SEO Horror Stories

SEO Horror Stories

SEO Horror Stories 

First off, Happy Halloween everyone, we hope you had a great weekend! But what would Halloween be without a few horror stories.  But what type of horror stories?  Well we have the worst kind for you… SEO horror stories!  Yes, we are going to go through some of the most spine-chilling SEO stories you have ever read, as when it comes to SEO it isn’t just witches that wear black hats!

First of all, let’s go through some points from Google’s Webmaster guidelines which detail the do's and don’ts when it comes to SEO. They advise against all of the following (and more):

  • Paid links / link schemes
  • Cloaking
  • Hidden text / links
  • Doorway pages
  • Scraped / duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Auto generated content

These are just a few things that can get you in trouble when it comes to search engine rankings.  For more information on Google’s webmaster guide you can read it in full here.

Now let’s get into some of the SEO Horror Stories and first up we have BMW.



This brand needs little introduction and is a huge player in the car market and they also tried to be a bit of a player when it came to SEO.  Way back in 2006 BMW used a tactic called doorway pages.  Doorway pages are web pages that are created for spamming the index of a search engine.  This is done by inserting results for particular phrases with the purpose of sending visitors to a different page.  This is now classed as a very black hat SEO technique but back in 2006 when BMW used this technique it was much more common and Google was nowhere near as strict back then (ah the good old days!)  This technique did work for BMW and their rankings were very high for all their keywords, but once Google found out they were quick to punish them.  Google was not impressed at all and took BMW page rank right back down to zero!

So what can we learn from this mistake?  Well, first off obviously do not use doorway pages, this method may get you high rankings in a short space of time but with how strict and smart Google is this method will only come back to haunt you (Halloween pun intended).  As you can see from this, your domain authority could be ruined and it could leave you with a penalty which can be extremely hard to recover from.


Toys R Us   

Here we have another huge brand which has had a fearsome encounter with Google’s algorithms.  However, this time it wasn’t due to black hat SEO techniques but there was a waste of five million pounds!  Back in 2010, Toys R Us made the purchase of the domain, a great move for the toy giant on paper and one that should have massively help them out.

But when it came to the new site there was one massive oversight, they forgot to add 301 redirects from the original site’s URLs which had built up the sites domain authority over years of hard work.  So when the new site launched and google re-indexed all of the pages without the old domain’s link equity, they basically dropped out of the search results and wasted years of hard work, losing huge amounts of traffic to the site.

Again, the lesson here is obvious, if you are re-launching a website or moving domains, make sure you have all the correct 301 re-directs in place or you face dropping right out of the rankings.



In January 2013, Interflora’s marketing team seem to have been handed a large budget in order to boost the rankings in the run up to Valentines.  Prior to this Interflora were pretty much ranking number one for most generic flower search terms, but by the end of January they weren’t even ranking for their own name.  Google well and truly threw the book at them and Interflora dropped off the SERPs pretty much over night.

But what did the marketing team do to cause such a terrible penalty?  Well after many experts researched this case it turned out that Interflora had paid for newspapers to publish advertorials on their own websites with links back to Interflora’s site. They were paying newspapers left right and centre to run stories, which were only there to get links to improve their Google rankings.

When it comes to SEO, advertorials are very rare but can carry a lot of weight for your domain. They have to be taken with care. Interflora clearly went and did as many as humanly possible and went too far.

Google's regulations for paid advertorials state that advertorials which feature links must attribute a nofollow tag - which Interflora did not include.  A nofollow tag provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines not to follow a link and in turn not pass any link equity over to the website.  Basically Google doesn’t want people buying links which can influence Google search engines results.  Buying links is probably the most popular black hat SEO technique, but it also carries big penalties so stay well away!

We hope we didn’t scare you too much and you enjoyed our SEO horror stories. If you have any questions on SEO or want to make sure your SEO company isn’t potentially damaging your site get in touch with us today for a no obligation chat!

social media fails

Biggest Social Media Fails!

When it comes to social media there is one important thing to remember: once you post something, it is out there for the world to see! Nine time out of ten, this is good news for your business as you are sharing great news or an informative article, but let's take a look at some of those times that it has gone horribly wrong!

  1. US Airways – This is probably one of the biggest PR disasters an airline has ever seen thanks to social media! No matter how many times we look into this one we can not see how some one made this error of biblical proportions. So let's set the scene: a customer tweeted their disappointment in a delayed flight which resulted in the following reply from US Airways (which in their words was an honest mistake):Social Media FailsThe tweet was obviously quickly deleted but not before hundreds of retweets and screenshots. The airline released the following statement explaining what happened “US Airways were in fact trying to flag the image as inappropriate. However, in doing so the picture’s URL was also copied. This link was accidentally pasted into a tweet which was sent to another user. Whilst the two tweets were live, they linked to one another. It was an honest mistake.”
  2. Twitter is a great place for people to share their experiences with companies or public services, and after the New York Police Department received a nice picture from a member of the public they decided to start a new Twitter campaign looking for more using #myNYPD. This is how it started:Social Media Fails
    But it soon turned sour and they got the following:socialmediafails4socialmediafails9
    To be fair, you can see what they were trying to do but unfortunately it did not end well at all.
  3. Keeping on the trend of hashtags going wrong, remember family favourite singer Susan Boyle? Well, to promote the release of her album, her PR team decide to start a hashtag trend to build awareness of the upcoming album party. Unfortunately, they didn't proof read the hashtag and went with #susanalbumparty and it doesn't take long to figure out what is wrong with this hashtag!Social Media Fails
  4. HMV - Time for another PR disaster! As you probably know HMV suffered a bad financially patch recently, this forced them to have to fire their digital marketng team. But they forgot one major thing! To take away their access to Twitter which lead to the following:Social Media Fails
  5. British Gas – It is important when running a large corporation that your social media team know what is going on so they can prepare for certain things. This didn't happen at British Gas as on the same day as a 10% price increase, their Twitter team decided to do a Q & A session, which soon turned into quite the back lash!Social Media Fails

We hope these fails gave you a chuckle but that it also reminded you that once you post something it is out there no matter how quickly you delete it! Let us know of any other social media fails you have seen by commenting below!

Google Penguin 4.0

The Penguin Returns!

If you dabble in SEO or have had a website for any amount of time, you will probably be well aware of Google's tendency to update its algorithm from time to time. These updates are quite often just minor adjustments and tweaks, but every so often Google come up with a blistering one to keep us on our toes, usually named after a cute cuddly animal of some description. However, there is very rarely, if ever, anything cute about a Google algorithm update, particularly a Penguin.


Google's Penguin algorithm was first seen back in 2012. It acted as a filter aside from Google's "everyday" algorithm, running periodically to discourage websites from using "black-hat" SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing and duplicate content. Websites employing such techniques saw reduced rankings as Google aimed to provide a better search experience for its users and place high quality, relevant content towards the top of its listings.

And Now???

Over the past few weeks, there has been widespread chatter across the search engine world surrounding a potential new major update to Google's algorithm. Site owners and SEO's saw their rankings fluctuate significantly and unexpectedly over a short period of time. Google initially put the changes down to "normal fluctuations" but it felt like more than that. Finally, on the 23rd of September, Google confirmed the release of Penguin 4.0.

Penguin 4.0 is designed to refresh in real time and be a part of Google's core algorithm, rather than a on-the-side filter which periodically refreshes. This is good news for all concerned as it means that recovery from any "penalties" can be more swift and straightforward as Google will reevaluate these the next time it crawls your website rather than months or even years down the line. Penguin 4.0 is also designed to be more "granular" than its predecessors. What does this mean? Well it's open to interpretation at this point as it's still early days. However, being that previous Penguin versions would penalise entire websites in the rankings for spam like behaviours, the general train of thought seems to be that this version will just affect the rankings of pages or sections of a website. This is also good news for some.

Does this mean SEO just got easier? Probably not because it looks like link profiles will need to be monitored even more carefully than before, especially in the early phases of this update. Websites which provided good link juice when the link was built, may no longer do so if they have become low quality in some way since the link was built.


If your website is clean in terms of SEO, you have absolutely nothing to be concerned about with this update. As we always advise, page content should be informative and engaging and the associated meta data should be relevant to the page content. Keep your links natural. There is nothing wrong with building links as long as you keep in mind that one high quality link can be worth much more than several low quality, irrelevant ones. The key, as with many things, is quality.

If you would like any further advice on SEO, please feel free to get in touch.

flash player support

The Final Demise of Adobe Flash?

Following in the footsteps of other major browsers such as Google Chrome and Safari, Mozilla have recently announced plans to begin to retire Adobe Flash starting on August 2nd 2016 with the release of Firefox 48.

The phasing out will begin with a small blocklist, the majority of which will contain URLs of Flash files which Mozilla have identified as being "supercookies" (meaning cookies that are more difficult to detect and delete than usual).  This stage is said to be undetectable to users, but Mozilla are standing firm with the assertion that this will be the beginning of the end of their support for Flash.

The plan is to gradually add elements of Flash which are invisible to users on to the blocklist, the hope being to improve overall browser stability for Firefox, reducing crashes by as much as 10%.

Eventually, in 2017, user experience will change noticeably with Firefox making Flash content completely "click to play".  Various Flash applications will remain viewable, but permission will be required on an individual basis to interact with each one.

Although a clear "the death of Flash is nigh" statement has not been given by Mozilla as of yet, it clearly seems that they are nudging along in this general direction.

But this is not a new idea.  Flash is generally not supported on mobile devices due to its heavy resource usage and security vulnerabilities.  Added to this, the world's leading web browser, Google Chrome, has also made definitive steps towards shutting down the plugin.  In 2015, Chrome blocked auto-playing Flash ads and videos, pausing them by default.  There have been plans unveiled by Google to phase out full support for the Flash software on Chrome by the end of 2016, leaving it enabled by default on just 10 websites, including YouTube, Facebook and Amazon, all of which will be granted an effective "stay of execution" on usage of the technology.  All other sites will have to be manually enabled by the user.

Webmasters currently using the Flash on their websites are encouraged to convert to the more secure, stable HTML5 technology to stream video to their users.  HTML5 has evolved massively in recent years and will provide a richer user experience to website users, playing video seamlessly as browsers look to auto-detect HTML5 players on sites as the preferred alternative player to Flash.

If your website currently uses Flash to display content, we recommend that you look towards converting to HTML5.  This can be very straightforward to do and will ensure that your business does not fall fowl of browser updates, as potential clients click off your website, frustrated by continuous prompts to play resource hungry Flash content.

magento image upload

How To....Bulk Upload Product Images to Magento

This is an post taken from our old website.  It was originally posted in 2013 to help with an issue which many people were having with Magento CE at the time.  We have deprecated our other old blog posts but have decided to keep this one as we believe it is still useful to some… (please note that this was written alongside Magento CE 1.7 but I believe it still works up to the 1.9 release)

So, we have been tinkering with Magento CE lately and hit a stumbling block when it came to making somewhere in the region of 16,000 product images display on the frontend. The solution didn’t present itself clearly for quite some time, so here goes the basic guide for all those store builders who have more images than they can individually upload via the backend…
Assuming that your products are already listed without images:
Upload your images to media/import. If you do not already have a folder named “import” within your “media” folder, just create one.
Log into the admin area of Magento.
Click System > Import/Export > Dataflow – Profiles
Click Add New Profile
This is the screen you’ll be presented with (Click on the image for a larger version):

Make sure the “Enclose Values In” field is blank. Under the heading “Field Mapping”, enter the image categories you require, this example is very basic, but you get idea. You can add categories such as image labels, the choices appear in the dropdown menus each time you add a new item. Be sure to include “sku” as Magento uses this value as the product’s unique identifier.
Save your new configuration.
Create a new CSV file in your normal editor such as Excel for example. Create columns for each of the fields you created in Dataflow. (sku, image, thumbnail etc). List your sku numbers in the appropriate column (copy and paste from the original stock list works well here) and input your image titles. Be sure that the image names begin with / as in “/web-design.jpg”
When all details are complete, save your CSV and return to Magento. Within the Dataflow profile you have created, click “Upload File” then select the new file and click “Save and Continue Edit”.
Finally, click the tab “Run Profile”. Select the file you have uploaded from the dropdown menu and click “Run Profile in Popup”. Magento should do the rest for you.
Alternatively, if this basic guide is still beyond you, give your web designer a shout, we’re always happy to help….

Well, hopefully the oldies are still the goodies.  Magento is such a powerful, fantastic e-commerce platform, as well as a complex mind-boggling beast at times!

web design wigan

What's Wrong With Your Website?

If you’ve invested hard work and hard earned money into a brand spanking new website which just isn’t pulling its weight, it can be frustrating.  What’s the issue?  It looks pretty enough, it has your logo on it, it’s even featuring on Google.  But you still don’t seem to be gaining the results you were hoping for in terms of return of investment.

Before you slip into complete despair, it’s worth taking the proverbial step backwards and try looking at your website through the eyes of your target audience.  Are you capturing their attention by giving them the necessary information easily or does it take forever to find what they are looking for?

We put together a checklist to help with your personal website review:

Is Your Website Responsive?

The majority of online browsing is now done via a mobile device.  If your website isn't responsive to different screen sizes, your audience could lose patience and look elsewhere.  There is nothing more frustrating than constantly trying to zoom in on content or scroll side to side to read all the copy on a web page.

Media Which Auto Plays?

My biggest bugbear!  There is nothing worse than having a quiet browse online, only to be interrupted by some loud theme tune or somebody loudly telling you how great their product/service is.  Online media is great, in it's place but many people don't want it forcing on them and will click away from your website.  Easily fixed: give your users a "play" button!

Is Your Navigation Straightforward?

When you're building or designing your website, it's easy to get involved to the point where you can't see the obvious: how do you get to the relevant pages.  Once your user is on your website, how do they navigate to the place they want to be.  People can get frustrated by poor website navigation and look elsewhere, we are no longer patient with the internet, we want our information fast!  Make sure you have clear links and call to actions buttons to help your audience take their next step and ultimately to do business with you.

Can You Boil a Kettle Faster Than Your Page Can Load?

Ok, maybe not but if your web pages take an age to load, people will go elsewhere.  As mentioned above, we simply are not patient anymore!  Make sure your image sizes are as small as possible and use tools such as Pingdom to check your site speed and see which elements might be causing loading lag.

Cheese Overload?

It's not always possible or affordable to have a professional photo shoot done especially for your website.  It might be that you work in an environment that wouldn't lend itself well to attractive images or you simply might be on a tight budget.  Stock images can work really well, but tread carefully.  Some of them can be cheesy to the point of nauseating and come across as clearly not being of your business.  This can be off putting to customers who want to see a genuine company, so try to strike the balance right.

Pop Up and Up and Up?

I recently viewed a website which I have been on many times before.  The owners are pushing a new product and have obviously decided to employ the use of pop ups.  This is fine, except said pop up appeared on every page I clicked on.  Annoying!  Even more so as it was on mobile and filled my entire screen.  I lost patience eventually and took my business elsewhere.  Need I say more?  Use them, just not too much.

Albeit a basic list, give your website a quick DIY audit today and see if you can improve upon the user experience it provides.  User experience really does matter and even search engines such as Google measure how long people stay on your site and whereabouts on it they “drop off”.  This goes on to have a bearing on your search ranking.  With this in mind can you really afford to neglect a poorly performing website?

social media agency wigan

Facebook Promotion Guideline Changes

You may not know but Facebook has had some pretty strict guidelines when it comes to running promotions on your Facebook Pages in the past. It is always essential to make sure you’re not in breach of any of these before running a promotion and to make things easy for everyone Facebook are constantly changing these guidelines. But the reason for this blog is that their recent big algorithm change turned the Facebook marketing world upside down.

Here’s some of the guidelines that Facebook has changed for running promotions:

Before: All promotions on Facebook must be run within Apps on, this could be on a Canvas Page or a Page App.

Now: You are now allowed to run promotions on your Timeline or by using a third-party application.

Before: You could not condition entry upon the user taking any action using any Facebook features or functionality other than liking a Page, checking in to a Place, or connecting to your app.

Now: You can now require a Comment or Like on your post for entry. However, you still can’t ask fans to enter by sharing your post on their own Timeline or to tag their friends.

Before: You must not use Facebook features or functionality, such as the Like button, as a voting tool for a promotion on your page.

Now: You can now not only ask fans to Like or Comment on a post to enter your competition, but you can use Likes as a voting feature.

Before: You must not notify winners through Facebook, such as through Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profiles (timelines) / Pages.

Now: Facebook has relaxed this guideline, so that you can now use the comments section, status updates, your own blog or even Twitter to notify winners.

These are only a few of the main changes but you can see all of Facebook's guidelines here or if you have any questions give us a call and we would be happy to help!

social sharing

How To Find Relevant Content To Share on Social Media

One of the hardest parts of running your business' social media pages is finding relevant content to share across social media. The web is noisy and chaotic with information where you will find thousands of blogs, news channels and many online wire services publishing press releases, news articles and other related content daily. But how is it possible for you to find anything that is relevant to your business that you can use, curate and share with your target audience to support your digital marketing efforts?

With the help of Google Search, Google Alerts and Twitter, real time search all make it quite easy to find content that is relevant, newsworthy, and most importantly real time. Using these channels you can find valuable and interesting information regarding people, companies, news, what is happening right now all over the world and what is currently trending.
These channels can also help you research what others are saying about you, your business, and your competition online. Here is a couple of tips on using each of these channels to find a needle of information in a haystack of content.

Google Search
– Using Google search is one of the easiest ways to find relevant content. When searching on Google, use a combination of keywords relevant to your query and use many of the search options (news, videos, images etc…) directly on Google to filter what you are looking for. If you are looking for the most recent content you can even filter the results by country and time. Using these search options on Google is powerful and one of the quickest ways to find relevant content.

Google Alerts - You can use Google Alerts to set up alerts so you receive an email when any new information regarding any topic is published online. You can set up alerts for pretty much anything including brand mentions, blog posts or any topic so that you are notified when something new is published. When you set up the alerts you can set them up in two ways. One is so that you are immediately notified when there’s an update or you can select to have a daily summary sent to you. Google Alerts is an excellent tool for tracking your own name or brand so you are notified as soon as you are mentioned in content that Google has indexed.

Twitter Real-Time Search - Do you want to know what is happening right now this minute about a specific topic? You can do a search on Twitter’s search engine to find all the information as it happens in real time. You can use the advanced search properties to find out exactly what you are looking for and also filter the results by location so you are not wasting your time. We also recommend you create a list of specific Twitter users you want to follow; this makes it easy to find the exact type of content you are looking for.

We understand trying to make time to post on social media is hard enough never mind trying to find relevant content. So if you are struggling why not get in touch today to discuss a social media management package to suit your budget.

outsource social media marketing

5 Benefits of Outsourcing Your Social Media

By now you have probably realised that social media is here to stay and if you haven’t, well you only have to go on to Twitter and you will see all of your competitors tweeting away and stealing your potential clients. Let’s face it, with over 100 million posts to social media per day, can you afford not to be involved in that?

Social media is the perfect place to get your business seen as the first thing 71% of social media users do in the morning is check their social media pages and the same thing at night. Wouldn’t it be great if your business is the first thing they see in the morning or last thing at night?

If all of the above sounds great but you just cannot get your head around social media here are 5 reasons why you should outsource your social media:

• Time
We understand that running a business and trying to make time for your family is very difficult so when it comes to social media, not having enough time in the day to post is a genuine excuse. We can take social media off your to do list giving you more time to focus on your business with the peace of mind that your online presence is growing and being handled by experts.

• Consistency
When you go onto a business’ social media page whether it be Facebook, Twitter or even Linked In it looks very unprofessional to see no updates for the last few weeks or months and can even raise questions on whether your business is still operating. But going back to our first point it is very hard to keep posting on social media due to time restraints and or knowledge of effective social media optimization. Outsourcing your social media guarantees consistent, relevant and eye catching content. Along with valuable engagement with your clients and potential clients.

• Cost
As discussed earlier, can you afford not to be involved in all of the social media action? The answer is NO! But can you afford to give the task of running social media to a current employee which could take their focus away from their current work and won’t give 100% to your social media pages as they are juggling too many tasks. So the next option is to take on somebody to run your pages which is even more expensive. For a fraction of the cost of employing someone you can outsource your social media and get experts to take control to ensure social media success.

• Competitors
If you have been living under a rock and your business isn’t on any of the social media platforms or is not actively posting on social media I can guarantee your competitors are one step ahead of you. They will be engaging with their clients and your potential clients. When you outsource your social media to us we make sure the content we post for you is far superior to that of your competitors and ensure that we engage with all your potential clients (along with some of your competitors clients to hopefully bring them back from the dark side).
We also offer competitor analysis as part of our social media management packages which keeps you up to date on what your competitors are up to. We all have competition, but wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what yours were up to?

• Fresh Perspective
One of the main advantages of outsourcing your social media is the fresh pair of eyes you get from us when it comes to your online marketing strategy. We can suggest things from an outsider’s point of view as well as the consumer perspective which you may have overlooked. This can lead to us really exploiting your USPs and taking your online presence to the next level!

There are many more benefits to outsourcing your social media but we would be here all day and reading them all would be a very long and boring task for you.

Outsourcing is not showing weakness it is the exact opposite it is identifying your strengths and putting in place plans to make your business even stronger! We all outsource things all the times like you go out to a restaurant because a chef can cook better than you, you get a gardener to do your garden as they can do a better job and quite frankly you probably do not have the time. This is exactly the same as handing your social media over to us.

For more information on our social media management or to discuss a package that suits your business get in touch today…

social media optimization

Should You Use a Digital Marketing Agency and Is It Cost Effective?

Most businesses should by now have recognised how the internet should be the most important part of any marketing strategy. After-all, it’s a global marketplace that is open 24/7, which if used to its full potential is something that you should be able to make very lucrative for your business. However, the question is – how do you best take advantage of the internet?

You may have thought about hiring a digital marketing agency in the past, but have had major concerns over the price and how much you will get in return. Well, the truth is that you actually get a lot of value for your money and with your online presence now rapidly becoming the face of businesses, can you you afford to neglect it?

We are a digital marketing agency so we are obviously going to say this but here are just 3 of many reasons on why digital marketing agencies are a cost effective option for your business.


One of the biggest advantages of hiring a digital marketing agency is perspective.

Bringing in an outsider is one of the quickest and easiest ways of getting extremely valuable and unbiased feedback about your current marketing strategies and your overall brand. By assessing your company’s goals and needs with a new perspective, your digital agency can start to think from your consumer’s point of view. What are they looking for when they turn up at your site? How does your product look to them? From these fundamental questions spring the ideas and strategies that your customers can genuinely relate to.

Most digital marketing agencies deal with hundreds of companies each from different industries and backgrounds so they will have lots of new ideas. Which means most importantly, they will know what will work best for your business. A fresh perspective can really give your company that competitive edge we all want. As we all know one of the most dangerous phrases in business is “we’ve always done it this way”.


Without sounding too rude your knowledge of online marketing probably isn’t going to be great and is most likely very basic. Which is fine, why should you have an in-depth knowledge of online marketing? You are supposed to be an expert in what you sell not the best way to sell it.

It is now very popular for businesses to outsource their digital marketing to agencies simply because their role as experts is to market your business successfully, which in turn will bring you a far better return on your investment than you would get if you were to do it yourself or even if you employed an in-house marketer. With a digital marketing agency at your disposal you have a whole team of experts specialising in all the major aspects of online marketing. They are experts at ensuring your business is seen and heard online.

A successful digital marketing campaign requires in-depth knowledge on a range of topics which include SEO, social media, web design, online paid advertising, content marketing plus many more. Digital marketing agencies have a team of people with the right skill sets and tools which as a group will always be more effective than one single person. Furthermore, the team will stay up to date with the latest innovations to ensure that your campaigns reach your potential customers. With a digital marketing agency, you get all of this under one roof and at your disposal. Don’t try and be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Time and Money

Our last point is a very important one to consider, time and money.

When you outsource to a digital marketing agency they can get straight to the heart of your online business goals and find quicker, more cost effective ways of fulfilling them. While you are spending your time doing what you do best, running your business. With a digital marketing agency, you can have a team of digital experts (as already discussed) working for you, providing your business with cost effective marketing solutions that will save you money and most importantly increase your ROI. They will know what works for a particular campaign and how to achieve your desired results within a timely manner.

To round off, what value do you get for your money when you hire a digital marketing agency? Fresh Perspective, Expertise, more time to spend on your business and a better ROI.

Is it therefore cost effective? Very much so.

If you still have questions why not get in touch with us here at reflex creative for a free digital marketing consultation to see first hand what we can do for your business and give you that competitive edge.