Expert Focus: SEO House of Horrors

Expert Focus: SEO House of Horrors

It’s a dark and stormy night, there’s a chill down your spine and a sense of foreboding in the air. To celebrate Friday the 13th, we decided to dive into the crypt of local SEO horror stories, where the scariest tales come to life.

We summoned our brave community to share their most spine-tingling, hair-raising, and downright terrifying local SEO experiences. Prepare to be haunted by client catastrophes, cursed Google Business Profiles, and marketing stories that are best told under the cloak of darkness. Read on if you dare!

Greg "Ghostly" Gifford

Greg "Ghostly" Gifford

Chief Operating Officer at SearchLab Digital


Claire "The Crypt Keeper" Carlile

Claire "The Crypt Keeper" Carlile

Local SEO Expert at BrightLocal

In addition to Greg’s totally terrifying Q&As, Claire found even more horrifying answers on a Google Business Profile. 

As you can see, one local car dealership’s poor customer service was brought to the forefront of their GBP Q&A section. Surely answering the phone isn’t as scary as they think? 

Image (3) Image (9) 

In the words of Stephen King, “hotels are superstitious places. No thirteenth floor or room thirteen, no mirrors on the back of the door you come in through, stuff like that.”

However, the Stanley Hotel that inspired his book, The Shining, is making good use of their Q&A section, with guests asking the all-important questions. 

Screenshot 2023 10 12 At 11.30.23


Melissa "Poltergeist" Popp

Melissa "Poltergeist" Popp

Content Strategy Director at RicketyRoo

“RicketyRoo welcomed a client fleeing from an evil past agency, a villain that had orchestrated an unholy contract, claiming copyright ownership over every piece of content on the client’s existing website. Like an eerie ghost story where the antagonist traps the innocent in a haunted mansion, this agency had the client ensnared in a legal nightmare, forcing them to relinquish their own digital home.

“The terror didn’t stop there. As we hurried to recreate their website, we felt the haunting pressure of the clock ticking ominously, knowing the previous agency’s shadow loomed large. This unsettling episode wasn’t just a jump scare but a full-length horror film that unfolded right before our eyes. We managed to exorcise the client’s digital demons, but the fear for our industry—now revealed to have its own set of lurking monsters—still lingers.”


Elizabeth "Ghoul" Rule

Elizabeth "Ghoul" Rule

SEO Analyst at Sterling Sky

“Here is a Local SEO horror story I think many can relate to!!

“It takes a lot to scare me, but when a client sends an email that they have moved their office address without consulting their SEO team I get instant chills down my spine.

“The chills only get worse upon checking the new address when we discover it happens to be located in the SAME building as some of the toughest competition in their industry. This scenario would make even the bravest local SEOs want to run and hide.

“Turns out ALL the injury lawyers in the area rent offices in the same building the client just moved into… guess PI lawyers get a good deal on rent there 🙃 Cue the Psycho style scream as I realize I will need to explain to the client how the local filter was now going to be working OVERTIME on their listing and their rankings were going to take a hit. Making major business decisions without consulting your SEO team? Now THAT’S scary!!”

All These Pins Are Lawuers


Blake "Dracula" Denman

Blake "Dracula" Denman

Founder at RicketyRoo

“A former PPC client sent someone to my apartment to threaten me. The client thought I was clicking on his ads. He added single keyword, broad match and upped the budget to $5k/day. I fixed it, and he sent me a commercial grade Vitamix that was used in a Burger King promo. Still have it!”


Amy "Tomb" Toman

Amy "Tomb" Toman

SEO Analyst at Digital Law Marketing

“I’m aware of a website that has 200+ “keywords” added in an exceptionally small font on the bottom of every single page (not a footer; customized to each page). I thought that went out in 2010 2005. 😂”


Dana "Dastardly" DiTomaso

Dana "Dastardly" DiTomaso

President & Partner at Kick Point

“[I once had] a client who originally wanted to focus on organic traffic increases but then didn’t actually say what they do at their company on their website, in their marketing materials, literally anywhere at all. 😱”

 Ben "Boo" Fisher

Ben "Boo" Fisher

Founder and VP of Marketing at Steady Demand

In our latest webinar, Ben Fisher shared a rotten example of a business who created their own business signage to get their GBP verified… This led to a suspension, and we all know there’s no worse local SEO horror story than a GBP suspension! 


Celeste "Gory" Gonzalez

Celeste "Gory" Gonzalez

SEO Strategist at RicketyRoo

“A client demanded to know why they did not receive the same amount of leads as they did the year before when they had never done SEO before or tracked leads from their website. Their leads from the previous year came from their paper flyers, Facebook groups, and NextDoor posts. Then that same client then also was upset about Google Ads leads coming from the location radius that he had set and confirmed with our PPC team.”


Krystal "Fang" Taing

Krystal "Fang" Taing

Solutions Engineer, Strategic Partnerships at Uberall

“I once had a multi-location eyeglass retailer where a customer spammed their listings and added pictures of Lord Voldemort in glasses to about 50 different locations. This was fun reporting and escalating to Google! “

“Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

The Fly (1986)

Even More Tales from the Web-keepers

We also asked our community of local SEOs for their spooky tales, and let’s just say, you might want to sit down reading some of these; they’re guaranteed to scare the hell out of you (or at least make you laugh!). 

Nina P, SEO Lady shared:

“The eCommerce [I owned] sold same sex wedding table decorations, like Mr & Mr / Mrs & Mrs. However, it’s a site I built which had my home office address [on it]. Putting it on Google Maps was a dreadful mistake. We had swingers knocking on the door asking to buy latex clothing and wanting to come in. I still have an answerphone message with a mobile phone number asking me whether I’d like some fun this weekend!”

Nina followed up with another story…

“I was in Tunisia on holiday with my school friend and drinking wine by the pool when my phone pinged and it was the front door CCTV. A very dapper older gentleman with white hair, a leather man bag and golf umbrella was waiting.

“My husband answered the door, there was a short exchange, and the door slammed leaving the gentleman standing there for a second.

“My phone pinged, hubby was furious. Marriage ending mad. “WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?” and I had to put down my wine.

“The gent had politely enquired what range of butt plugs we had in stock, and could he come in to take a look at our toys. What surprised us both is that we are on a residential street with no shop front. 

“My husband thought I was having an affair! I explained about Google Business and in 15 years not one person has come knocking on our door to speak with the SEO Lady. Clearly I’d underestimated the gravitas of naming my business which was named Same Sex Gifts on Maps and Facebook.  

“When I got home I hid our address. The domain and eCommerce site are for sale 😉.” 

Ash Nallawalla explained:

“I didn’t keep a screenshot, but my detailed check of a bank’s GBPs showed a horror story that had not been picked up. Google had scrambled up entries of many entities. e.g. Bank A’s ATM showed the address of Bank B or of Bank C, all on the same page. During the same Google glitch, I lost my own “Melbourne SEO” ranking in GBP to a competitor on the same floor of our building. Their photos were shown among ours and the two addresses were mixed up.”

Stefan Janjić Lozo told us: 

“There’s an auto wrecker and spare parts business in Serbia where the reviews on the business are becoming a meme in the region.”

A note from BrightLocal:

Upon further investigation, we found the owner of the business is just plain rude to his customers! We’ll keep the business anonymous, but as you can see from the 1-star review below, he’s certainly left a curse on his customers!

This, in turn, has led to an onslaught of reviews from those commending his rudeness, and as Stefan says, has turned into a bit of a meme.

The website even details at length, how not to behave and communicate with him. The translation includes “Please do not call us before 9am and after 9pm. Most people know when to call, but there are also those who for some reason think it’s okay to call in the morning at 6am or in the evening after 11pm!?” 

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“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began…”

Stephen King, It (1986) 🎈

And with that, we close the book on spooky stories, hide the book in a locked box, and keep the locked box well out of sight. Have a great Friday 13th, and remember to avoid breaking mirrors, crossing black cats, or getting your GBP suspended.

Jenny Bernarde
About the author
Jenny looks after the BrightLocal community, through managing our social media channels, connecting with our community, and producing our online webinars.

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