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James Perrin

SEO Horror Stories and Nightmares

31st Oct 2011 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

GhostsWe all know a good horror story or two, we all have our favourite scary movies, but nothing comes close to the SEO and digital marketing nightmares that have taken place this year. In the spirit of Halloween we thought why not share a couple of horror stories of our own; a lot has happened this year and these are just some of the tales that’ll be enough to make anyone in the industry shudder in fear.

JC Penney

It’s February and many online retailers are feeling the post Christmas blues but for JC Penney the whole situation was going to get a lot worse. Their site was ranking extremely well, a little too well, in fact their site was ranking so well they were even outranking the original manufactures site’s for their own products, such as Samsonite suitcases. After an investigation by the New York Times, in which they hired an SEO specialist to look at the matter, it turned out they were buying links to appear in completely unrelated websites, with the links well hidden to ‘game the system’ [See: Looking for a Black Hat? Good luck finding one at JC Penney].

Google’s Matt Cutts who’s the head of Web Spam at the search giant confirmed that this was in violation of their Webmaster guidelines and took prompt action again JC Penney, who now are only just slowing gaining their way back up the rankings as a result. What’s scary isn’t just the fact that anyone can fall foul of the search lord, even huge retailers such as JC Penney, but if you do choose an SEO agency to manage your campaigns, make sure you know exactly what they’re doing, otherwise it’ll go down as another SEO horror story.

Brian Souter

More recently we had the Brian Souter story; this is a really scary one as Brian hadn’t appeared to be flouting any of the search engine rules [See: Why Has Brian Souter Fallen Off Google?]. Brian took umbrage at the fact his site was completely stripped of its rankings, seemingly out of nowhere. His site was fairly well optimised, it had around 50 links and all Meta was optimised, so what happened?

Where this story gets really horrifying is that unlike the JC Penney case, it appeared that Google’s algorithm had picked up a problem as opposed to Google having to dish out a manual penalty. Also unlike the JC Penney case, this wasn’t as black and white to establish what the cause was, unless we fully understand the meticulous workings of Google’s algorithm. What this does point to is a possible negative publicity filter. You see Brian Souter carries with him a fare bit of controversy and as a result there is a bit of negative press out there. Whilst this does show that Google’s algorithm is becoming more sophisticated it is really only one reason why Brian Souter fell off Google, other than that, it’s a mystery.

DecorMyEyes (Last year I know, but still a good story nonetheless)

The negative publicity filter may have come about as a result of the DecorMyEyes case. The owner of said website, Vitaly Borker, horrifically ranted and harassed any customer that complained about his service online [See: I’d Do Anything for a Link…But I Won’t do that!]. He was using negativity to his advantage because the more people complained the more links he would receive. This is pretty scary in itself, but this particular SEO horror story actually has a happy ending. The algorithmic change has meant that people like Vitaly won’t be able to take advantage of negative PR or press.

So there we have it, three SEO horror stories, but there are still many more out there. Panda anyone? That was a horror story for most people in the industry. Not only that, but across the digital marketing landscape there have been many changes to the industry which are frightening for all of us. For example the EU cookie directive [See: E-Privacy Directive on Cookies] or Google’s move to SSL [See: Video Guide to the Google SSL Changes and Hidden Keyword Data]. If you can think of anymore, please share your SEO horror stories below.

Image Source

Ghost cake pops via BigStock

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James Perrin
About the author

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.


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