$26 Million Down the Drain: When SEO Goes Wrong

Mike Taylor | 17 April 2019
When SEO goes wrong

When you think about what makes a website successful, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Chances are SEO is one of the last things you’ll think about. That needs to change.

Simply put, SEO or Search Engine Optimisation, is often the unsung hero of your website and can be the difference between your website becoming a powerful revenue-making machine or actually holding you back.


SEO 101 – SEO is the practice of optimising your website to ensure it is easy to find when people search for relevant keywords or phrases on search engines, particularly Google. Now, it is a bit of a minefield, but, it is critically important you get it right. In today’ environment, where search engines are the number one channel for people searching for and connecting with businesses, the cost of getting it wrong can be dire.

ASOS, the global online retail powerhouse found this out first hand. In their latest financial report, they announced their profit had dropped from £29.9 million to £4, which is a whopping 87% drop. The reason? A massive drop in organic website traffic caused by some ‘instability’ in their SEO performance.

Over the past few months, ASOS has been going through the process of “improving” its website, and actually, trying to make it more SEO friendly. On the surface, the steps they took to improve their SEO performance were the necessary steps. However, from our perspective, it appears they lacked accuracy in their execution.


The thing about SEO is it’s an inexact science, and Google like it that way. For our team, a large part of optimising a website for SEO is building trust with Google and getting them to like you. Google’s aim is to create a faster, safer and more user-friendly environment. Which means they are constantly looking to improve their algorithms to ensure we easily find the information or answers we need. They don’t like fluff, they don’t like dodgy or complicated sites and they hate slow loading speeds.

The tricky thing is, Google is constantly changing the rules of the game. In their attempts to make their search engine better, they are constantly tweaking and updating their algorithms. The goal posts are constantly on the move. But because Google is the biggest search engine in the world, we are all forced to play by these ever-changing rules.

Ultimately, what happened to ASOS was unfortunate but it could happen to just about any website. While ASOS’s intentions were to improve their SEO performance, clearly something went wrong. We will never know what went wrong, maybe there was backend issues, maybe they didn’t react to changes in the algorithms or maybe they just didn’t have a strong enough understanding of the beast that Google is.


A large part of our SEO team’s job is to understand this beast so that none of our clients’ experience a similar fate. Whenever we are talking to our clients, or prospective clients, about new websites, website rebuilds, campaign landing pages or even their social media platforms, SEO is often one of the first things we discuss. We strongly believe that every part of a business’ online presence needs to be fully optimised for SEO. The reason for this is simple, in an information and data-saturated world, where people have more choice than ever, you need to do everything possible to be found.

Having a beautiful website, top line products and amazing content, largely means nothing if consumers can’t find you. It’s like paying for a billboard but placing it behind a wall. No one will see it.


If you are thinking your business needs a new website or you simply needs to update it, make sure you keep SEO in mind. To help you out, here are a few tips (free of charge).

Speed kills. Google is a speed-demon. They love fast things and hate anything that keeps them waiting. So it’s no secret that website speed is one of the most important things in determining how well a website performs. And, Google isn’t alone. Studies show that if your website takes three or more seconds to load, people often move onto the next.

Build with smaller screens in mind. In our fast-paced world, people are increasingly using their mobiles or tablets to search the internet. The important thing to know, is a website built for the large screen, doesn’t necessarily translate to smaller ones. Thus, make sure your website looks and functions optimally on all devices.

SEO touches every part of your website. Your website is a complex stack of a million different pieces and all of these pieces can either hinder or help your SEO performance. This includes URL structures, titles, meta descriptions, content and picture titles.

Understand the role search engines play in your sales funnel. Where do your customers come from? If you rely on search engines for traffic and new customers, as ASOS do, getting your SEO right is a no-brainer.

Lastly, if you don’t know or don’t understand SEO, don’t try and wing it. It simply won’t work. The world of SEO is notoriously difficult and ever-evolving and for experienced SEO gurus, it’s still complicated. As we’ve talked about, even big brands get it wrong. But while they might be able to weather the storm, your business may not be able to. So, seek guidance from an experienced digital agency (like us) to at the very least advise you on it. The cost of going it alone, and getting it wrong, is far greater than asking for help.


At the end of the day, SEO may not be the sexiest part of your online presence, but it is arguably the most impactful. Google is the largest shopping mall ever created, and it’s only getting bigger, busier and more competitive. Hence, you need to do everything you can to attract potential customers.

SEO touches every part of your website. It will impact your UI/UX, the content you write and even the development processes. And, it’s critical you get it right. Over the past few years, we’ve built, written and optimised countless websites for businesses with SEO best practices in mind. Our team are constantly staying on top of Google and looking for ways to get the most out of every website.

If you have any questions about the world of SEO, let’s chat!