LogoGarden is a DYI logo maker platform, where anyone can create logos easily from a library of elements, and recently they got kicked way back in search results for their primary keywords:  Logo Design, Logo Maker and Logo Creator.

In a blog post, Negative SEO  Victim  Strikes Back, John Williams goes on to explain how his website was “Google Bowled,” which means that someone paid to create low quality backlinks for logogarden.com in order to spam it and push it back in search results.

That’s one opinion as to what brought their website down on Google, and it might be  absolutely  correct. BUT, I do have an opinion of my own on how LogoGarden’s misdirected marketing budget led to their SEO demise.

UPDATE: John Williams left an excellent reply comment with additional information on this situation and my remarks. See comments for the reply, and don’t forget to add your 2 cents to the conversation.

Misdirected online marketing budget

In a comment reply on that post, Williams explained what his marketing expenses were:

LogoGarden Marketing Expenses

So, they were paying SlingShotSEO (their SEO firm) $10,000/mo to build backlinks. White hat only, no link buying.

Next, $1500/day went on AdWords. This would be an excellent investment, but it was poorly executed. See Mistake #6.

Lastly, they spent $50k on “optimizing our site.” Honestly, a well developed free WordPress theme has better on-page optimization than LogoGarden website.

After I reviewed their website, and did some searching around – I couldn’t believe that what I found was worth $100k. That’s why I wanted to touch upon their mistakes, I’m certain, led to their SEO demise in whole or in part.

Mistake #1: Very poor on-page optimization

LogoGarden’s pages and blog posts lack H2 and H3 tags. Not all pages, but all blog posts lack at least H2 tag. The blog post title is H1, they did get this one right. But the sub-headings use <strong> rather than H2 or H3, and lack keywords.

Sub-headings should definitely be either H2 or H3, and the keywords in the text body should get emphasis with bold,  italicized, or underlined styling.

Blog posts do not have any images, just blocks of text. File names and alt tags provide additional opportunity to add a keyword, plus they do add a visual cue to help make reading less daunting and engage readers.

Mistake #2: Lack of quality fresh content

45 undated posts about logo design is not quality content. It’s pretty clear they were written with SEO, not customers in mind.

If LogoGarden spent even a fraction of what they spent on SEO and Adwords on producing valuable content they would be better off, and I’m certain they would not be in this predicament.

Not only do you use content to rank for your keywords and get Google love, but you also become thought leader in your industry – attracting more visitors and converting them to loyal customers.

Backlinks and AdWords campaigns come and go, suck up way too much of your marketing budget, and do not provide value to your customers. If you focus on producing valuable content, SEO takes care of itself – and you build relationships with your customers before they even know they are your customer.

If only businesses realized how important content marketing strategy is, we’d live in a better world.

[tweet]Building backlinks should spice up your marketing like pepper, not be the whole freaking entree. – Click to Tweet[/tweet]

In addition, Google likes fresh content. Removing date from the blog post doesn’t make it fresh. Google knows, don’t mess with the big G. In their eyes, LogoGarden has no value.

Mistake #3: Working with a secretive SEO firm

I did request a list of links that SlingShot secured for LogoGarden. They would not supply the links because they said it was against their policy. I was not happy with this.

SlingshotSEO did not want to disclose what backlinks they got for LogoGarden, clearly they have something to hide. What’s so important about those links?

When your client goes from SEO hero to a zero on your watch, you better be doing everything in your power to either show the client that you had no control over what happened or taking full responsibility for it.

If SlingshotSEO had nothing to do with LogoGarden’s demise, why not make the client happy by overlooking your so called policy and show him every single link you’ve built? After all, it is your reputation that is at stake.

NOTE: SlingshotSEO does good work for their clients, but their secretive policy makes me question their practices, especially in this case.

Mistake #4: Tracking SEO firm’s progress

Here’s what I see, tell me what you see:

Google Backlinks

I see 37 results of backlinks that Google sees.

Is that what $10,000/mo gets you these days?

Alexa has a different number, but really, who cares about Alexa?

What do you see here?

Bing Index

One result? Are you kidding me? That’s how many pages Bing indexed.

Bing just increased their market share in the US to 18.3% in April of 2012, according to Compete data. It’s not as big as Google, but it is still a very sizable portion. Plus, Bing’s major benefit is its social search integrated with Facebook. You really should be there!

My point is this, what in the world are you paying for?

Yes, they did help you get to #6 for your keyword, but with what methods? They didn’t expect Panda update, it took them by surprise while annihilating your website.

If you’re paying someone to deliver results, do ask for progress and methods used to deliver those results. It is your business’ reputation that is at stake here, protect it.

Mistake #5: Hidden text in source code

This might be a mistake on their part, as it seemed to be a popup of some sort. But I’ve looked, and looked, and looked, but could not find any links that activate it. So, in my humble opinion it’s hidden text that Google will frown upon.

Hidden Text

It was a pop up, but now there are no links to activate it.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was a mistake in removing a package they were offering some time ago. But it is in source code on all pages, hidden, with no way for people to see. You just don’t know what the next Google update might bring.

Mistake #6: PPC investment down the drain

They spent $1,500/day on AdWords advertising. That’s $45k/mo. It’s a hefty investment, but I wonder if they are able to recover that investment every month with new orders. My guess? Not.

Honestly, I would like to slap whoever is doing their PPC campaigns and wasting thousands of dollars. What are they doing wrong?

I checked different ads, and they ALL go to the homepage. Really? Why don’t you just start throwing money out of the window like that Russian millionaire. That’s really what you’re doing when your PPC ads are going to general site pages instead of highly targeted and optimized landing pages.

Mistake #7: Not having  comprehensive  online marketing plan

Based on the post and what they were paying for, LogoGarden was trying to game the system by building links and using some mediocre content targeted for the keywords, and heavily relying on Adwords (with an incompetent campaign manager).

An effective and comprehensive online marketing plan addresses all 5 activities.

  1. Content marketing – writing valuable content in a form of blog posts, content pages, landing pages, multimedia and downloadables (ebooks, white papers, etc.).
  2. SEO – on-page and off-page, complementing content marketing strategy.
  3. Email Marketing – lead nurturing campaigns/autoresponders and timely newsletters or email blasts.
  4. Social media – monitoring, engaging, curating, and customer service.
  5. PPC – if budget allows, Adwords, Facebook ads, Linkedin ads, etc.

The most successful businesses are the ones that are able to combine all 5 elements to align them with business goals and begin attracting customers and clients consistently. These businesses do not worry about Google updates, because their valuable content is read and seen by thousands of people, linked to by thousands of websites, and they are a true thought leader in their industry.

That’s my opinion on the matter. Even if LogoGarden did get spammed with backlinks, it doesn’t make up for these mistakes, especially the grotesque PPC mistake.

What do you think?

  • http://www.LogoGarden.com john williams

    Viktor, thanks for taking the time to analyze LogoGarden’s situation. An extremely professional job. I agree with much of your analysis, but not all. Here’s a point-by-point reply.

    1. “Poor on-page optimization”
    Might well be the case. We retained two SEO firms with top reputations, both recommended by SEOmoz.org: Stone Temple and Slingshot. In each case, we did exactly what the firm recommended. After all, that’s what we paid them for. It doesn’t necessarily mean they made good recommendations. Caveat emptor.

    2. “Lack of quality fresh content”
    You’re right. A few bits of context:
    a) We made a tough choice, pouring resources into technology development, while deferring some marketing expenses (except for hefty SEO fees). That’s about to change. Within weeks, it will be a whole new ballgame. We are completing a major technology development initiative that includes a kick-butt DIY website builder. Also a new “freemium” business model. I believe this combination will seriously disrupt the industry as DIY logos did before. Once this technology’s launched, we’ll be lavishing attention on marketing. You will see fresh, quality content showing up frequently at LogoGarden.com. Should we have done this earlier? Of course. Could we have? Perhaps. We made our decisions as we saw them at the time.
    b) Regarding the undated posts: Here again, we followed SEO experts’ recommendations, publishing legitimate, original but older material — which you correctly assessed. Another example of our paying for advice that in hindsight delivered arguable value.

    3. “Secretive SEO firm”
    Absolutely correct. To further validate your point: We actually fired that firm partly because they wouldn’t provide us with certain information I felt we had a right to see. In early June, 2012, I requested the links once again. They refused even when I offered to pay for this service

    4. “Tracking progress”
    “. . .They did help you get to #6”. Not quite right. We retained the firm after we had already achieved Google page 1 position in organic search for key terms such as logo design. We retained the firm to help consolidate our hard-won gains and keep improving.
    Please remember: despite critiques of possible missteps with regard to SEO — I’m agree with you on much of it — we did work hard within our resources to play by Google’s rules as we saw them. And, fact is, LogoGarden was rewarded with a classic slow, gradual march over an approximate 12-month period from invisibility to the first dozen Google pages, then moving up to page 3, then page 2 and finally, slowly, edging onto page 1 — with absolutely no black hat activity on our part. It was very exciting to see this happen. So, the evidence in front of our eyes seemed to be telling us we were doing things right. I can’t explain it, I’m just reporting what actually happened.
    That’s not all. I previously developed and launched the first-ever DIY logo site, LogoYes.com, and drove it to the prized #1 Google spot for key search terms — again, playing by Google’s rules — before I sold LogoYes to Web.com. This earlier experience made LogoGarden’s gradual advance even more a validation of what seemed at the time like doing things right.
    Now, in retrospect, did we get poor value from the money LogoGarden recently spent on SEO expertise? Absolutely. If I could do it over, I would have specified data points — performance benchmarks — and negotiated these into the SEO service agreement at the get-go. In fact I actually did try this with one of the firms, and allowed myself to be dissuaded in favor of general nonbinding promises of results. One of several lessons learned.
    When we were blown off Google page 1, the SEO firm had no idea why. As mentioned, they wouldn’t supply me with link data so I could do my own diagnosis. That’s when I fired them.

    5. “Hidden text”
    Correct again: the seemingly hidden code was a mistake — not cloaking or any sort of intentionally act. In an earlier round of development, it was a popup, later abandoned but not removed. Thanks for catching it. We’ll track down the vestigial code and delete it.

    6. “PPC. . .down the drain”
    A reasonable inference, but very much incorrect on this point.
    We break even on our PPC investment and consider it money well spent. Why? Because we have a recurring revenue model. We acquire a customer at a given cost, and that customer eventually comes back to replenish their business cards or make other purchases. We generate gradual profits over the long term.
    Which, by the way, requires a boatload of very satisfied customers. Our customer satisfaction level is consistently in the stratosphere — for us, a key performance indicator.
    Regarding “all going to the homepage”: Actually it’s not all: some long-tail traffic is linked to industry-specific internal pages, such as automotive or real estate.
    However, you are essentially right that a lot of our traffic is indeed directed to our homepage. And, you may be surprised, that strategy has been serving us extremely well. The bounce rate from our homepage is only 30% — incredibly low. (Btw, we have also been seeing take-rates and conversion rates from links at a major affiliate site that are astronomical — higher than anything we’d predicted or, for that matter, have ever heard of.)

    Of course, you couldn’t know all that by peering in from the outside. If you’d phoned me when doing your analysis, I would have been glad to share the info with you ahead of time. But given the evidence that was visible to you without picking up the phone, I think you did a remarkably good job.
    Frankly, it makes me wish I’d retained you instead of other firms. 20-20 hindsight.

    7. “No comprehensive plan”
    Here again, not quite right. As pointed out, we feel we didn’t game the system, but rather played by the rules as we understood them at the time. Generally speaking, this approach had worked brilliantly for my previous company and was showing solid, consistent and very encouraging results over a long period of time for LogoGarden. Then the roof fell in.
    This does not mean your critiques are invalid. Quite the reverse: as noted, I consider most of your points valid and relevant. You’ve got my full attention and I hope others can learn from my mistakes, as I intend to also.
    We do, in fact, have a comprehensive online marketing plan in place. After the major launch I mentioned earlier, you will see it in action. It will look much like what you’ve outlined, and more. Stay tuned.

    One more thing. In your intro, you did mention regarding our being Google bowled that “it might be absolutely correct” even though your opinion differs. Despite your extremely astute analysis, I have very strong evidence that we were indeed sabotaged with a continuing barrage of junk backlinks. Further, the timing suggests to me that it was the primary reason why, after a year of steady advancement with Google natural searches, we fell off the map — while maintaining strong position with other search engines such as Yahoo!. I’d be glad to share that evidence with you, as well as other details to fill in the picture.

    Thanks again for an overall outstanding job. I very much appreciate your interest in our case.

    John WIlliams

    • Viktor

      Hello John,
      Thanks for taking the time to reply, and offer additional information on everything. Much appreciated. I’ll include a note in the post, so readers can read it too.

      One big thing I took away from your situation is that recommendations are not indicative of a good service or success.

      Good to hear that you have a new plan in works, and looking forward to seeing it in action. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you ever need anything, will be more than happy to assist and offer my 2 cents, just so you don’t get invited to Google’s bowling alley again. One of my upcoming launches is for a service called Project Army (projectarmy.net), online marketing and web development outsourcing for small/mid-size businesses on a budget, but with my vision of content oriented approach. I just hate seeing small biz fail because they have no means to do or knowledge of online marketing, and wanted to offer my solution to US recession – at least I can wish that =)

      Looking forward to seeing the new DYI website creator. Many out there, but yet to find a really good one that’s optimized for lead generation, not just looking pretty.

      Thanks again, stay in touch.
      Viktor

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  • http://www.LogoGarden.com john williams

    Viktor, thanks for taking the time to analyze LogoGarden’s situation. An extremely professional job. I agree with much of your analysis, but not all. Here’s a point-by-point reply.

    1. “Poor on-page optimization”
    Might well be the case. We retained two SEO firms with top reputations, both recommended by SEOmoz.org: Stone Temple and Slingshot. In each case, we did exactly what the firm recommended. After all, that’s what we paid them for. It doesn’t necessarily mean they made good recommendations. Caveat emptor.

    2. “Lack of quality fresh content”
    You’re right. A few bits of context:
    a) We made a tough choice, pouring resources into technology development, while deferring some marketing expenses (except for hefty SEO fees). That’s about to change. Within weeks, it will be a whole new ballgame. We are completing a major technology development initiative that includes a kick-butt DIY website builder. Also a new “freemium” business model. I believe this combination will seriously disrupt the industry as DIY logos did before. Once this technology’s launched, we’ll be lavishing attention on marketing. You will see fresh, quality content showing up frequently at LogoGarden.com. Should we have done this earlier? Of course. Could we have? Perhaps. We made our decisions as we saw them at the time.
    b) Regarding the undated posts: Here again, we followed SEO experts’ recommendations, publishing legitimate, original but older material — which you correctly assessed. Another example of our paying for advice that in hindsight delivered arguable value.

    3. “Secretive SEO firm”
    Absolutely correct. To further validate your point: We actually fired that firm partly because they wouldn’t provide us with certain information I felt we had a right to see. In early June, 2012, I requested the links once again. They refused even when I offered to pay for this service

    4. “Tracking progress”
    “. . .They did help you get to #6”. Not quite right. We retained the firm after we had already achieved Google page 1 position in organic search for key terms such as logo design. We retained the firm to help consolidate our hard-won gains and keep improving.
    Please remember: despite critiques of possible missteps with regard to SEO — I’m agree with you on much of it — we did work hard within our resources to play by Google’s rules as we saw them. And, fact is, LogoGarden was rewarded with a classic slow, gradual march over an approximate 12-month period from invisibility to the first dozen Google pages, then moving up to page 3, then page 2 and finally, slowly, edging onto page 1 — with absolutely no black hat activity on our part. It was very exciting to see this happen. So, the evidence in front of our eyes seemed to be telling us we were doing things right. I can’t explain it, I’m just reporting what actually happened.
    That’s not all. I previously developed and launched the first-ever DIY logo site, LogoYes.com, and drove it to the prized #1 Google spot for key search terms — again, playing by Google’s rules — before I sold LogoYes to Web.com. This earlier experience made LogoGarden’s gradual advance even more a validation of what seemed at the time like doing things right.
    Now, in retrospect, did we get poor value from the money LogoGarden recently spent on SEO expertise? Absolutely. If I could do it over, I would have specified data points — performance benchmarks — and negotiated these into the SEO service agreement at the get-go. In fact I actually did try this with one of the firms, and allowed myself to be dissuaded in favor of general nonbinding promises of results. One of several lessons learned.
    When we were blown off Google page 1, the SEO firm had no idea why. As mentioned, they wouldn’t supply me with link data so I could do my own diagnosis. That’s when I fired them.

    5. “Hidden text”
    Correct again: the seemingly hidden code was a mistake — not cloaking or any sort of intentionally act. In an earlier round of development, it was a popup, later abandoned but not removed. Thanks for catching it. We’ll track down the vestigial code and delete it.

    6. “PPC. . .down the drain”
    A reasonable inference, but very much incorrect on this point.
    We break even on our PPC investment and consider it money well spent. Why? Because we have a recurring revenue model. We acquire a customer at a given cost, and that customer eventually comes back to replenish their business cards or make other purchases. We generate gradual profits over the long term.
    Which, by the way, requires a boatload of very satisfied customers. Our customer satisfaction level is consistently in the stratosphere — for us, a key performance indicator.
    Regarding “all going to the homepage”: Actually it’s not all: some long-tail traffic is linked to industry-specific internal pages, such as automotive or real estate.
    However, you are essentially right that a lot of our traffic is indeed directed to our homepage. And, you may be surprised, that strategy has been serving us extremely well. The bounce rate from our homepage is only 30% — incredibly low. (Btw, we have also been seeing take-rates and conversion rates from links at a major affiliate site that are astronomical — higher than anything we’d predicted or, for that matter, have ever heard of.)

    Of course, you couldn’t know all that by peering in from the outside. If you’d phoned me when doing your analysis, I would have been glad to share the info with you ahead of time. But given the evidence that was visible to you without picking up the phone, I think you did a remarkably good job.
    Frankly, it makes me wish I’d retained you instead of other firms. 20-20 hindsight.

    7. “No comprehensive plan”
    Here again, not quite right. As pointed out, we feel we didn’t game the system, but rather played by the rules as we understood them at the time. Generally speaking, this approach had worked brilliantly for my previous company and was showing solid, consistent and very encouraging results over a long period of time for LogoGarden. Then the roof fell in.
    This does not mean your critiques are invalid. Quite the reverse: as noted, I consider most of your points valid and relevant. You’ve got my full attention and I hope others can learn from my mistakes, as I intend to also.
    We do, in fact, have a comprehensive online marketing plan in place. After the major launch I mentioned earlier, you will see it in action. It will look much like what you’ve outlined, and more. Stay tuned.

    One more thing. In your intro, you did mention regarding our being Google bowled that “it might be absolutely correct” even though your opinion differs. Despite your extremely astute analysis, I have very strong evidence that we were indeed sabotaged with a continuing barrage of junk backlinks. Further, the timing suggests to me that it was the primary reason why, after a year of steady advancement with Google natural searches, we fell off the map — while maintaining strong position with other search engines such as Yahoo!. I’d be glad to share that evidence with you, as well as other details to fill in the picture.

    Thanks again for an overall outstanding job. I very much appreciate your interest in our case.

    John WIlliams

  • Viktor

    Hello John,
    Thanks for taking the time to reply, and offer additional information on everything. Much appreciated. I’ll include a note in the post, so readers can read it too.

    One big thing I took away from your situation is that recommendations are not indicative of a good service or success.

    Good to hear that you have a new plan in works, and looking forward to seeing it in action. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you ever need anything, will be more than happy to assist and offer my 2 cents, just so you don’t get invited to Google’s bowling alley again. One of my upcoming launches is for a service called Project Army (projectarmy.net), online marketing and web development outsourcing for small/mid-size businesses on a budget, but with my vision of content oriented approach. I just hate seeing small biz fail because they have no means to do or knowledge of online marketing, and wanted to offer my solution to US recession – at least I can wish that =)

    Looking forward to seeing the new DYI website creator. Many out there, but yet to find a really good one that’s optimized for lead generation, not just looking pretty.

    Thanks again, stay in touch.
    Viktor

  • http://www.MySpiritTools.com Jeff

    You’ve probably already considered this, but it sounds to me like SlingshotSEO was trying to help your site by creating spammy backlinks… then when it backfired, they didn’t want to give you the evidence.

    Is this plausible?

  • Viktor

    Hi Jeff, it is very possible. We’ll never know, only SlingshotSEO will know what really happened there. It’s possible they were building “good” links, but with Google changes those links became bad and hurt LogoGarden’s SEO – in this case they either did not want to accept responsibility for it or did not know what happened. But, this is pure speculation. It is possible, also, they did nothing wrong and someone did spam LogoGarden.