With such a wealth of information available about SEO, you can learn from other people’s mistakes instead of making your own. Here are a few SEO horror stories that you can keep in mind to avoid making the same errors. 

The Email Marketing Mass Exodus 

An employee at a company who chose to remain anonymous described an interesting incident that happened when his firm hired an SEO operative to increase traffic to their site. The SEO expert was adding metadata and content on a daily basis. Nothing was working until the SEO guy decided to try an email marketing campaign. Suddenly traffic spiked! But while the top brass was celebrating, the employee took a look at the numbers and realized that the increase in traffic was due to over 1,000 people visiting the site to unsubscribe from the email list.  The lessons here: check your traffic to make sure it’s the kind you want, and make sure your emails aren’t going to drive away subscribers. 

BMW Gets in a Scrape with Google 

You do not want to piss off Google, as BMW learned in 2006 when they used doorway pages to increase their ranking for keywords like “used cars.” Doorway pages are a way of inflating rankings by tricking search engines with pages optimized for specific keywords but lacking in any useful content. The tactic worked for a while, but once Google caught on, they penalized BMW heavily with a PageRank of 0, torpedoing their SEO for years to come. Don’t set up pages on your site to artificially boost your ranking, or you’ll end up like BMW. 

Toys-R-Us’ Domain Nightmare 

Toys-R-Us filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017 and has liquidated almost all 735 of its US stores. Believe it or not, many people trace this back to an incredibly expensive SEO mistake. The company spent a whopping $5,100,000 to purchase the domain name Toys.com—only to find out that Google had de-indexed the URL. To make a bad situation worse, instead of transferring the domain name, they forwarded it, meaning all the rankings they had earned from people searching for “toys” and clicking through to their site were erased when Google re-indexed the URL as a result. That’s an expensive blunder, and one you can easily avoid by using 301 redirects for their old URLs. 

Rap Genius’ Shady Link Building 

Another site that got on Google’s bad side was lyric annotation website Rap Genius. Building backlinks is a major part of improving SEO, but Rap Genius was doing it in an underhanded way, offering bloggers publicity if they linked to specific pages on the site. Google noticed that the links were often not relevant to the content of the post and busted Rap Genius for its unethical link building, dropping a heavy penalty that cut the company’s organic traffic by 80%. After a public apology, Google allowed them back on their SERPs. Build backlinks through honest methods and you’ll be fine. Seek them out in other ways, and you’ll feel the wrath of Google. 

These are just a few of the many examples out there of SEO tactics gone wrong. Before you try anything the slightest bit tricky, search the web and see if it’s been done in the past—that way you can avoid making the same mistakes.