• 0
  • 0

Local SEO is often wrought with horror stories and bad practices, with smaller outfits monopolizing local areas and markets with small business owners not knowing any different. And of course, we have the wonderful Stop Crap On The Map movement!

Even this month I stayed in an independent hotel, where they had a website built 6 years ago in non-mobile responsive PHP – and they’re charged £150 a year to renew the domain and then £25 a month hosting. The owner then told me that the guy run the websites for pretty much all the hotels in the town…

This year’s local SEO horror stories include classics such as “increasing dwell time to influence rankings” and “duplicating pages, but adding -seo on the end of the URL to make it more SEO friendly.

I’d like to say thank you to everyone who took time out to contribute to this post, and for sharing their experiences!

This is one post in a series of Halloween SEO Horror Story blog posts going live this October! Stay tuned for the others, and horror stories from other verticals!

Wouter Blom, Agency Founder

@wouterblom //

A web design agency built themselves a one-page website and did not redirect old pages. They then complained/called us because they did not rank for anything anymore. They even had SEO services as part of their offering…

Arnout Hellemans, Freelance SEO

@hellemans //

I got a phone call from a well known creative content marketing agency…their website was nowhere to be found for the past 3 years… tried crawling… the whole site was on noindex… a freaking creative content marketing agency… 3 years.

Dan Taylor, SEO Consultant

@taylordanrw //

When I worked in-house, a part of the job was managing the digital presence on the website, micro-site, and assets such as Google My Business.

For months I’d been getting feedback from the new build’s marketing manager, and other levels of the business, that the Google Map pin was in the wrong location – and showroom staff at the location were claiming people coming to view the properties were getting lost. For months, I kept reverifying the location, manually dragging the pin location – everything but it remained ~half a mile away from the actual location.

On the day of “the launch”, we all got sent additional information and I noticed something immediately, the postcode registered with the Post Office for this new multi-million £ build was different to the one we’d been given to use online, different to the one used on GMB, and different to the one printed one thousands of £s worth of brochures and marketing collaterals. For months, the new builds manager had been using the wrong address on everything.

Within minutes of me highlighting this, I was then getting the urgent change requests through to use the correct postcode on all digital assets.

Lord Marin, SEO Specialist

@lordgpm //

I work for a digital PR agency. We had this one potential client that I did an SEO audit for. I found that all of their links (thousands) were nofollow blog comments.

I highlighted this fact in my deck and I presented it to them. I explained that these links had little to no value in terms of SEO. We learned that they were from a freelancer that they previously conducted business with.

When it came to discussions of pricing, they were shocked to see our rates because we were 3X or 4X whatever their freelancer used to charge.

In the end, they still went to the freelancer even if we showed that it literally did nothing good for their website.

Laura Hogan, Agency Owner

@lauralouise90 //

We started to work with a client in the construction industry that had one of the worst backlink profiles I’ve ever seen… porn, article spinning, the globe. You name it; it was there.

When we spoke to the client about it, he told us that he’d spoken with someone who worked at Google and they told him that after the update in March all backlink profiles had been reset… so any backlinks prior to March 2019 had no bearing on SEO performance either way.

Dan Smullen, Technical SEO Manager

@dansmull //

Post SEO massacre and recommendations finally implemented with a little help in house SEO expertise, the website is now ranking for the properties they list!

A Market Leader in the property listing space in a particular region moved to a single page app using the React Javascript framework before my time at the company.

Redirects were not put in place, URLs were not optimized with the main keyword “property address”, XML sitemaps were capped, internal links on key landing pages all became parameterized, canonicals on key landing pages pointed to blocked internal search pages, HTML sitemaps were orphaned and de-categorized, the blog got put on a subdomain, the list of issues goes on.

Almost overnight, they lost 50% organic traffic & leads, and their biggest competitor overturned them as the number 1 competitor.

In fact, properties submitted and indexed wouldn’t rank even for their address name!

Imagine how frustrating that might be for users of a property listing website!

Then, when they finally sought the help of an external SEO consultant, the development quote to fix the “SEO issues” came in at 4x the price of the website redesign.

Post SEO massacre and recommendations finally implemented with a little help in house SEO expertise, the website is now ranking for the properties they list!

But the upward climb to the top will take a lot longer. A lot longer.

Interestingly at the same time, the same company used the same developers but on another re-design project but this time with the help of a top SEO consultant most of us will know.

Nothing went wrong from a technical SEO perspective, in fact, they thrived in some ways despite the increased competition from Google in that niche.

I think the real horror story here is knowing that a company just didn’t use a technical SEO specialist with the re-design or website migration!

John McAlpin, SEO Director


They asked us to change their hours of operation to “closes at dusk” and it was a struggle to get them to understand why that doesn’t work for local SEO.

Esben Rasmussen, Online Analyst

@EsbenRasmussen // Kamstrup

The former agency had placed a fully transparent png (invisible) in the footer of the website of its customer – used it as a backlink where the alt-text was the name of the agency + desired keyword… Just wow.

I’ve also experienced this were the “development and SEO agency” gave the client a custom WordPress template with a hardcoded footer link back to their homepage… But they misspelled their own homepage URL, so it 404’d. I asked them to update it for the client, they came back with an invoice to do the dev work…

(From the 2018 Collection)

Kayley Dempsey, Marketing Consultant

@Kkdempsey // Seedling Digital

In an effort to be “SEO friendly” one charity had duplicated their favorite page, slightly re-written it, and given it a new URL with “-seo” at the end. And yes, both pages were live and indexed.

Francesco Baldini, Freelance SEO Consultant

@betakrea // BetaKrea

created an additional 7-million (plus) pages

The website in question sells reports for better buy used products.

The site had almost 5M pages: brand+model, product IDs and internal search archives since 2015 circa. The horror side was that this created an additional 7-million (plus) pages to cover all the possible products and search variations on the market.

These pages brought one digit of the total organic traffic and almost no conversions. With the removal of 99% of the pages, organic traffic doubled and conversions increased.

Cary Leibowitz, SEO Consultant

@simplycary //

Migrated an agency’s site to HTTPS. Left HTTP canonicals across the site. (extra horror: the site was on cold fusion)

Patrick Herbert, Marketing Guy

@PatrickHerbert0 //

Briefly worked with a Mystery Shopper company that had a website built on an obscure dated CMS created by their past agency… in 2001.

The site was, not responsive, not editable except for small text sections on each page, most of the content was in images which they refused to change and, the original agency was long dead as a business… They refused our offer to convert it to WordPress on a 12-month payment plan that only added $100 per month to their bill.

Zack Neary-Hayes, SEO

@NH_Zack //

Dwell time is a ranking factor. Someone told this poor lad at a dental surgery to go on all the work PCs and leave the homepage open all day to crank up the session duration (I don’t think they realized it capped out at 30 minutes…)

Will O’Hara, MediaCom North

@willohara //

We use a monitoring tool that spots changes to sites (robots, redirects, page content, etc etc) and an email pinged through from it on Boxing Day 2018. Robots.txt file updated… with:

Disallow: /

The Horror. The client dev team is out of office. Over the next few days, Google delivers some lovely Xmas gifts, namely deindexing the site. By early Jan the file is finally fixed and things start to recover quickly just in time for one of the busiest times of the year for this client.

Ryan Robers, SEO Lead


It was a very, very sad Monday morning.

The site’s CMS was being upgraded to accommodate individual landing page themes and general performance improvements.

During the transition, the development agency applied ‘noindex’ tags to the entire site, removed (and didn’t save) all of the meta information and, on top of this, completely removed any tracking codes to monitor conversions. Best part? They did this without telling us.

It was a very, very sad Monday morning.



Need more SEO Horror Stories?

Read the complete 6-post 2019 SEO horror stories series:


  • 0
  • 0