BEFORE You Hire an “SEO Expert” Read This!!!  Our BrandLabs Nightmare...

BEFORE You Hire an “SEO Expert” Read This!!! Our BrandLabs Nightmare...

Posted by Big Brand on 11th Sep 2020

Back in April / May 2019 (or so) we hired a local company in Michigan called Brand Labs. They were one of the more expensive companies, so I (falsely) assumed that this meant they would kill it for us and be worth every penny…  

Honestly I was super stoked and our company was prepping for intaking mega-orders.  The Brand Labs marketing manager I spoke to, Josh, was supper affirmative; hire BrandLabs and they will take good care of us... no need to worry, they're pros and the average sales increase is around 30%.   Plus, they're in my same state, so this is extra cool!  I absolutely love supporting Michigan businesses... in addition to no fear of being scammed because their office is only an hour drive away.

I can’t even begin to explain my regret. Here’s my brutally honest story: 

We contracted Brand Labs to design us a new website and provide Search Engine Optimization ("SEO") services - both turned out to be a massive nightmare (resulting in a 2nd company being hired to totally scrap and REDO 100% of BrandLabs work), but today I am only discussing the SEO nightmare.

To start, we had never hired anyone to perform Search Engine Optimization for us. Our site (prior to them devastating it) had been around for over a decade so we had great Search Results, but we knew we were changing our company name and wanted to get found in searches, under the new name, fast. Brand Labs explained that the best option for us was to pay them for a “Pay Per Click” campaign ("PPC") in addition to paying them to “Manage” our overall SEO. It wasn’t cheap, but it was necessary, we felt. So we went ahead and signed the contract for thousands and thousands of dollars (If I recall correctly, the total annual cost would be something like $38,000).

According to our contract with, the 4 main goals of us paying them were to:

  • “increase qualified traffic”,
  • “increase brand awareness”
  • “increase revenue” .
  • In addition to paying them to “monitor and edit campaigns for maximum results”.

And this was exactly what we wanted. It seemed like a very simple project for an “SEO Expert” therefore we agreed to pay, and, in under 60 days we paid out, upfront:

  • one month of Brand Labs “research” cost (over $1,200)
  • one month of Brand Labs PPC expert fees (over $1,200)
  • one month of Google Ad cost (over $500+)

And those costs were without ever running a single Google Ad (yet)...

Fast forward to several months later: They redid our site, but it was all done wrong. When it went live it didn’t work…at all…. but this is a different story for a different day. Eventually we got the site (kind of, but never fully) working and the PPC campaign and SEO management began.

Skip ahead to August 2019: Despite the added cost of these expensive services provided by BrandLabs, there were no additional sales, in fact, we had a massive DECREASE in sales... yet we were paying all this extra money for advertising and management of such. We couldn’t make sense of it; how is this possible when we have run Facebook ads on our own and have had decent results without also paying for an EXPERT manager?  I mean, we have been around since 2005 and it's 2019, so you would assume that with the new site + paying an marketing manager we should be doing at LEAST our regular volume.... right????  But BrandLabs assured us it is only because we changed our name and people are not "used to it" yet. I’m not a SEO expert, so I *guessed* this made sense… after all, we had 0 experience with Google Ads and Brand Labs told us this was the reason…. gotta trust the experts... right?

September 2019:  I am now 100% positive something is very wrong.  BrandLabs told us the solution was to send out more mailing list blasts to let people know we changed our name...  Ok, I understand making sure that our mailing list subs understand we changed our name, but what about the Google Ads?  Why would a brand new visitor not buy because we changed our name?  How would the new visitor even know that we changed our name?  That is so illogical.  Something is very, very wrong.  

We were then told "it just takes time"... however, prior to signing the SEO contract we were told that paying them to run a PPC campaign is the best way to see fast results.  

Our frustration grew by the day.  Our site still didn't function fully, our sales went from great to little and our SEO campaign was a financial drain.

I decided I needed to figure out WTF was going on.  I logged in to check on the “managed” Google Ads campaigns by logging directly into the Google Ads account for our company for the first time. What I saw was shocking. The ads they were charging us to run were completely irrelevant to our company. For example, here’s some of the ads we were paying them, to charge us, to run:

  • "Wholesale Truckloads" (we do not sell be the truckload)
  • "Wholesale Pallets" (we do not sell by the pallet)
  • "Wholesale Used Clothing Pallets" (we do not sell used clothing nor pallets)
  • "Wholesale Auctions" (we do not have any auctions and never have)
  • "Clothing Auctions" (again, zero "auctions" here)
  • "Used Clothing Pallet Auctions" (SERIOUSLY, WTF?!)
  • And more

Which flat out means that, even though the contract clearly stated they would “Drive QUALIFIED TRAFFIC”, all they were doing was click baiting anyone and everyone who wanted to buy SOME FORM of bulk to our site, seemingly for the purpose of reporting to us that we had "tons of clicks" while never mentioning that all the clicks were utter crap...  people who didn't even want what we sell.  We might as well have run a Google ad saying "Free iPhones!!!", because it's just as irrelevant as "Used Clothing Truckloads!". Needless to say, the traffic they did send us left our site right away when they realized we didn’t carry what they wanted.... yes, we were "click baiting" people.  UGH!!!  We were “paying for nothing”... in fact, it was such UNQUALIFIED traffic that our conversion rate was “0.04%”... yes, NEGATIVE .04%...  a literal LOSS… I have never in my life seen a NEGATIVE conversion rate… insanity.

And let me remind you, we paid Brand Labs for a MONTH OF RESEARCH in addition to their "expert fees".... yet the end result was like advertising that Taco Bell has the Best Burger in Town. Would that get clicks? Absolutely.  But since Taco Bell doesn't sell burgers, it would be useless. 

So, during this month we sent Brand Labs a letter, demanding to end the contract due to their actions. Here’s a couple snippets from the letter we sent:

After we sent the letter, BrandLabs was surprisingly fine with immediately breaking the contract. If I recall correctly they even offered us some free service if we wanted to stay with them… HARD PASS ON THAT.  


I began running PPC campaigns on my own.  I had never run these types of ads before so I had to watch several YouTube videos to learn the basics.  I then discovered that running Google ads through is mega simple and you can create a wonderful ad in literally 2 minutes. has an "ad creator wizard" thing that makes it so easy.  In the first 48 hours of running my own ad we already had conversions, so NO, it does NOT "take time" to see results, and NO, you do not need to keep blasting emails to your buyers to repeat the same content.  

I then made 3 more ads that we each slightly different.  I let them all run for a month then looked at the results. I was amazed at how well they are performing!  Fast forward 6 months and we now have Google Ads converting at 12% and we aren't paying anyone a cent to do this for us.   My ads are absolutely nothing complex; "Liquidation Designer Clothing for Sale in Michigan. No Minimum Purchase Amount. Same Day Shipping." ... Brand Labs couldn't figure this out in 1 month of expert research???? 

If you are looking to hire an SEO Expert.... for the love of God, PLEASE spend time researching like crazy.  $30,000 is a lot of money.  Take the time to truly READ ALL reviews.  Don't just read the reviews; click on peoples profiles and LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITES!!  If the person who left a 5-star is no longer in business, that is a problem. If their website is filled with glitches, weird page loads, super slow load times, links that do not work... is this what you want?  

DO NOT HESITITE TO REACH OUT TO THE BUSINESS OWNERS AND ASK IF THEY ARE STILL HAPPY.  If I would have taken the time to do this BEFORE hiring BrandLabs I never would have done so because in August 2019 I wanted to know if the issues I am experiencing are normal, so I did reach out to 4 of their real customers.  All of the customers we chatted with reported nearly identical issues to ours.  3 of the customers had to hire other companies to fix the issues.  1 of the customers mentioned legal action (who knows if this is true or not).  But, at the end of the day:

  • "Local" doesn't mean "safe"
  • "Expensive" doesn't mean "good"
  • "Cheap" doesn't mean "bad" 
  • "Good reviews" doesn't mean "honest" 


  • "Be patient" doesn't mean you're wrong.  Trust your instincts and go with your gut. If it really doesn't feel right, it probably isn't! 

NEXT:  Read About Our BrandLabs Web Design Nightmare

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