Describe the impact this engagement has had on your business.
The site they delivered was visually appealing, but done incorrectly in the background.
We had a lot of strategy sessions before I decided to use them to create a new website. My main question was always, "will the new site cause a decrease in calls?" They assured me there would be very minimal if any loss of calls and traction. The opposite happened.
It became apparent that they didn’t really know what they were doing after we started. They lost a lot of content. There were several website pages that didn’t direct properly from the homepage, but I didn’t find this out until later.
I was paying $1,000 a month for close to six months for backlinking. During one strategy session, I asked their SEO resident expert to show me a website that they’d backlinked to my site, but they couldn’t show me a single one. They discontinued the entire backlinking program thereafter, which was one of the initial red flags.
I noticed a significant decrease in calls after the new site went live. I had to start doing PPC on Yelp to make up for those lost calls as a result. Previously, I was getting calls 24/7, but they became few and far between. I didn’t correlate this decrease to CI Web at the time because everything seemed okay on the surface. However, many things were messed up. All of the URLs for my SEO pages were targeted to a small area in New Orleans when I needed them to encompass the entire area. They had someone go back after the site was live to redo every page to target the entirety of New Orleans.
An unaffiliated SEO specialist checked some things out for me and compared my 2016 and 2017 analytics. He found that I had a 100% decrease in my organic calls and that everything at that point was going to paid advertising. He wasn’t aware that I’d gone to CI Web for a new site, so he showed me reports with clear analytics.
CI Web used third-party reports somehow mixed in with Google, which was a bit deceptive and confusing. The reports were hard to read even for the SEO specialist I consulted with. He gave me specific pages I’d lost because they were redirected to the homepage. I brought this to CI Web’s attention, sent them the Google Analytics showing them the serious decrease in organic calls, and told them I needed them to fix it and deliver what they promised.
When all this came to surface CI Web's national account manager said the owner was out of town and would handle this herself and said this was of great importance, she did not. One day, my administrative privileges to my website were switched to editor. CI Web said they were switching their policies across the board and that their customers would no longer have administrative privileges to the websites. I decided right then to fire them and moved forward. Two and a half weeks passed and they didn’t even try to address anything that happened or take ownership of the situation.
I made a couple of attempts at reconciliation during those two weeks, but they continued to ignore me. I felt they intentionally locked me out of my website because they knew that I would fire them. They continued to ignore me until I was pushed into a situation where I did have to separate from them. They sent me a copy of my site back, but I was still locked out. I ended up having to hire another marketing company to pick up where CI Web left off.
There was also some work done on the site for which they never gave me administrative privileges. Luckily, I had a backup site on GoDaddy, but there was a still a period of a couple of weeks where things they’d done caused me to lose traction.
I reached out to them extensively to try and get them to come up with a solution. My SEO consultant didn’t even know how to help me because CI Web’s 2017 analytics were so jumbled. He didn’t know where people were really going to on my site, so he couldn’t give me a clear direction.
My current marketing company sent me an email regarding a page that previously had a lot of good content on it. They were able to pinpoint the exact date when I lost that, which was when the version CI Web did went live. CI Web will probably alter things and try to say that I was an irate customer, but data doesn’t lie. I used the data as evidence repeatedly, but they kept sidestepping the issues and going in a direction that wasn’t feasible.
I’m still untangling the mess in the substandard code framework they did. I spent many years and a lot of money on SEO for my website just to have everything go badly.
How was project management handled?
I had a primary point of contact who was a national account manager. She knew there were verifiable problems with my site, but assured me that they would deal with it. However, they just pushed my concerns to the side.
Their use of Zoho as a communication tool impressed me because it was easy to use. The reports seemed good until I found out they were from third parties instead of Google. Some of their team also wasn’t in Zoho, which was a bit confusing. These large companies often shift the blame during key moments. CI Web was no different and would just pass me off to another person in a different department to handle my account.
In what specific areas can they improve?
It’s all about taking responsibility. I totally understand that things happen as a business owner. CI Web’s national manager took responsibility initially, but when it reached a higher level (i.e., the owner), it became a drastically different situation. They brought up some issues I had in the past and really personalized it before completely ignoring me.
I even made them an offer, but now I’m thinking about litigation. They record conversations without permission. It was a very unpleasant experience overall. I’m writing some articles now about why people should bring their marketing in-house because of issues with ownership.
What advice do you have for clients with similar needs to yours?
CI Web is the perfect example of a marketing company who knows how to manipulate their reviews. Look for independent, verifiable reviews, because the only ones you’ll find on their company is on Yelp. They don’t have a Google business listing, which is a huge red flag. I would be very cautious of a company that doesn’t have a verifiable and visible Google listing for people to post independent reviews. I didn’t catch this initially because most of the testimonies they have are from people who had a good experience in the beginning. Over time, though, some things don’t work out.
They had an opportunity to solve this problem. There’s a lot of talk about leadership, but real leadership is about taking ownership when you make a mistake.