Everyone’s writing top lists for 2013. And I certainly don’t blame them, it’s the natural thing to do. I love to celebrate success and look at what worked.

But I find there’s a heck of a lot more to learn from what didn’t work. And more than that, it builds emotional and psychological strength to acknowledge mistakes, especially publicly. So long as the whole point being is to exemplify that I LEARNED something – and maybe you will learn something too. Or at least have a laugh or two at my expense.

Thus, I wanted to share my four worst moments of 2013.

Worst Moment #1 – I Gained Fifteen Pounds

(But then lost them … more on that below). I strongly believe ALL success whether it be with SEO specific things like traffic, or business success, or life success starts in large part with physical health.

As ironic as it seems, the less physical your work the more important your physical health is. I’ve learned this the hard way transitioning into full time “knowledge work” (can we come up with a better term for that by the way?)

I’ve been tracking my weight fairly regularly with an app for the last thee years. Here’s what happened;

From 2009-2011 I gradually transitioned to full time desk work. And BAM! 2012 hit, and soon followed the 15 pounds, which I then lost from September 2013-December 2013 (slight spike at the end from the Holidays)

I know I know … we’re only talking about fifteen pounds. What’s the big deal? It’s not like I’m someone who’s ever had trouble with weight or anything.

Getting back to the importance of health as a “knowledge worker” – weight is just a proxy metric. And physical health is SO important to pursue consciously if for 40-60 hours a week you’re sitting at a desk or hunched over a laptop.

I remember after Christmas 2011, I took ALL that candy I got over the Holidays and events, brought it ALL to my office where I was working at a desk full time for the first time in my life. And. I. Ate. ALL. Of. It. I’m talking about plates of cookies, those bucket tin things of caramel popcorn, and chocolate Santas (I like biting their heads off). I sat there and worked and ate.

This would be somewhat fine, and slightly normal. Had it stopped. But after the Holidays I didn’t stop. I’d grab a candy bar (or two) every stop to get gas, find ways to just *happen* to pass by my favorite bakery on the way home. Summer came, it was time for ice cream stands, cold beers (nothing packs on the pounds quicker I’ve found). You get the idea.

Anyhow this sadly went on for about 18 months on and off until last September. Here are the things that helped me turn it around, and maybe they will help you;

  • Now I stand and work 75% of the day. No I don’t have a fancy “standing desk” I just stand at a filing cabinet with a surface big enough for my laptop and some notebooks. If you don’t have one of those standing desks, I encourage anyone to even just get up and walk around every 30-60 minutes, or find somewhere you can stand and work even just for an hour each day.
  • Back on a “diet”. I hate that word “diet”. I’m someone that believes not any one diet is good or bad. There are SO many variables – your genetics, geography, climate, lifestyle, metabolism. The one that works for me is Tim Ferriss’ slow carb diet (this is in fact how I ate before my 18 month binge). It’s basically 6 days of strictly no wheat/gluten, no sugar, no alchohol (except red wine) limited dairy etc – and one “off” day where you can stuff yourself until your eyes pop out of your head.

Worst Moment #2 – Client Dropped Me With One Day’s Notice

Behold the following email;

Now there are many things “between the lines” here that you may not pick up without having been in the situation. Some facts;

  • This was a $2,500/mth contract
  • The contract had just been upgraded (we had gotten a raise) one month prior and we both signed on the dotted line. Myself and another SEO (who I won’t name) had just drafted a full SEO plan for this company and wrote to them asking for an increase in retainer due to expanding workload. The company kept him and dropped me.
  • This was literally ONE day before payment was due for September which was just about to start.

But having to swallow my own pride here, I have to acknowledge where I could have gone wrong (although I will always see this move as a bit shady on their part – that’s another story!);

  • I should have read the contract THEY provided more carefully. It had provisions saying they could cancel it at any time without owing me a cent. And I had just happily signed it giving them that power.
  • I could have potentially been more proactive in August (although I don’t think this is fully the issue) but the other SEO who was/is also working with this client had the following advise for me – which was hard to swallow but I value it 100% and appreciate his candidness;

Being proactive is one thing I’ve been working HARD at since this discussion.

  • Lastly – I should have NOT taken this client to begin with. There were many things from right out of the gate that felt weird but I kept telling myself “nah this will be good learning experience, I need to work on understanding different situations better etc”. It’s not even like I just wanted the money. I turn down work all of the time. And I DID learn a lot, but I think ultimately I should have called this one off before I was let go.

Worst Moment #3 – My “Worst” Post of 2013

This New Years seemed to be the year where everyone and their grandma is posting there top posts of 2013. I wanted to pick out my WORST post of 2013.

I’m going to use number of unique comments as my metric. I believe comments to be THE blogger’s metric of success. (THAT’S a whole other story/post as well).

But in sort I like comments as a metric because my goal is to engage above all. Sure content can have utility, entertainment value – but above all it should spark a reaction and I value that more than anything.

Judging by that my WORST post of 2013 was “The Ultimate List Of Keyword Research Tools”. I think what I failed to do here was really vet a demand / interest in such a list prior to creating it. What I was hoping to do was replicate the better success of my list of rank tracker tools. I still think the post is useful, but just not up to my higher standards of receiving engagement.

Worst Moment #4 – Lost Traffic Data On Client’s Site

To this day, I have NO idea what happened here or why this went wrong.

Late November I sent a message to the developer to upgrade GA tracking code so we could start pulling in demographic data. The next time I checked traffic at first my stomach sank. I thought they had been hit by a penalty. But after a few minutes of narrowing it down, it was clear the main non-blog portion of the site wasn’t collecting GA data.

The code was there. It passed tests. In short, there was no reason it shouldn’t have been working, and I’ve had other clients switch to the new tracking code without issue. Regretfully it took longer than it should have to fix. We can recover certain data from Webmaster Tools, getClicky etc. But this shouldn’t have happened. At least it wasn’t REAL traffic.

Anyhow the lesson here to me, and to everyone is to set basic alerts within GA – something I need to do more often – to catch issues like this.

Got Anything To Share?

So there you have it – four moment from 2013 which I’m not super proud of, but felt like I learned a TON. I hope through some sort of vicarious osmotic (is that a word?) power you have learned something here as well.

Please do share! Do you have any moments from 2013 which you wouldn’t want to relive, but learned a valuable lesson?

About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • January 1, 2014 Reply

    anthony pensabene

    i like the angle of the post. your sentiment about comments is interesting. i feel like you’re exploring down the ‘reader reaction’ path. definitely feel like good content makes the reader react..via sharing, discussion, internal thinking, commenting, bookmarking, re-reading, laughing, pausing, etc. obviously, comments, and dissecting their words within, is a direct and easy way to assess reaction but it’s more slippery than that.

    i’m not assuming you think comments are the sole way to assess, just wanted to throw those thoughts out there.

    my mistakes in 2014:
    – assuming compliments would transfer into dollars
    – doubting myself and deserving to be a business owner/service provider
    – writing about online marketing, residue left from a year and a half past in-house position, rather than about whatever i wanted (showing rather than telling) as a writer.
    – spending too much time on twitter/reading too much online marketing posts

    ‘vicarious osmotic’ is good.. keep that for later use 🙂 i always expect good things from you. keep going in 2014.

    • January 2, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Dude, right on about mistake #1. Assuming ANYTHING but dollars will turn into cash is dangerous. Ha I’m glad someone noticed “vicarious osmotic”, when I typed it an didn’t see spelling errors I was shocked and happy at the same time 🙂

  • January 2, 2014 Reply

    Brandon Doyle

    Great post! Thanks for sharing. Nice way to mix it up instead of all the “Best Of” posts. I had #2 happen a couple times this year, no fun at all :(. Here’s to a great 2014!

    • January 2, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thank Brandon! Have a great 2014 as well 🙂

  • January 3, 2014 Reply

    Collin Davis

    As Anthony mentioned, I have been guilty of reading way too many posts in 2014 and while it has given me fresh perspective, I have lost out on valuable time implementing.

    As with regards to being proactive which you felt was a mistake, I find it to be a double edged sword.

    I once had this potential client for whom I took a proactive approach, mind you I didn’t have a contract, all in the hope of getting the project.

    Long story, short! This client was just building up details for himself to implement…that’s why I sometimes question the proactive approach.

    It may increase your potential of landing a client but at the same time can leave a sour taste in your mouth if you lose them.

    • January 3, 2014 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Collin thanks, and I know it can be super tricky to balance time consuming vs time working. I find it difficult because the amount of content is infinite so you need to self regulate to draw the line, and develop a good filter for what’s important.

      I agree with being careful on being proactive with prospects. Although in this case this was a committed client who paid for work in August, and the more I could have done on my own accord the more positive of an impact it would have made I think. But yeah you do have to choose wisely.

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