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In the spirit of Halloween, we’ve compiled a few chilling tales that we have seen over the past several years as a Search Results Agency. Usually we blog about SEO myths and scams. This time we decided to share with you real horror stories we have uncovered for our Canadian clients or those targeting the Canadian Search landscape.

WebFuel SEO Halloween

As the Search Strategist for WebFuel, I respond to the company’s SEO inquires and unfortunately hear many horror stories. As a result, I work more and more on resolving serious Search issues on behalf of newly acquired clients. Most of the time, what has been done from a SEO perspective (previous to hiring us) is a mystery. So…. like a Search Detective, I work to solve the case.

Here are the top most startling Search issues.

1. Not in the Google Index (at all)

This sadly happens too often. We have had to resolve this type of Search issue more than any other – and it is serious. The most common reason is that the client did not have a Search Engine Friendly website built. In other words, the Search Engines cannot crawl their site. This means no indexation – and they will NOT show up in a Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page). You should hear the client’s blood curdling scream when this is brought to light.

2. Disappearing from Organic Search

This is horrifying!!! One day key high-ranking web pages, or even worse, an entire website, no longer appears in Google SERPs. And… even more terrifying, this is often not noticed for quite a while as no one is even monitoring this.

3. Wrong Geographic Area (not your target location)

Yikes!!! We see many variations of this frightening issue. Canadian businesses targeting the United States – Google.com but appearing in Google Canada (Google.ca). This requires lots of expertise to resolve (not simply hiring an American SEO Agency). Or… equally disastrous, Canadian companies whereby the target location is Canada – and Google displays their search results in the USA on Google.com. At the local level, Search Engine repositioning is required due to wrong city (i.e. Nepean Search rather than an Ottawa Search) or not entire geo-graphic region (i.e. province).

4. Stolen Web Traffic (that should belong to you)

This issue is rarely known by the website owner (how chilling) – and only discovered when we audit the account. The most popular perpetrators are the client’s competitors (or the agency that was hired by the competitor), the business themselves (due to a poor online strategy) – and the worst violation, in my opinion, a third party supplier for the client. We have seen a huge increase in this type of scenario over the past year. The 3rdparty vendor steals (and some are big well-known brands) your web traffic in order to improve their results on your behalf.

5. Bad SEO (Black Hat Techniques)

Call it bad SEO practices or unethical standards it’s quickly becoming the norm (now that is scary). In our SEO Audits, we have discovered keyword stuffing, hidden text, duplicate content, cloaking, doorway pages, improper use of redirects and extremely questionable linking strategies – including invisible links on a page and inbound links from bad neighbourhoods (how creepy!!!). This is mostly due to the inexperience of the Search Engine Optimizer and simply not understanding the complexly of SEO.  But we also see many cases whereby the SEO strategy is based on intentionally “tricking” the Search Engines. This is known as “Black Hat” techniques. The real horrifying story here is businesses most don’t know that they have hired a Black Hat SEO Agency.

6. Keywords Scams, Myths & Issues

This list is endless… SEOs selling organic keywords “you can buy these two”, rank for keywords that no one searches for, translating researched keywords from English into French (this doesn’t work) or hiring an agency that also works for your keyword competitors (no non-compete clause or they don’t honour it).

7. Google Ban (Organic & Paid)

This is the worst horror story from our perspective. Not adhering to, or in compliance with AdWords policies resulting in a permanently suspended account. Yes – this means no Ads on Google. Or likely an even worse nightmare, violating Google Webmaster Guidelines – and getting banned from Organic Search. As a result, your website no longer appears for branded & non-branded keywords. You are now invisible in a Search!

Got your own SEO horror stories? Please share your chilling tales.