.

Doorway Pages

BMW, the well-known car brand was leveraging using black-hat tactics including doorway pages. Doorway pages are pages designed to have high rankings in Google search results. These pages are stuffed with keywords and other flashy phrases to catch search engines’ attention and have speedy meta refresh that redirects the user to the web page originally intended for the user.

This tactic provided BMW some additional visibility including impressive rankings for popular searches including “used car.” Eventually, Google found out and immediately penalized the site — dropping its domain authority (“DA”) down to zero.

What can we learn from this? Shady SEO tactics are going to hurt your site in the long-run. Not only are they deceptive, but are going to hurt you down the road. Google is constantly working to improve their search engine and is on the lookout for shady practices. And if your site is caught, it will take months to recover.

Accidental Backlink Renting

We read a story about another company’s client that had been working with a large, successful marketing agency for years. The company’s client took a big hit when they went to transition away from the previous marketing agency they had been working with. The moment they transitioned away, the client’s rankings fell significantly.

The client was spending nearly $10,000 a month on SEO services, thinking this contract had been an investment in their overall SEO efforts, and everything was gone overnight.

Turns out, the marketing agency had a Private Blog Network (PBN) that they managed with an outside company. With this PBN, they moved backlinks away from the client once they were fired. Yes, this is exactly what you’re thinking, a black hat SEO tactic. Not only is this wrong, but the agency had been putting the client at risk the entire time.

Once the agency pulled away the backlinks, this immediately eliminated any potential for long-term value. Simply put, the client had been inadvertently renting backlinks for $7,000 a month believing they were receiving a curated, long-term SEO strategy.

What are the takeaways? Transparency, transparency, transparency! Yes, the agency was helping the client with solid rankings, but there was no long-term plan. SEO agencies should work to educate and invest in their clients, no blindside them with sketchy tactics.

Not scared enough? Here are some other common SEO nightmares:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Duplicate content
  • Pages lacking structure
  • Missing tags and meta descriptions
  • Too many on-page links

Building SEO for your website can feel like building a personal reputation or resume, it takes a long time, but within a matter of hours it can be completely tarnished. BOO! How frightening. That is why we always recommend transparency and honesty when working with an agency.

Need help boosting your online marketing efforts? Upright Communications is the place to call. Get in contact with our experts today!


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