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Enter the Search Marketing Horror Story Contest!

We’ll even PAY for the best ones!

Halloween is fast approaching, and we want to hear your best Search Marketing Horror story! Do you have a terrifying tale of a campaign gone wrong? Client from hell? Conference prez gone bad? Well we’ve got the contest for you!

Send us (in the comments or via our contact page) your most bone-chilling stories between now and October 31, 2011, for your chance to win! Email your entries to SNC and we’ll feature the top one’s here on the site. The very scariest will receive a full year’s paid subscription to the SEO Training Dojo as well as a cash prize of $100! There are also lots of great runner-up prizes to be won! Good luck!

the SEO Haloween Contest

Prizes are:

  • 1st place: $100.00 + A full year’s paid subscription at the SEO Training Dojo ($250 value)!
  • 2nd place: $50.00 + A 6 month subscription at the SEO Training Dojo ($140 value)!
  • 3rd place: A 6 month subscription at the SEO Training Dojo ($140 value)

All entries must be received by Monday, October 31,2011 at 12:00pm EST to be eligible. Winners will be announced Monday, October 31, 2011.

Once again, to enter just leave your story in the comments or drop us a line via the contact page.



  1. WhatMeWorry October 18, 2011

    I don’t think this is a Search Marketing story exactly, but I will enjoy telling it anyhow.

    A client asked me to build a site for her to advertise her product. However clever her product was, it filled a need that was fading fast due to obsolescence.

    I built the site for her, and of course, there were very few sales. In the process, I learned that the client was exceptionally non tech-savvy. So, she called me one day and said that she would like for a friend of hers to be given the ftp information for the site, so he could “jazz it up.”

    I gave her friend the login credentials, and he made the site over, all in plain html. He didn’t know how to use databases or php, or any kind of includes. But, his graphics were exceptionally pretty.

    Six months later, I notified the client that it was time to renew her domain name. She haughtily informed me that my work had done her no good at all and she did not want to renew with me. I thanked her and let it drop.

    However, I suspect that she didn’t realize that in the process, she was also losing the site that her friend had built. Too bad, but that’s what she got for being cranky.

  2. Doc October 20, 2011

    One of my first clients hired me to do her on-page SEO and rewrite nearly 900 pages of her site, that were about 80% duplicate. I did it in batches, so she could pay as we went, and was about 3/4 finished when she told me that she wasn’t going to finish the project, as her nephew had found a more affordable solution.

    A few weeks later, I visited her site and found that his “solution” was to convert all her copy into images! The vast majority of her pages had ZERO copy on them, and the rest had 10-12 word captions!

    She was on the 7th page for her primary KW when I started, and at the top of page 2 when I stopped. By the time her nephew rescued her from me, she was over 30 pages deep in the SERPs.

  3. Dean October 20, 2011

    Pretty similar to Doc, but I will offer mine in a different way;

    Along came a spider that sat down beside her and up the SERP’s she went
    Along came came a dev that whispered in her ear “we can do better than that”
    They changed all the nav to images, all pretty and round and Stuffed the hell out of the ALT
    You can guess the rest, dev’s are a pest now the site is salt.

  4. Dario October 25, 2011

    hi, this is my SEM horror story! 🙂

    I edited as part of the consulting seo, for a website on wordpress cms platform is based on that after the initial analysis and the choice of keywords most appropriate to the objectives in onpage optimization phase we found that structurally the site presented problems because after the installation of the plugin seo wp “all in seo pack,” something was wrong:

    * Who created the site (thought I do not know how to create categories that typically would be assigned to catalog wp post, and these categories made them match the names of the pages, the , tags icons and names and urls
    * Accordingly plugin for seo is not allowed to edit, or rather did not see even any jobs in the plugin.
    * We also tried to comment on the title and description (php) in header.php but nothing.
    * In any way he took the title tag and meta description and keywords of each page.

    I have not done the site and not by understanding the complex structure programmatically, or by changing the categories budgeted by inserting the keywords, so that at least correspond to the title tag and H1 of the individual pages.

    Of course, the meta description is left blank, thereby removing any chance of ranking presence was probably more to the words.

    To this I add that the site provided for the insertion of about 30 keywords (in my lot) from which the company was expecting good results for all.

    I would add that all of the keywords are competitive because they have to do with information technology sectors where probably all do SEO and they compete with web sites of companies that maybe are located exclusively only one of 30 words chosen by the company.

    I also tried to do an analysis to detect the presence of some kind of penalties, including those described in the book by Giorgio Tave, but I do not think there are, then I certainly can not be.

    I was told of the presence of a double sitemaps, maybe a manually entered and the one that was there before with xml sitemap google plugin.

  5. Simon Dalley October 25, 2011

    I had a client approach me to say they weren’t happy with the SEO work a client had done for them. I did a load of research and came up with a proposal. The client then informed the other seo agency they had found a new provider only to find the number of backlinks start to dramatically decrease – along with rankings.

    Not a lot you can do in that situation other than ask the client to speak to their old SEO company and find out what they’d done. It turned out some of the links they’d built are on their network which are then switched off at the end of the contract.

  6. Andrew Thompson October 26, 2011

    As a early 20’s male, there was nothing scarier than babies and all of the joys/hardships they create. However working on a major diaper brand didn’t exactly allow the freedom to get away from the topic. It wasn’t until we recommended a major content build out, that the horror began.

    I, among 2 other males on my team, we’re asked to read and optimize thousands of mom blogger commissioned articles with topics ranging from best maternity clothes, to how to deal with baby incontinence. It was as horrifying as it sounds, if not more. Day after day I was forced to learn about breast pumps and baby poop, while researching the keywords related to them.

    I’ll never be the same, but I figure I should be a pretty damn good Dad…..eventually.

  7. SEO Consultant October 26, 2011

    OK, this is a REAL SEO horror story!

    I had an ecommerce client that I had worked with for almost two years. They did a site redesign to improve the site and the checkout, great. I consulted along the way and provided QA, fantastic. Well, the site went live and looked good, of course because conversion rates went up by about 80%.

    But then we started to see rankings drop off the table and traffic with it! So I spent days hashing through data, links, webmaster tools, anything I could think of. And made some suggestions and changes but nothing still. I had this client at #1 for their main keyword, a short tail high volume term. And I had them ranking for tons of long tail, they were doing very well for a very long time and so was I. But now the sky was falling, out of nowhere, after the redesign and I could not stop the free fall!!!

    So the client reached out to a friend, who actually was my old CEO, and in 20 minutes he figured it out. The developer somehow kept the robots.txt file from the dev site in the live version when he pushed it live, so all bots were blocked from indexing the site for about a week!

    Why couldn’t I have seen that? Well, it was just TOO easy. Its one of those things that is so basic and fundamental that I missed it. I’m so used to tackling complex issues and there were alot going on at this site, that I overlooked the easiest, first thing that I should have checked. THE ROBOTS FILE!!

    Needless to say my old CEO jokingly mocked that he should get a large commission for finding the issue and I looked like a major SEO TOOL, and not the productive kind.

    But wait, the horror story continues….

    The site has never recovered. They got almost all of their rankings back eventually but to this day their main head keyword, that I had them at #1 for and that drove 70% of their sales, is STILL not even on page 1!!!


  8. Josh October 28, 2011

    My first job in SEO was as an in-house and I was brought on board four months from a companywide branding change. I was going over the new design when I got an email from my boss saying the new site had been indexed in the search engines and were getting visitors. Apparently the programmers had removed the robots.txt file on the new site. So after informing them of it and how to fix it I thought everything was going to be fine (or so I thought). What they really did was go into Google Webmaster Tools and set the new site to do not index and told no one. When the launch date came about we were expecting the traffic to drop a little but since caffeine had just been implemented we also expected the new site to be indexed quickly. Almost three months went by and still it hadn’t been indexed. I checked the robots.txt file, began an aggressive link campaign and still nothing. As we were approaching the three month marker the traffic had dropped by almost fifty percent when I got an email from a programmer telling me what had happened. Within five minutes of it being taken off the do not index list in GWT the home page had thousands of other pages had been indexed.

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