My Personal SEO Horror Story

How I Lost Over $100,000 and All of My Rankings and Why We Created This Site

A few years ago, we started using an SEO company for the internet marketing of one of our websites. Our thought was pure and innocent – that they were the “experts” and could do a better job than we could. And like most small business owners, I didn’t have enough time in the day to perform the SEO functions for our business as well as run the rest of the business. It seemed like a logical step to take, so we searched the web looking for a reputable SEO firm.

When we spoke with the various firms (in total, I originally spoke with about 10), each of them seemed to echo the same sentiments…that we could easily get our company’s website to the top of Google. Because everyone was so “certain” that we could do this, we made the first mistake of believing it to be true. We chose the firm that we believed to be the best, and believed their promise that we’d have page one rankings within 6 months.

Our First $36,000 Down the Drain

Like most small business owners in similar situations, I proceeded to let them do their work as they created page copy for our website, changed some of the meta data for our site, and starting creating links to our site from other websites. Herein lies the second mistake that we made – not digging deeper into the specifics that this company was doing. Like many SEO companies, that didn’t provide much information to us other than our rankings each month. In hindsight, we also listened to this firm to let them choose the best keywords to target, despite our gut telling us that these words weren’t the best to target (because we had PPC data that showed otherwise).

After the first 6 months, to our great surprise, our site didn’t rank on the first page for anything. We were getting almost no “organic” traffic to our site, and were spending $3,000 per month. They begged and pleaded for another six months…and we gave in. After twelve months, our total investment was $36,000. We asked this company why we didn’t have any page one rankings and they responded that “they couldn’t guarantee rankings.” Funny…when they were signing us up as a new client, we were told without a doubt we’d be on page one of Google.

Are We Really Up to Over $100,000 Investment?

After “investing” nearly $40,000 and not getting any ROI (we were tracking revenue from organic results and we really didn’t get any revenue from this channel!), we decided to use a different SEO company. Our thought was that we may have chosen a lemon, and that perhaps there were other companies out there that could do a better job. Of course, when speaking with companies, we were told that part of the reason we weren’t getting rankings was that we weren’t spending enough money to make it happen. After being convinced that we could see a sizable return on investment by spending $6,000 per month, we signed up with another SEO company. Ironically, we were told the same time frame – that within 3 to 6 months we should see great results. And guess what? After 6 months and another $36,000, we didn’t have any page one rankings and only a very minimal amount of revenue coming from organic Google rankings. Our revenue from organic traffic was less than $1,000 per month.

About this time, I spoke with a trusted friend who was making money hand over fist with SEO and he was outsourcing with a reputable SEO company – one that is such a big name that you may even recognize them if you heard the name. Tainted but not willing to give up on the promise, I signed up with this company. They were nice enough to give us a significant “discount” on services because they saw all of the problems we had in the past. But because I didn’t fully trust SEO companies at this time, I decided to use 2 other firms (both highly reputable firms!) as well at the same time. My thought was that the combined resources would help propel us to success. Unfortunately I was wrong.

Everything Lost with Google’s Penguin Update

After another 6 months and another $50,000, we managed to start getting some page one rankings. For a few weeks, I was overly excited. We were still only bringing in about $1,500 or so in revenue per month, but I was still hopeful. And then it hit…the Penguin update. We lost all of our rankings. And there you have it…a handful of SEO firms, $100,000 in investment, and absolutely no rankings or revenue from SEO.

Why We Created This Site

At first I was so upset. But after a couple of days of deep depression, I decided to do a couple of things. First, I decided to teach myself as much as I could about SEO, so that I would at least know about the subject. Don’t get me wrong, over the last couple of years I learned quite a bit, but just never had the time due to my other duties. But after reading every article and every book that I could get my hands on the subject, I dedicated myself to understanding the ins and outs to this industry. This really worked for me because I’m a veracious reader and an not at all unaccustomed to intensive learning scenarios. With a master’s degree education level, I’m no stranger to learning at warp speed and reading massive amounts of material in a short period of time. Now, don’t get me wrong, unlike others out there, I don’t claim to be an expert and there is just so much material out there to learn. But now I was dangerous!

Second, I decided to make it my personal mission to help as many other companies out there not make the same mistakes. I wanted to help people understand SEO basics so they could either run most of the SEO themselves or find a quality partner. Believe it or not, since all of this happened, I found some people that had great results with a select group of SEO companies. As we started to create this website to help business owners, I started researching into other “lead generation” and “ranking” website. I was absolutely astonished at the deception that I found…from companies overtly lying about “rankings” to actual SEO firms running these types of referral sites behind the scenes. At this point, I was more than dedicated. I knew that our story had to be told so others could actually make informed decisions.

Some of the greatest lessons we learned from the process:

  • No one can guarantee results
  • Most SEO firms don’t use an ROI analysis to determine if SEO is worth the investment for you
  • Even great firms can fail if they don’t provide you with enough attention
  • Be very careful with your site’s content and meta data
  • Only link with relevant and high quality sites
  • Know that there will only be a handful of winners for page one rankings on each keyword…so you have to have a compelling reason to be at the top
  • There is absolutely no substitute for doing the right things…creating great content and getting high quality links for your site
  • It takes a tremendous amount of time to get traction for your site…and quite a bit of money
  • And, finally, there are some great companies out there – but only a select few

Since all of this happened, we’ve had the great pleasure of speaking with some absolutely fantastic SEO companies. They’ve been great with helping us out on this site and with helping us learn more about SEO in general. These are the kinds of companies that we feel good about referring you to. Unfortunately, we had to go through quite a few lemons to get to our lemonade, but we’re just thankful that we’ve found some companies that can help you so that you won’t experience the type of pain and financial loss that we had to endure. So take a look at the screening process that we utilize in order to help ensure you’re connected with great firms. Or, if you’re bold enough, take a look at some of the do it yourself resources that we’ve found to be the best.