5 Embarrassing Search Engine Optimization Fails (and How to Avoid Them)

Managing a website in a way that optimizes your search results is hard. Mistakes that take seconds to make can have lasting effects for years. Tactics that used to work for maintaining a high search rank a few years ago can now have a damaging response.

We turned to the internet, asking SEO specialists to share the biggest blunders they've seen in their careers. Here are their responses.

1. Fool me once, shame on your rank.

“I received a new client who had worked with a different 3rd party SEO firm. They were getting a pretty steady flow of traffic from Google but I noticed it was mostly coming from Google Images. After some digging I learned they were getting this traffic from 'adult-related search terms', which their previous agency had changed their image alt-text to. This of course triggered Google algorithms for quality issues, which plummeted their rank.”

How to avoid:
Being dishonest may draw some people to your site, but they leave as soon as they realize it’s not what they were searching for. When they quickly click off, it tells search engines your site didn’t satisfy their query, which lowers your site’s rank. Google algorithms also look for consistency throughout a page. If your written content is about new features on the Subaru Outback, but your image description is well… something else, Google will mark your page as spam.

2. Who needs content? We’ve got a need for speed.

“The client’s site was professional services, which if anything made this suggestion even more shocking as the content was essentially their service list. For content, the site had around 7-8 service pages each with unique, high-quality content on them of around 800-1000 words.

The site didn’t perform too badly in Google but there were some speed issues. The ‘SEO agency’ told them that removing the content on their service pages so it was just 50 words max would speed the site up.
Needless to say they completely vanished from the rankings, still had the site speed issues, and experienced a disastrous drop in traffic.”

How to avoid:
In the world of SEO, content is king. Having high-quality relevant content is one of the top ranking factors for search engines. It’s how search engines determine whether or not your page has the answer to search queries being made. Page speed is also an important rank factor to consider, but there are countless components that could be affecting it. If page speed is an issue on your website, have a professional run a full diagnostics test to determine your options.

3. Where links go to die.

“I had one client who was full of all kinds of wisdom.

In our initial consultation he dropped, “We don’t disavow bad backlinks because that highlights to Google there may be bad links on that site”, “Google is smart enough to know when a link is broken and it will fix itself”, and “Just fill the page up with links, but change the font color to white so people can’t see them!”

He also had his teenage nephew spam comments all over the internet with links to their website: YouTube comments, Blog Comments, Spam Sites, etc. And of course they blamed their bad rank on Google because they believed they were doing everything perfectly.”

How to avoid:
Google can smell your bad links from a mile away. It won’t hesitate to lower your rank because of them. Perform regular audits on your site to ensure links are working and relevant. Spamming low quality links to your site will only result in getting penalized. Instead, focus your efforts in getting high quality links. Some ways of getting these links are: getting covered by local news sources, getting listed in your OEM directory, or producing your own quality content that links to your site.

4. The simple change and costly mistake.

“This happened for an organization I worked for a few years back. When the .org extension of their domain name became available, they scooped it up. So far, so good.

They immediately set up a 301 redirect pointing the newly acquired .org to their main .com website. Their reasoning made sense — to capture wayward visitors who might type in the wrong extension.

But the next day, they called us, frantic. Their site traffic was nonexistent. They had no idea why.

A few quick checks revealed that their search rankings had disappeared from Google overnight. It didn’t take too much Q&A to figure out what had happened.

They put the redirect in place without considering the risk. We did some digging and discovered that the .org had an unfavorable past.

The previous owner of the .org site had used it for spam. With the redirect, Google was assigning all of that poison to the company’s main site!”

How to avoid:
Honest mistakes happen all the time in Search Engine Optimization. Always do your research before associating your website with another. And always consult with an SEO expert before making large changes to your website.

5. Just give Google a call.

“I had a potential client come to me saying that they’re website already had been ‘SEO optimized’, and all I needed to do was to let Google know about their website – five to ten minutes worth of work in their eyes.”

How to avoid:
Optimizing your search results is a never-ending task. Rank factors are constantly changing. If you want your site to consistently do well, you need to have someone on your team who knows how to navigate those changes and keep your site at the top.

Want to learn more about how to increase your dealership’s search rank and keep it at the top?

Download our free eBook, Level Up! A Holistic Guide to SEO, to:

  • Navigate the evolving world of Search Engine Optimization for dealerships in 2019.
  • Recognize the role of Google’s algorithms and use them to your site’s advantage.
  • Adapt your website functions to increase search rank.
  • Build a holistic network of marketing channels to compliment your SEO strategy.