SEO can be a powerful tool when used correctly and can provide the best ROI (Return Of Investment) when compared to other methods. That said, when it is not used correctly, as you will see later on in this article, things might not go as planned and problems may occur. So without any further ado, here are the 5 examples of SEO fails:
If you haven’t heard of Mozilla then you must have been living in a society that doesn’t allow electronics of any kind. Mozilla is most known for creating the open-source browser known as Firefox and I highly doubt you haven’t used it, let alone heard of it at some point in your life.
Anyway, even a company as reputable as Mozilla can get into trouble with Google and that’s just what happened when they were accused of creating a UGC page that was infested with spam. UGC stands for User-Generated Content and is usually a good way for a brand to engage in its community but there is a risk to using it.
This risk is that there is only so much control you have once it has been made UGC and users start creating content after content, submitting it all. Because of the comment spam on the site, it was penalised by Google and the site no longer exists. Even though Mozilla ensured that the comment links were Nofollow, it didn’t help as there were too many spam comments for Google not to notice the site and shut it down.
Back in 2006, BMW used doorway pages to increase search volume/search rankings for its targeted keywords. Doorway pages are a black hat SEO strategy (meaning it is an unethical and looked down upon method to get to the top of the rankings fast) to manipulate the search engine. Doorway pages are against Google’s guidelines and work by ranking high on organic search and then redirecting users who click on it to another site.
The keyword in question that was used to create doorway pages was “used cars”. As soon as people clicked on the page they would be redirected to BMW’s own site. Because of this Google demoted BMW’s PageRank (Google’s ranking system) all the way down to 0. After this, BMW admitted to creating doorway pages but ultimately denied deceiving its users but that didn’t matter as Google had already spoken and they held all the cards.
Google Penalises Itself
Funnily enough, Google has had to penalise its own services a number of times due to miscommunication and rules and regulations going over people’s heads. For example, Google Adwords was penalised for showing search engines different content than what the users actually wanted to see.
This, like with BMW, is known as “cloaking” a site and like stated earlier is a black hat SEO tactic which is against Google’s own guidelines. Google fixed this problem quickly but this isn’t the only example. Some Google support pages were banned in 2005 for the use of the same tactic and in Japan Google engaged in buying links! Even Google itself isn’t safe, this should be a terrifying prospect for any company thinking of going against the holy guidelines laid forth by the mighty Google!
ToysRUs Buys Toys.com Domain
It is not against the guidelines for brands to purchase the domains of their competition. These purchases allow for companies to gain property and assets of the name and ultimately divert all the traffic to themselves.
When Toys R Us bought the domain Toys.com they redirected all the traffic to their own site ToysRUs.com. Even though this itself is not against the guidelines, ToysRUs overlooked the effects brought by 301 redirects. Because they set up redirects from Toys.com to ToysRUs.com Google removed all the indexes from the pages on the Toys.com domain.
This means that thousands, if not, hundreds of thousands of traffic that were going to Toys.com were no longer available because of all the redirects. To top this, ToysRUs actually had the chance to send traffic to specific pages that were related to the ranking ones at Toys.com. This meant that they would have been able to divert organic traffic to exactly where they wanted to be so if someone particularly wanted LEGO it would divert them to the specific page dedicated to LEGO.
ToysRUs didn’t do this and the fact that they went into administration not too long after is a reflection of why SEO is so important to get right.
Forbes Unnatural Links
Forbes has been in trouble with Google more than a couple of times and this is usually due to them selling links on their website. If Google notices this, (and they will) they will usually give a company a penalty straight away.
Back in 2011, this happened and Google sent a notification Email requesting that Forbes looked into the unnatural links they have employed and to remove them. Forbes was slightly confused by this and it took them a while to completely remove the links. In fact, they even took to the Google Webmaster Forum to ask whether people would point out the links in question. Google pointed them out and Forbes complied, thankfully on their part as Google does not forgive and does not forget.