I watched an SEO company take down a site at a conference

Frog Statue

I was at a conference a few years ago where I witnessed an unprofessional act. The presenter was talking about entry level SEO practices (there wasn't much on during that time slot and I needed a laugh), when they decided to end the session with a live site analysis from the audience. This is where things went south, but let me set the stage so that you understand why I'm calling it an unprofessional act.

I'm sitting in a room full of small business owners who want to grow their presence online. To them SEO the magic sauce that makes everything a success, forget hard work and patience, they want to make it big yesterday. The audience is taking in every piece of advice that the speaker is throwing at them. Considering the skill level in the room, the advice stayed pretty simple since there was nobody that I could see who was technically savvy. Due to this, everything they were talking about was extremely low level theory, but I'm not trying to judge the room as everyone has to start somewhere right?

Close to the end of the presentation, I decided to throw a curveball at them to see how they would react. My question wasn't anything crazy, but I wanted to see what they would say about AMP. They deflected it successfully stating that it was too new to comment on, but it was definitely something that we should keep an eye on. Not the answer I wanted, but if they had said any more, my cover would have been blown and the audience would have known that I was someone they would have wanted to know.

The presentation comes to a close and the speaker throws a bone into the crowd offering some free advice and real time quick audit of their site if they were willing to divulge the address and ask something specific about their site that they could possibly provide them with an answer. A few owners get their sites analysed with a majority of them just needing content optimisation, and then a florist stands up.

After receiving the address, the presenter lets rip on Screaming Frog then takes the question from the owner. Upon receiving the question, they turn back around to check the site for an answer. The site responds with custom hosting page for HTTP Status Code 429. I forget what the custom page said, but it wasn't the standard "Too Many Requests" message. They fob off the error by telling her that she has an issue with her site and that could be causing issues with SEO.

No acknowledgement that they had just resource starved the machine she was hosting on. It was probably a super cheap shared host, but there's nothing wrong with them when you are starting out. She probably had some growth in that host, but they had just planted the seed in her head (no pun intended) that her site was failing. I don't know for certain if this was a ploy to try and hook her in as a potential client, but the fact that they never said "whoops, our bad" was unprofessional. It's like a road side assistance employee testing your tire pressure with a hammer and nail, then leaving by the side of the road.

For the record, I didn't say anything at the time because the presenter was actually working for us at the time, and I didn't want that to lead into follow-up questions next monthly meeting. We didn't keep them much longer after that though, so I guess all worked out.. for us.