SEO Horror Story #11

Take heed, all of you who read this seo horror story, for you would not want to suffer the same — or a worse — fate.

My story begins in 2006 … my not-for-profit company began the difficult task of migrating a web site of approximately 20,000 pages in depth, from one content management system to a new content management system. To facilitate this daunting task, a third party tool was used during the operation to migrate the content. The migration tool caused hidden, duplicate meta tags (keywords, in particular) to be added to the source code of every page in our web site.

Since search optimization was one of my primary responsibilities, I knew these tags on our site posed potential danger. I expressed my concerns to management and even noted drops in rank for much of our content over the months. However, because the third party tool’s maker specifically assured us that placing the duplicate meta tags in the code would have no negative consequences on our site, especially since they were hidden. The hidden meta tags remained on the site so the migration could be completed.

On a cold, dreary January day in 2007, after several months with the hidden meta tags on our site, I, the webmaster, received an ominous email from Google, notifying me several of our site’s pages were removed from Google’s index because our practices had violated Google’s guidelines.

My blood ran cold. We could not lose the top referrer of traffic to our site. That could mean someone losing his/her head!

After we wrote a sincere, apologetic letter to Google requesting reinclusion, outlining the transgressions and promising to never allow them to occur again in the future, we seemed to escape the specter of a major penalty.

Whatever the reason, we were very fortunate to come from this experience uninjured, with wiser minds and more careful practices. We survived to tell our story to others.

Beware … even though Google and many other search engines may not use the keywords meta tag, if you handle it improperly, you could be doomed to suffer dire consequences!

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