Learning From 5 Real-Life SEO Mistakes

We uncover the top 5 real-world SEO blunders and turn them into invaluable lessons for boosting your website's search rankings and online success.

SEO is very much a journey of peaks and troughs, but it is essential for growing businesses online despite being tricky to get right. The digital world changes fast; what worked yesterday might not work today. We can avoid making the same mistakes by learning from others' errors. Whether you're a business owner, marketer, or just curious about SEO, this blog will guide you through the do's and don'ts.

We'll learn from 5 real examples of what went wrong, so you can be better prepared to achieve online success.


On the 3rd of May 2020, LinkedIn encountered a startling SEO incident. A significant chunk of their content mysteriously vanished from Google Search, leaving users puzzled. The site:www.linkedin.com query returned zero results, indicating that Google had deindexed LinkedIn's pages within the WWW subdomain.

For a few hours, this hiccup had a sweeping impact, affecting hundreds of millions of web pages on the platform. As the SEO community speculated about the root cause, neither LinkedIn nor Google issued an official statement, shrouding the incident in uncertainty.

Here we can see on Ahrefs the dip in traffic between April and June

However, a likely explanation emerged from a tweet by Google's John Mueller, pointing the finger at LinkedIn itself. The deindexing may have been triggered when LinkedIn attempted to canonicalize its HTTP version to HTTPS using the Google Search Console Removals Tool. Unfortunately, this resulted in the removal of all other variants, including HTTPS, WWW, and non-WWW versions.

In essence, LinkedIn may have inadvertently eliminated its presence from Google's search results while attempting to transition to HTTPS. This raises a crucial lesson for all website owners: using Google Search Console's URL removals tool to handle domain redirects is not the most prudent approach. While the tool is useful for temporarily blocking outdated or inappropriate content, it can lead to unintended consequences if used carelessly.

For a quick and proper transition to HTTPS, implementing 301 redirects would have been a much smarter strategy. These redirects instruct search engines to treat the new HTTPS version as the permanent destination for the old HTTP URLs, preserving the website's search rankings and organic traffic.

The incident serves as a reminder of the critical role of meticulous SEO management and the potential consequences of misusing powerful tools. With proper handling, businesses can ensure a seamless transition while preserving their hard-earned search visibility and user engagement.’


Perhaps best known now for their social media channels, Ryanair found themselves perilously close to a significant SEO setback, all due to one seemingly innocent change. On the 7th of May 2020, a modification was made to their robots.txt file - a simple directive to disallow all website crawlers.

The robots.txt file is a crucial component that instructs search engine crawlers on which parts of a website they should or shouldn't access. In Ryanair's case, this change meant search engines were told to stop crawling the entire website. Although the consequences weren't immediate, over time, Ryanair's organic visibility would have gradually plummeted.

The directive remained in effect for a startling 12 days, from May 7th to May 19th. Using the Wayback Machine, we can observe that almost all the content in the robots.txt file was erased and rewritten to prohibit crawling altogether. While the possibility of an accidental update is minimal, no official statements were made, leaving us to wonder about the true intent behind the change.

Ryanair Robots.txt before the change
Ryanair Robots.txt after the change

Numerous theories surfaced regarding the reason behind this action. Some speculated that Ryanair might have wanted to decrease their organic visibility to reduce bookings during a time when the travel sector faced immense challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another theory suggested a disgruntled ex-employee could be behind the change, seeking revenge after being laid off. However, without any official explanation, the real motive remains a mystery.

Fortunately, Ryanair escaped noticeable harm to their SEO visibility. According to Ahrefs data, they didn't experience any significant drop in organic traffic during the period of the robots.txt file alteration. Nonetheless, the situation could have turned dire if the issue had gone unnoticed or unaddressed.

This incident serves as a stark reminder that even the smallest elements of a website can lead to significant consequences. The robots.txt file, one of the oldest and most sensitive components, can have highly disruptive effects if not handled with utmost care.

For businesses, this near miss highlights the importance of vigilant monitoring and proactive measures to prevent similar SEO disasters. Quick detection and correction of such errors can safeguard a website's online visibility and overall performance.


ASOS, the trendsetting fashion industry icon, suffered a significant setback in its financial report for 2018-19, with pre-tax profits plummeting by 87%. The decline, from £29.9 million in August 2018 to £4 million in February 2019, revealed a glaring flaw in their SEO and organic search strategies.

While ASOS acknowledged that its strong existing customer base contributed to its growth, it faced challenges in acquiring new customers. To tackle this issue, the brand launched 200 versions of its website, to target users based on origin countries to cater to specific search queries and explore untapped markets.

The online fashion retail found themselves in a spot of bother thanks to this blunder.

Although the initiative seemed promising, ASOS made critical oversights that wreaked havoc on their SEO performance. The microsites they created resulted in duplicate content, cannibalization, and doorway pages, negatively affecting their search rankings. Additionally, ASOS introduced significant changes to the UX/UI of its website, aiming to enhance product rendering, but it came with a grave consequence - a homepage that took an astonishing 12 seconds to load.

Such a slow page load time, far beyond Google's recommended 2-second benchmark, inevitably led to a higher bounce rate, further harming ASOS's search engine rankings. Unfortunately, the site's organic traffic and organic keyword performance suffered for around two years between 2017 and 2019.

To avoid this debacle, ASOS could have conducted A/B split testing of the site redesign with segments of its audience, which would have revealed the issue with slow load times. While there may have been testing involved, the lack of attention to SEO implications proved to be a significant mistake.

Having an SEO team in place is essential for any successful online business, as they act as consultants, monitor technical aspects, and implement new tools. However, simply having an SEO team is not enough; their expertise must be taken into account and acted upon. Basic SEO fundamentals could have helped detect and prevent the issues faced by ASOS.

Warner Bros.

In the dynamic world of film marketing, even entertainment giants like Warner Bros. are not immune to the repercussions of neglecting SEO. A hard lesson was learned when they released a new movie centered around the beloved DC character, Harley Quinn. Unfortunately, their failure to prioritize SEO cost them over $16 million in losses.

Not an actual screening of "Birds of Prey" but it may well have been thanks to this oversight

The movie's initial title, "Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn," had a critical flaw. By not placing Harley Quinn's name at the beginning of the title, Warner Bros. inadvertently triggered an issue. When users searched for 'Birds of Prey,' the results led them to an entirely different category, unrelated to the Warner Bros. film. The title order lacked clarity, akin to as if they had released a film called "The Philosopher's Stone: The First Year of Hogwarts School for Harry Potter." It just doesn’t make sense as Harry Potter is clearly the searchable term for the film series.

Recognizing the importance of keywords, Warner Bros. eventually rebranded the movie as "Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey." However, the damage had already been done. Without Harley Quinn's name upfront, the movie struggled to rank well in searches, making it challenging for the audience to find it. Despite critical acclaim, the movie underperformed significantly at the box office, only grossing $33 million domestically, falling short of the expected $50 million.

The root cause of this marketing disaster was the neglect of SEO fundamentals. On this occasion, Warner Bros. failed to conduct proper keyword research and competitor analysis. They overlooked examining what content was already ranking for their intended search queries and didn't assess their chances of outperforming competitors.

Eventually, Warner Bros. acknowledged their mistake and changed the movie title due to  “search expansion for ticket sites”. The hard lesson they learned was clear: SEO is crucial even in the film industry. There is a line between creative freedom and optimisation and just like other businesses launching new products or services, involving SEO specialists in the process is essential to avoid costly oversights.

Warner Bros.' experience highlights the value of thorough research, strategic planning, and the involvement of SEO experts to optimize visibility and drive audiences to their offerings.

Toys R Us

In the ever-evolving digital landscape, SEO plays a pivotal role in the success of businesses, even the most iconic ones. A poignant example is the story of Toys R Us, a beloved brand that failed to grasp the significance of proper domain management and redirects, leading to a catastrophic downfall.

Back in 2009, as e-commerce boomed, Toys R Us saw an opportunity and purchased the domain Toys.com to compete in the online market. However, they overlooked a critical aspect - setting up proper 301 redirects from Toys.com to their primary domain, ToysRUs.com. Consequently, when users searched for Toys.com, Google removed all indexes from its pages, effectively killing the newly acquired website.

This mistake ultimately started the dominos towards the end of Toys R Us

By failing to implement the domain correctly, Toys R Us missed out on hundreds of thousands of potential users and sessions, as organic traffic intended for Toys.com never reached the desired destination. Moreover, they squandered the chance to strategically redirect users to specific pages relevant to their search queries, potentially boosting their conversion rates.

The oversight came back to haunt Toys R Us in 2018 when they faced financial troubles and eventually went into administration. While other factors played a role, the lack of a robust digital strategy and SEO certainly contributed a significant amount to their demise.

Even in their recent attempts at a comeback, the neglect for SEO continues to haunt Toys R Us. They had over 1000 broken backlinks, and core URLs from the old site were left unredirected, causing a frustrating experience for users and search engines alike.

To add to the woes, the website's restructuring involved a 302 redirect, which signals to search engines that the change is temporary. Google struggled to pick up and index new pages on their new site, hindering their chances of rebuilding a strong online presence.

The cautionary tale of Toys R Us serves as a potent reminder to businesses about the importance of proper SEO management. From domain acquisitions to site restructuring, every step must be executed with SEO expertise to optimize visibility, traffic, and user experience.


In the realm of digital success, the power of SEO cannot be underestimated. The real-life stories stand as powerful reminders of the profound impact that SEO can have on businesses, both big and small. Their experiences highlight the importance of investing in SEO expertise and embracing strategic SEO practices.

If you want to steer clear of the same mistakes that have plagued these iconic brands, it's time to take action. 

Whether you are venturing into new markets, undergoing a website revamp, or seeking to boost your organic search performance, we have the expertise to help you achieve your goals. Don't let your brand fall victim to SEO oversights or miss out on the opportunities that await in the digital world. Our team of dedicated SEO experts understands the intricacies of the digital landscape, and we are equipped with the knowledge and tools to optimize your website's visibility, traffic, and user experience. Reach out to us now, and let's speak about how we can help you to capture SEO opportunities.