Funny SEO Stories and Nightmare Clients - Updated 2023
A Reddit user posted in 2021: “I used to be a freelance front-end dev and a search engine optimisation guru back in 2000’s”.
Back then getting on the front page of Google was pretty simple. Link exchanging was popular but risky. I never did that but I did have a single website that had serious page rank clout due to it being linked as a trusted source, directly from one of the top and most trusted websites in the World.
I would use this website for the best clients to get their pagerank and search engine position leapfrogging other, older and more trusted websites.
One day I was approached by someone I’ll call Bob. Now Bob sold travel packages. He needed to revamp his basic, existing website, with a complex website built with pretty tricky backend coding. I could do the front end but I had to hire a backend dev to build the functionality.
Bob had a major launch in a months time and it had to he ready. I usually ask for 25% deposit up front but Bob said no, he was stung by the last dev and wasn’t going to lose anymore money.
Now from the moment I met Bob my gut was telling me this was going to end badly. The problem was I needed the money and it was worth quite a lot of money for me and the dev. I skipped the deposit on the promise he paid in full before it went on his server. Bob agreed.
For an entire month we worked day and sometimes all night to get this done in his timeframe. With a day to spare we had done it and I’d never been so proud of what we had achieved. I was honestly excited to show Bob.
The next day I sent the link to my test server and he phoned me to discuss it. Bob said everything looked good but he was worried his servers php version may be to old to run it. I assured him it would but he said he was too scared it wont and we would scrub our hands of it.
We went backwards and forwards but he was insistent the site has be uploaded and tested on his server before he parts with a penny. I chatted to my Dev. He didn’t like it either but agreed we would upload our work onto his server.
Bob gave me the FTP details and server login and I uploaded the site. I told him it was live and then… nothing.
I sent several emails and then phone calls. The emails went unanswered and the phone went to voicemail.
Sensing a major problem I rushed to my computer, fired up my FTP program to delete our work on his server and… ACCESS DENIED.
He had locked us out and the following day he went live with our work.
For several days I tried phoning until one morning he answered the phone and said “listen, I’m not ever going to pay you and there is nothing you can do about it”, then Bob hung up.
Rage was a good word for my feelings, I was shaking while I still held the phone in my hand.
For the next hour my range of expletives was growing in complexity. As I sat there figuring out what to do, it hit me. Revenge will be mine!
I registered a new domain name, which was Bobs travel domain name plus sucks at the end. If Bob’s website was called bobstravel.com, i had purchased bobstravelsucks.com
I uploaded our work, basically an exact mirror of his live website, onto my new domain. I used my all powerful mega page rank domain to link to my new sucks domain.
Within a month my website jumped above his website in google for every conceivable search phrase you would use for the packages he sold. No matter what you typed in, my site was the first result and his was always below mine.
During that month I created a second website, which was Bobs full name with sucks at the end. On this second website I posted what happened, screenshots of his emails and warning everyone what a conman he is.
Bob had a somewhat unusual first and last time. Again within a month my website was above his own personal website.
I then forgot all about it.
About 4 months later I get a cease and desist email from a solicitors firm. A quick google showed the solicitors firm was made up and didn’t exist. I reply back with “I’m not ever going to take them down and there is nothing you can do about it!”.
Every now and then I’d get emails from people he had conned by taking their money for a travel package but never booking their package.
I’d put those on both of my websites, making sure those juicy important keywords; his full name and company name, were spread across each negative review.
A few more months pass and I get an anonymous email linking to a new domain called mynameSUCKS . I’m told to remove my two websites and he will remove this new one.
A quick search and what do you know; it isn’t even on google. No one could find it. I reply back for a second time with his comment to me.
As each month passes I’m getting more and more people emailing me saying they’ve been ripped off. I keep adding them to my website.
Turns out the travel agency world is well regulated and they started an investigation into Bob’s company, using my website as their main tool.
I get a call from Bob. Bob is not a happy Bob. In fact, Bob is more of a desperate Bob. Looking at this text now, I know you can almost hear the despair and resentment in Bob’s voice.
Bob pleads and literally begs me to pull the sites down. Not only is he being investigated by the travel agency association, but he had some very important friends that didn’t appreciate the bad press he was causing in their circles.
He offers to pay me the money he owed. Nothing more, just what he owed.
For the third time, and with a massive smile on my face, I say “listen, I’m not ever taking them down and there is nothing you can do about it”.
Roll on a few months and I discover his travel company has been removed from all travel associations.
No matter what you typed into Google, my website outranked his and all the bad reviews on my site were the first thing his potential customers would see. I crippled his business so badly… it went bust.
During the collapse one of his ex employees contacted me and told me how hard he had worked to get my websites off the first page. He had registered dozens and dozens of other domains in the hopes some would jump ahead. Little did he know only the top dozen websites in the world could jump it.
Apparently his property was tied into loans on the failing business and he lost his house too.
It took me just about a year to turn his business from a cash cow to a dead cow.
Motto of the story; if you ever think to mess with a Dev… don’t!
Many of you are saying I should have taken the money and not pulled the sites down. At that point it wasn’t about the money. He thought he could simply buy his way out of it after pretending to be a solicitor and then trying the same thing on me. Him knowing I didn’t care about the money anymore must have driven him crazy, because money was all he cared about.
He then knew he could do nothing to stop his business going down the pan and all he could do was watch it all fall apart around him.
September 2023 update: The Reddit user is still active and posting.
Google.com expired and someone sniped the domain in 2016 - A cautionary tale of important business dates to be remembered.
On September 14, 2016, the unthinkable happened: Google’s domain expired. For a brief moment in time, the most popular website in the world was offline.
It turns out that Google had forgotten to renew its domain registration. This is a mistake that any company can make, but it’s especially embarrassing for a company like Google, which is known for its technological expertise.
Google quickly fixed the problem, and its domain was back up and running within minutes. However, the incident left a lasting impression on the internet.
Here are some funny things that happened when Google’s domain expired:
- People started to panic, thinking that the end of the world was coming.
- Some people took advantage of the situation by creating fake Google websites and trying to scam people.
- Other people simply made jokes about the incident, such as “What do you call a Google employee who forgets to renew their domain registration? A goner!”
Overall, the incident was a reminder that even the biggest companies in the world can make mistakes. But it’s also a reminder that we should all take steps to protect our online assets, such as by regularly backing up our data and renewing our domain registrations.
Is that an automated process AI can help with? Maybe not just yet, the human touch will always prevail for the task itself at present. We can set reminders, and auto-renew at host level.
Have you had a domain stolen by a digital pickpocket, whether the value was your brand, or for 301 redirecting and Search ranking purposes? Have you been guilty of this tactic and been that cutthroat (or savvy) opportunist? Swooping like an plummeting eagle with your credit card before someone else could renew or claim it? Let me know.
I’ll add dates as I go along, I started this blog post in late 2020 and as I’ve been in business for over 16 years in 2024, so when story pops into my head I’ll add it.
Google and Facebook Ads ‘Consulation’ Needed December 2020
I need someone highly experienced to check what is wrong with my Google and Facebook ads and tell me why my conversion rate is almost non existent. It is so low, need an experienced Digital Marketing Consultant with at least 5 years experience. I need a consulation and advice.
READ: I want the moon on stick by tomorrow at 9am for £40 please.
The website is still HTTP, comic sans is being used as a font – together with multi coloured letters. The Capitalisation of ‘New Year’ needs fixing, the website site is “dedcicated” to the English language and the tutor wants to be an “Education Center” in Specialist English.
The only other website that I’m aware of is lingscars.com – I am not giving a backlink to this website, take a look for yourself. I guarantee you’re not going to be disappointed.
Champagne Taste and Lemonade Pocket Business Owners
Champagne Taste and Beer Budget Wallet clients
LOCKSMITH: Hello I need SEO for my website XXX we are a locksmith targeting local areas XX, XX and XX, our website is 8 years old and we have seen new competitors come out of nowhere! They are taking our business! HELP!!
ME: I have visited your website and looking at the platform it’s JOOMLA! which is not the best for Google SEO, also your home page has zero content, you say “Welcome to my website” but you haven’t told Google you are a locksmith in xxx areas. The content for the whole site needs expanding, also you only have 8 pages and no blog. Google views a website like a newspaper, without a headline on your homepage and no words on your pages, no one is going to buy your newspaper are they? Can you write content so I can tweak for Google? I’ll also need photos and blog content writing on top of SEO so you’re looking at around a 6-12 months campaign to get back on track and usurp your new competition. A rough price would be £££
LOCKSMITH: We can’t afford that! We saw you can teach us everything in an hour with your SEO teaching, we would like this instead. We can’t afford a new website and we can’t write articles.
ME: Sorry, I’m not taking your money. Save your budget for a few months and get back to me.
CHEAP CLIENT: Hello I need SEO for my website. I don’t have a big budget as a start-up, what’s the cheapest package you offer?
ME: [Nipping this right in the bud] Sorry, I can’t take your money. Save your budget for a few months and get back to me. My reputation and reviews are earned by demonstrating results. If I took your money and gave you no results in Google, wouldn’t you think I was a rubbish SEO and stealing your money?
CSTMR WHO USES TXT SPK: Hello I have a tantric massage website in XXXcity and I want to be top of Google! Here’s my website www and I’ve just paid an agency overseas £500 for 4 months and I haven’t seen any results! I need someone I can trust! HELP PLZ REPLY ASAP
ME: I’ve looked at your website there’s a page dedicated to hiring new masseuse girls and I’m uncomfortable with your industry as a female so I’d recommend you seek an alternative SEO in this case. Sorry, I’m declining to quote on this occasion. All the best and good luck.
CSTMR WHO USES TXT SPK: YOU HAVE TO HELP ME! I’ve spent £2,000 and don’t have much more than £50/month so can’t you give me something that would help me out? Please .. as a fellow woman in the industry? I need someone I can trust!
ME: no reply
WIX in 2023: Trailblazing Search compared to <5 years ago
DTQ – I would DTQ any client message that revealed they built their own website using Wix, simply because I’m not a developer and I’m not able to migrate to a different, more SEO-friendly CMS.
BrightonSEO in Septermber 2023 – Wix were a major sponsor and shout out to all involved. You are an incredible team, I even donated to a UK badger wildlife charity after a Twitter argument in 2021. When I’m challenged and slapped in the face with facts, I’m the kinda girl to eat my words and open my wallet.
Bearing this in mind, more 2020-era DTQ’s continue:
Sameday DTQ for WIX users used to happen on the regular. I’ve written a Case Study on how migrating from WIX to WordPress then implementing SEO demonstrates shocking success in the first 30 days (2020).
These are my favourite situations as I’ve done the research to help potential clients understand my advice, as a bit of background my contact form page has a list of 6 questions which help me identify at a glance of the answers whether I can help, including target search phrases and geographical areas. It also is a strong indication of whether a client is capable of following simple instructions, in this case, no.
WIX CLIENT: Hello I need SEO for my website (note: no answers are provided)
ME: Hi, thank you for your enquiry, what search terms did you type into Google to find my website?
To help you further I’ll need you to answer the following questions (copy and paste)
WIX CLIENT: Here’s my website xxx I want to be top of Google for “T-shirt printing” and “Custom design Tshirts” and “Funny T-shirt printing”
ME: Your website is built on Wix and you have chosen a hyper-competitive industry to launch an online business. My advice is to invest in a platform which is better suited to SEO such as Shopify or WordPress and come back to me
WIX CLIENT: But you have great reviews. Can’t you at least try for me?
ME: I’m not taking your money. My reputation and reviews are earned by demonstrating results. If I took your money and gave you no results for “T shirt printing” in 6 months, wouldn’t you think I was a rubbish SEO and stealing your money?
WIX CLIENT: Funny how you turn down business when you realise I can’t afford a website or offer me a cheaper alternative
ME: no reply [thinking internally – “That’s not called funny, this is called business”]
2023 Featured Snippet Interlude
2019 and beyond - The difference in client expectations when your prices have changed in line with your increased experience. Back then, I was a busy fool before my Business Mentor..
SPANISH INQUISITION: Hello I need SEO for my website (note: no answers are provided)
ME: Hi, thank you for your enquiry, what search terms did you type into Google to find my website? To help you further I’ll need you to answer the following questions (copy and paste)
SPANISH INQUISITION: Here’s my website xxx I’m throughout the UK
ME: I have visited your website and I can’t actually see what you do. I was scrolling down and down on mobile, all I could see was your logo and brand name repeated, the images are of a mother and baby in a pushchair, you haven’t replied and told me what services you want to promote in Google rankings, what search terms are you looking to target UK Nationwide?
SPANISH INQUISITION: Well, I’m going to search for another SEO. I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition, I just want to be at the top of Google. Thank you for your time I’m going to find another SEO with a focus on customer happiness!!
ME: no reply
Dreamweaver Lady Doesn’t Believe Me (2019)
Dreamweaver: Hi Nina, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to come across your website, I have been longing to find someone with your skill set for years.
I have a niche hotel in XXX area. I am a totally self-taught web designer. I have learned the little I know about SEO from Google webmaster (which I find is written for people who understand those things and not mere mortals like me) and also from looking at the back end of the competitions sites. I have managed to get us up to page 4 when you put in [insert niche keywords here], but it does not go to the landing page I want and I also want to be a lot higher. I have Adwords running but I have no idea how I managed to set it up and it desperately needs to be improved upon – so in short I desperately need you!
What I would be looking for is a tailored bespoke course where you could teach me the correct methods of SEO’ing, how to actually work Adwords and advice on our social media needs. Is this something you could help with? Our website is XXXX
ME: I’ve looked at your website and it’s built on Dreamweaver. I’m guessing you have always worked on Dreamweaver and you are comfortable with the platform, however in 2019 Google favours different platforms for SEO, I strongly recommend migrating your site to WordPress and only then implementing SEO or me offering a training schedule for you.
Unfortunately, I don’t build/design websites per se so I can’t offer you a quote or take your money, but I work with a local WordPress expert who offers very reasonable rates as a small business, let me know if you would like me to get a quote for you?
Dreamweaver: Thank you but no I don’t
July 2020 • The Yoast Partner Saga with LSEO
I found this one odd, I was wrangling a highly non-technical client with huge distrust for anyone in tech. He’d got the budget but wasn’t able to understand my efforts, not appreciate the extra (non chargeable) hours I’d committed myself to. I was providing visuals and simple explanations of my genius problem solving abilities, unfortunately, they only confused him even further.
In one hour, he had reversed a Google change of address during the SEO migration process. I was in tears of despair and resorted to pleading, all wasted breath. I hated the thought of all my work being deleted.
I tweeted and Joost sent me a DM asking for more details of the following situation. I had a #cluelessclient who did not understand anything I did, and despite hours on the phone, he could not grasp any concept of what I was saying. Our relationship broke down when he said that divorcing his wife was less painful than working with me! As of 30th November 2020 LSEO remain to be promoted on the Yoast website despite the red flags and concerns I raised.
“My client emailed me over the weekend distraught. He’s not had many enquiries recently and whilst I gently suggested COVID (he’s a structural engineer in London) he had the weekend to meltdown and start to look for answers himself.”
- #cluelessclient wanted to migrate from his .info TLD to his.com TLD. Verified, Google Change Of Address Tool, all done in 24 hours. Important to remember. This was in May/June 2020.
- I sent him a SEMrush pro report. He called me and asked “What is it? What does it say?” It was the keyword report. Nothing fancy. I told the client to stop going down a rabbit hole on things he had never heard of (SEMrush) and ask him what he wanted me to report (“Everything, I don’t know”) and I didn’t reply as I needed him to focus on his website not running off loose on the internet.
- He was genuinely over-excited to have met me and I was stoked to get to prove myself before SEO work started we agreed on search terms and together we Google searched the phrases and the penny dropped he wasn’t ranking at all. Sad client face.
- 30 days later I had demonstrated a gigantic leap for all of his search phrases. Party time, celebrations for Google page 1. Happy client face.
- The second website he wanted SEO’ing, same routine, not ranking and in 30 days I had ranked him to Google page 1. Quiet client. He’s moving offices, a huge task for one man and his company of 30 subcontractors and employees. I understand quiet.
- Yesterday (Sunday 6th July 2020), an email out of the blue how he’s panicking. He doesn’t like my SEO content on his homepage. Note: I was in discussion with his developer to tweak this to be more aesthetically pleasing. I reassured him we could talk about a design compromise vs SEO.
- This is where it starts to get odd. He called Yoast and spoke to someone. He’s got a premium account, but in 12 years of my career, I’ve never heard of anyone speak to Yoast. More prodding, he says it was a Yoast Partner but refused to forward me any emails.
- I tweeted Joost DV who DM’d me
- I forwarded the reply to him, he then told me to look at the reports in his email that the Yoast Partner had sent. There is a report for the .info TLD showing a bomb in traffic, obviously because I migrated to the .com domain. The client is now on an extinction burst, screaming on the phone. Said he regretted meeting me more than he regrets his 27 year marriage breaking down. He was inconsolable. Said he was going to roll back both websites! This I did have to interrupt and beg.
- I told him, I said “I’m begging you, please don’t roll back your websites” I listened a lot, let him rant, and asked for 24 hours. Reluctantly he agreed.
- I manually did a keyword search and yup, he’s still Google page 1 for both websites
- The client told the Yoast Partner I had told him about my Skyscraper Content, was it good? The client stated on the phone that the Yoast partner said that “No, it’s better to have ten small blog posts than one (or more) skyscraper posts
- Yoast Partner then said BOLLOCKS in their email when the client relayed that I combined 3 blog posts into 1 Skyscraper content. I do avoid swearing when dealing with clients so this was very concerning. Also, please do accept my apologies for saying bollocks.
- This is where alarm bells rang. Also, they told the client that his huge drop in Google (untrue) is due to a missing canonical tag
- Client fired me. Refused to answer any of my messages or emails. I don’t care that I’ve been fired, if the email is genuinely from LSEO then I would be concerned. However it could be a scammer posing at LSEO as it’s the first company to be mentioned on your partner’s page. Also there is zero mention of them saying they are a current Yoast partner on their website. The only reference is a 2015 blog https:// lseo.com/kris-jones-interview-seo-expert-wordpress-plugin-guru-yoast/ when I use site:lseo.com yoast partner
- Client refuses to forward me the emails saying he doesn’t need to prove anything to me. I’m angry if he has been scammed the 2 scenarios here are LSEO.com saying
- 1 – A) Skyscraper content isn’t effective and B) a re=canonical tag is responsible for C) [a non existent] “website drop in rankings” demonstated by the sharp decline of a TLD that’s no longer live and is 301’ing over to his .com domain
- 2 – There’s a company pretending to be LSEO.com. Which I can’t prove as the client won’t forward me an original email from them.
- Client and I parted ways. I can explain SEO to someone, but I can’t understand it for them