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!