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In the spirit of Halloween, we thought why not share several horror stories of our own? This is not our first blog post on this topic. A very popular post from last year was SEO Horror Stories: From a Canadian Perspective as well as SEO Myths and Scams (most still exist). This post, however, is what we as a Search Results agency have witnessed during the past year. This has been, without a doubt, the scariest year ever!

As the Lead Search Strategist for WebFuel, more and more of my SEO work has involved resolving Serious Search issues on behalf of newly acquired clients. Most of the time, what has been done from a SEO perspective (previous to hiring us) is a mystery.

So…. like a Search Detective, I work to solve the case. Here are some real life client issues…

1) Website is Not Found. Not by Search Engines. Not by Anyone.

If website conversions are crucial to your bottom line, this is a MAJOR disaster. These Serious Search issues include websites disappearing from the Google index, no-index tags left in the robots.txt file, and new websites that are built that the Search Engines cannot crawl. Getting banned by the search giant is the most crucial one – as the Google reconsideration is a lengthy process. Mismanagement of the robots.txt file (which instructs Search Engines “what to crawl”/ “what not to crawl” – amongst other things) is too often overlooked or done incorrectly (along with similar web development mistakes from a SEO perspective). And… websites that are not Search Engine Friendly are sadly still being built. What is the value of a website if it cannot get found? Minimal.

2) Black Hat SEO. Bad SEO. Negative SEO.

Three different scenarios. All harmful. Black hat SEO is focused on tricking the Search Engines. Short-term possible gain. Not a good long-term SEO strategy. Too many of our new clients have hired such an agency. Most never knew what was being done on their behalf (now that is scary). All those that bought into the Exact-Match Domain (AKA Keyword Domains) strategy are now at risk. Google recently rolled out its EMD algorithm too address this ranking scheme.

Bad SEO is very, very common. Reading a SEO tip or trick somewhere on the web, implementing it (without really understanding the fully implications) and harming oneself online. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Bad SEO is worse than no SEO (in most cases).

Still rare, but the most chilling of them all. We are starting to see Negative SEO campaigns. Two different case scenarios: It was either launched by the competitor – or their agency. This requires extensive investigation.  What was done? All those things that Google frowns on. The goal of such a campaign is to get their competitor penalized by the Search Engines. Dirty tactics.

3) SEO Agencies with False Promises. False Claims. False Google Credentials

No one can guarantee rankings. Period. No exceptions. This is still not only a very common SEO pitch. But it still works. Unfortunately some agencies get new clients with this deceptive approach. Set price lists. Again – if you understand how SEO works, this does not. Each website, industry and geographic target area is unique. The worst false claims are a special partnership with Google (Why would the Search Engine possibly partner with a SEO agency – seriously?). Another misrepresentation that SEO agencies (other related businesses) use is claiming to have Google credentials. Yes they do exist for Google AdWords, Website Optimizer and Analytics. The Search Engine has a verification process in place.  A Google badge on a website means nothing unless it is linked to a Google verification page.

Unfortunately, there are no regulations in the SEO industry. As a result, there are many so-called “SEOs” who take advantage of this. WebFuel has seen too many catastrophic issues related to Search. Especially in 2012. Sad but true.

Got SEO questions? Just ask!