Rand Fishkin’s Negative SEO Challenge: 40K Questionable Links And Ranking Well

    May 16, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Last month, we reported that SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin issued a negative SEO challenge. He challenged people to take down SEOmoz or RandFishkin.com using negative SEO tactics.

“I’ve never seen it work on a truly clean, established site,” Fishkin told us at the time. He is confident enough in his sites’ link profiles and reputation. He also said, “I’d rather they target me/us than someone else. We can take the hit and we can help publicize/reach the right folks if something does go wrong. Other targets probably wouldn’t be so lucky.”

We had a conversation with Fishkin today about the Penguin update, and about a new SEOmoz project related to webspam. We also asked for an update on how the challenge is going, and he said, “On the negative SEO front – I did notice that my personal blog had ~40,000 more links (from some very questionable new sources) as of last week. It’s still ranking well, though!”

It sounds like the the challenge is working out so far, which certainly looks good on Google’s part, especially in light of the Penguin update, and the opinions flying around about negative SEO. Just peruse any comment thread or discussion forum on the topic and there’s a good chance you’ll run into some of this discussion.

I’m guessing the challenge is still on the table, but so far, Fishkin doesn’t seem top be having any problems.

Of course, most people don’t have the link profile or reputation that Fishkin has established, but that also speaks to the need for content producers to work on building both.

  • http://www.lifestyledental.co.uk nadim

    Is it not the case that these sites are just too well established in the eyes of google and therefore would take masses upon masses of links and years to do any damage.?

    • http://www.searchcommander.com/ Scott Hendison

      I agree @nadim that’s the case, and also why I think the challenge is sort of irrelevant – Sure some domains are pretty much bulletproof, but most aren’t. Good PR, but total BS

  • http://members.cdbaby.com Chris

    Apparently this stunt is also getting Rand good links from media sites like Web Pro News. LOL.


  • Justin

    This is total BS. Google is not going to penalize either site due to the publicity involved. If either site tanks, it would lead to a barrage of negative SEO everywhere – then Google has a real problem on their hands. Well played Fishkin, even though I personally cant stand you.

  • Jeno

    You have hit the nail on the head. It would look good for Google if nothing happened to the site in question. My theory is Matt Cutts took care of it with a couple clicks in Google’s internal system. There is no way to test it if you announce it before it happens. Google is notorious about creating confusion and this would be a very good example of that.

  • http://www.biletulzilei.info/ BIletul Zilei

    SEOmoz I think that is a part of Google! Am I wrong? Probably!! NOT!

  • http://www.cleanoutexpress.com Cleanout Express

    Not going to happen with a well established site, if its a site that is a year old, maybe i think that there are more factors that google considers, if 99.9% of the links are questionable then yes they will probably take it down, but if the links are diverse and on a well established site, then it may take some time to see a negative impact. So lets get rid of all the junk links and build some quality guys.

  • http://www.findufirst.com/ Jack Thomas

    It’s a publicity stunt to mask the fact that negative seo can and will impact SERP!

  • http://www.iblogzone.com DiTesco

    Rand has certainly the “goods” to defend himself/themselves against any potential attack that cold affect negatively their rankings. Albeit, there is always the matter that Rand/SEOMoz are so trustworthy and popular, that Google may simply be doing the “manual intervention” on their rankings. Something to think about

  • Michael

    I think when he says “well established sites” that could pretty much be read “big brand sites”. Of COURSE you aren’t going to get penalized. You just had Matt Cutts in your office doing a whiteboard session with you like a dancing monkey.

    The biggest problem with this test is, it sets out to prove a hypothesis, but in no way follows the scientific method. There is no control, no proof that the results haven’t been manually manipulated (and no, sorry – Matt Cutts “word” wouldn’t suffice for me), heck, there isn’t even a rankings report to confirm/deny his assertions. It is fairly obvious to most of us Google likes to use SEOmoz/Rand as an extension of whatever Matt Cutts is spouting off about – but they hope because he isn’t “associated” with Google, you’ll buy it.

    I’ve been in meetings with Google reps where I was told certain violations of the TOS are perfectly OK and would be overlooked because of my companies spend ($6M quarterly). If you think I’m buying this, I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona going for a GREAT price.

  • Anonymous

    Get a new domain, start working on it and tell me after a month and I will get your site off the results. Give it a try?

  • http://www.theglobalistreport.com/ Andrew

    I run a small Blog that has only 400 domains linking to it. If I spent $50 on “50K link building campaigns” from Fiverr, I think it would be fair to say that Google would penalise my site.

    Now, If I did the same to the site that ranks number one for my Niche and share’s similar characteristics to my site, I think the outcome of the link building campaign would be the same.

    The SEOmoz case is fraudulent because Google wouldn’t allow “VERY” popular sites to do down… Imagine the BBC’s main news site on page 10 because of Fiverr??? :)

    Software like scrapebox that is relatively cheap could easily bring down most websites if used inappropriately.

    • Dunkelheit

      Completely agree with Andrew. What a useless experiment! Some of the sites that I’ve audited after the Penguin update WERE penalised because of spammy links. There is no reason why the same spammy links cannot be pointed at your competitor’s site.

      If you look at the comments on various webmaster forums and blogs, it’s the small or medium business that’s mostly affected by the Penguin. Have you seen a big authority site complaining about Penguin?

  • http://seo-mentoring.ca Reg-NBS-SEO

    It is not going to hurt because of the way Google is using links now.

    Prior to Penguin, Google’s algos downgraded the effect that links had on SERPs to the point where they had little or no effect.

    Then along came Penguin which switched on the effect of links on SERPs long enough to recalculate PageRank’s effect based on relevance as the primary link juice factor.

    Once this was done, PR and it’s linking effects on SERPs were turned off again.

    Once this was switched off, no amount of link building positive OR negative was going to affect the SERPs.

    After Panda, people were still getting bad link warnings but Google told everyone to disregard them. (With linking turned off, links were not going to have an effect).

  • http://alecrippberger.com Alec Rippberger

    Well Rand’s sites are certainly receiving some good links through this PR stunt; Probably enough good links to offset any bad ones his site may receive in the process.