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February 19, 2013

When The Chips Are Down Can You Be Awesome?

Published: 19 February 2013 Updated March 2022

UPDATE: March 2022 - I've just re-read this post for the first time in a very long time. I can't even remember the first supplier. I'd literally have to go on a hunt in my inbox to try and recall who they are. On the other hand, AuthorityLabs are still a supplier today, even after they sold things have remained great.

I don't know where I heard it but something that has stuck with me forever has been the idea than any business can be great, a winner, successful when everything goes well but we all know life (and technology) is changing all the time and those changes mean mistakes happen.

300 years ago Alexander Pope said...

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

When stuff goes wrong!

In the field of SEO and Inbound Marketing,there are many variables, but the same is true of any business. There are complexities, nuances and difficulties when delivering on commitments.

Whatever the field, overcoming those difficulties and handling complexities and nuances profitably is the result of skill earned from experience and learning from other skilled people.

If there's one thing I've learned in 14 years in business from suppliers and clients alike stuff does go wrong and how problems are handled make you a winner or a loser not just short-term but in the long-run too.

Here are three recent examples to get you thinking. A tale about a ratbag and a superstar.

The Ratbag

I messaged a supplier from his website using the help box on the page for a product we bought years ago.

Client: I can't log in to my account, my team haven't been able to since September (currently early January). I also can't see any way to reset my password.

Supplier: You don't have an account with product Y.

(head-scratching the I ponder - okay, try again)

Client: [Er, Um] I was asking about product X. We pay you $40/month - have done for years but we couldn't log in for months. What's up?

Supplier: [quick reply] Product X stopped and the new prices are here, link to http://super-expensive-productX.html [buy this sucker]

Client: No thanks just the product you sold us or a refund will be fine. By the way, you took $40 from our PayPal just 2 days ago. Why are you taking the money(?) from us on subscription if the product stopped please refund us back to September or before if you stopped it earlier.

(supplier cancels the subscription and refunds the $40 and replies)

Supplier: The product just stopped. I have "no idea" why you haven't been able to log in.

Client: What? Okay, if you need $120 that bad fine but seems a bit unpleasant to have been paying you and not getting a service but okay the onus is on us (apparently) to catch you taking our money for no service.

Supplier: I can give you $100 off super-expensive-productX

Client: No thanks.


These guys don't even get a mention. Their ranking would go up if I talked about their brand, Selina's co-citation post showed that. We replaced the "ratbag" that day with another supplier recommended by a friend from the US that I met a Mozcon 2012.

The Superstar

I'm just going to name these guys because although they messed up they did everything they could to turn it around so quickly that I am now a MEGA fan.

AuthorityLabs: Sends a broadcast email explaining things are changing. We've got to move our infrastructure to new platforms.... and the interface you currently use will be replaced. The old interface will stop gathering data on or around December 1st and remain available until January 1st.

AuthorityLabs: Whoa! Hang on, are removing the infrastructure we use. I think its the guts under the old infrastructure so please confirm.

AuthorityLabs: No, no. You're okay if you're using the API.

Client: Phew! (literally wiping sweat from my brow)

(Time passes. Our ranking data seems to disappear at the end of November??!!!!!!!!!!?)

Client: Hey, why is no data coming through on our API?

AuthorityLabs: We told you it would stop.

Client: Oh no! What do we do? AND I see you just collected another month's worth of fees (hundreds of dollars) AND the data has been migrated the new system without all our tagging 🙁

AuthorityLabs: You need to move to the Partner API, not the Account API

Client: Oh no! What a nightmare.

I had to go hunting....

Our custom in-house system was entirely structured around the Authority Labs Account API. We created accounts for our clients linked them to our in-house system and automatically day by day our rank tracking data got pulled in - it was awesome.

About this time, December 2012, Raven Tools announced they'd be cancelling the serp tracker component of their SEO tools.

Pretty quickly I found this post on State of Search in which Brian LaFrance of Authority Labs and some wise others discussed the Raven Tools decision and Google's withdrawal of the Google AdWords API from various providers like Raven Tools and SEOmoz.

I reached out to Brian. I stated my problem.... but didn't whine. Business changes, technology changes. Sh*t happens.

I stated the problem...

PROBLEM - You guys have pulled the pin on the Account API and we rely upon it.

I asked for and suggested some solutions.

Can you help us sort this out?

Can you turn on the Account API for another week?

Can you arrange Partner API access ASAP so I can ditch everything and begin coding something so we can at least gather the data we need temporarily so we don't lose a whole month of ranking data?


I had an immediate reply - we're on to it, working out what we can do for you.

Shortly after I had links to the Alabs API Class in Github and a Partner API account. I was able to ask questions and got the thing up and running pretty quickly.

The awesomeness of the response and help made up for the hours of coding required.

The result

Our integration with Authority Labs through their Partner API for Rank Tracking is now far easier for our team to use and more scalable than the Account API ever was.

It costs less, much less, and I feel like Matter Solutions made a friend 🙂


  • Find the right person - I was speaking to the boss in both cases.
  • State your problem but don't whine. Suggest at least one resolution - be realistic
  • Give them the chance to do the right thing - they might surprise you

Big thanks to Brian and the Authority Labs team. If you're an agency and you want rank tracking - check it out!

I know it wasn't his intention but I'd mod Alexander Pope's maxim to something like...

To err is human; To rectify and please is sound business and totally rewarding!

Ben Maden

Read more posts by Ben

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