Did Negative SEO Beat SEOmoz?

Aug 3, 2012 • 8:06 am | comments (53) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

SEOmoz Google link warningIn April, a huge negative SEO debate sparked up and it resulted in Rand Fishkin, the CEO of SEOmoz offering his site up as a sacrificial lamb to the negative SEOs out there to try to see if they can't hurt SEOMoz's rankings by implementing negative SEO techniques.

A week or so ago, SEOmoz received and unnatural link warning. SEOmoz explained it is likely because of the negative SEO challenge, where Google saw a ton of bad links coming in and issued the notification because of it.

But did it hurt SEOmoz? It doesn't appear so.

(1) The warning went out the same time everyone else got that new batch of link notifications - meaning, Google doesn't penalize for those specific links but rather just warns you that you have a nice number of links they are ignoring.

(2) SEOmoz shared their traffic from Google and there was no change at all:

SEOmoz Traffic Change - Negative SEO

Now the question is, did negative SEO beat SEOmoz's link graph? It depends on how you define beat?

(1) Yes, they did get tons of bad links to their site.

(2) Yes, they did get a link notification.

(3) No, their rankings did not suffer.

(4) No, this notification is not a penalty notification.

What do you think? Tons of discussion at SEOmoz and Cre8asite Forums.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: August 2, 2012


Roger Dooley

08/03/2012 12:20 pm

The fact that SEOmoz is apparently unscathed by a barrage of negative links doesn't mean that lesser sites (shorter history, fewer legit inbounds, weaker engagement metrics, etc.) couldn't be hurt.


08/03/2012 12:21 pm

The bottom line is, did they lose traffic yes or no. If no, then it should be some kind of proof that negative SEO is non-existent or extremely hard to find and trust me, they got some nasty links there from the hardrcore black hatters a lot of us wouldnt even capable of finding. But again, this is what google always said that its extremely difficult and as-good-as impossible, so again no real news here.

Steven Lockey

08/03/2012 12:32 pm

Matches what Pierre Far told me in webmaster hangout. I think the bad links thing is more a warning that there is no point building more spammy links rather than actually saying anything is bad going to happen. Its just badly worded.

Bobby Gaglini

08/03/2012 12:38 pm

While SEOMoz may not have lost traffic, the fact still remains that they now have bad links pointing to their site. We don't know whether Google will eventually penalize the sites that got these link warnings (the new, non-penalizing ones). Regardless, it's still a good idea to go into your link profile and scoop out all the links that appear to be "bad". Better safe than sorry.

Ben Maden

08/03/2012 12:45 pm

Hi Barry, The link to SEOmoz is a mistake, heads to Cre8asite Forums too. Seems like Roger below is on the money, just coz SEOmoz sails through a barrage of links doesn't mean someone with a link profile on the edge of being hit by penguin isn't susceptible to negative SEO.

Barry Schwartz

08/03/2012 12:57 pm

Thanks, fixing.

Scott Boyd

08/03/2012 01:14 pm

A better test would have been against a less established domain like Mozcast or something.


08/03/2012 01:22 pm

There always will be people, who will blame something but themselves. Negative SEO is a devil in the SEO religion. Very convenient to blame in any case.

Praveen Sharma

08/03/2012 01:24 pm

SEOMoz has acquired tons of bad links in past few days, but the other side of the story is that they have millions of positive links pointing towards them. If suddenly, some bad links start pointing towards SEOMoz, then I think Google is too smart to analyze the backlinks acquiring pattern and can detect someone is intentionally trying to spam the site.


08/03/2012 01:54 pm

In a case with such a cover in the SEO world, I doubt google will let the experiment run without keeping a close eye to correct an eventual "algorithms gone bad" scenario.


08/03/2012 02:04 pm

give it 6 to 8 weeks and they all will be crying big time - they are in the calm before the storm and the worse thing will be the negative flags on the keywords in the links used to the site - those may take a long time coming back or never ... Penquin and negative SEO is not a joke, I've seen it almost kill off a legit client who had this done to his site - 13+ people are about ready to have to go find other work and this is a brick and mortar biz, highly educated and professional niche ...

Russ Offord

08/03/2012 02:24 pm

Did they get the 'followup' Google Webmaster Tools notification that says Google is not taking site-wide action, but rather just discounting a sub-set of URLs?

Russ Offord

08/03/2012 02:39 pm

I'd wonder... IF they do get hit by some penalty, there would be so much press that Google might manually lift it fairly quick to help 'disprove' the negative SEO concept... or perhaps Google could prevent it by overriding a penalty (to avoid it from happening.) ... nah, that sound too much like a conspiracy theory. ;)


08/03/2012 02:42 pm

Glad nothing happened!

Kevin Gerding

08/03/2012 03:13 pm

Come on people, SEOmoz has been whitelisted in Google for a while. I would not be surprised if Google actually approved of the whole plan to pacify other webmasters into believing negative SEO is not possible. Try the same negative SEO tactics with a small mom and pop website and the results will be far different I assure you.

Bill Ross

08/03/2012 03:16 pm

I agree. SEOmoz is one of the most powerful domains in the space. Would love to see it on a site that is more consistent with a normal online business website.

Ruth Burr

08/03/2012 03:35 pm

Hi Russ - Ruth from SEOmoz here. Yes we did!

Oleg Korneitchouk

08/03/2012 03:40 pm

SEOMoz is a huge site with a powerful backlink profile.. its like trying use negative SEO on Yahoo, Google, etc. He should reissue the challenge to a site with

Art Science Web

08/03/2012 03:42 pm

Wow, kudos Rand and team. Pretty cool experiment.


08/03/2012 03:49 pm

Good example )) Why people became jobless ? Because of the biz owner fault ? Sure not. Because of their own fault ? No way. Because of the general weakness in economy ? Doubtful. Because of another SEO specialist is fooling another brick and mortar biz ? NO !!! It's because Google allowed negative SEO !!! LOL )))

Ben Guest

08/03/2012 03:50 pm

SEOmoz is almost perfect authority (98/100). It would be a waste of time to try to do what Rand asked for us to do. He is still laughing all of his way to the bank! ;-)

Ben Guest

08/03/2012 03:51 pm

But what was that site's authority?

Jim Christian

08/03/2012 03:52 pm

Sweet delicious links.... Honestly though, the disavow link tool will be coming out soon enough so in the end you'll be able to control your own backlinks "to a degree". Also at some point your link equity gets so enormous that an attack would take so much time and effort that it isn't worth it. I commend Google for protecting those of us on the white side of life.


08/03/2012 03:53 pm

Sure it will be. But who, in the right mind, would waste time to compromise small mom and pop website ? What's the point to do this ? I mean real web developers, not SEOs.

Ben Guest

08/03/2012 03:57 pm

But if they can fool a competitor into paying them money to do it then it's not a waste of time. This is why this is such a hot topic. Google may have just opened a new industry, "Negative SEO".


08/03/2012 04:05 pm

True. But it is an algo, send enough bad links to them and it will work. 1 million, maybe 10 maybe 100 million. Doesn't matter. Algos don't play favorites. Also it is early, this alone might effect them eventually.

Ruth Burr

08/03/2012 04:13 pm

Hi Andy, Ruth from SEOmoz here. We didn't see a decrease in traffic as a result of this.

Kevin Gerding

08/03/2012 04:18 pm

The better question is what business would rather be ranked #10 instead of #1? Small mom and pops do advertise on Adwords and do outsource SEO work. Although their budget is less, their desire to be number uno is the same. To think that a negative SEO campaign would not be waged against a small mom and pop website is naive.


08/03/2012 04:35 pm

Well actually not. How do we not know that once authority gets higher you need an exponentially higher number of neg links to make an impact (I suspect this to be the case) so in fact it would probably take such a monumental number to affect them that it would be easily picked up as an attack and discounted. I bet Rand knew when he issued the challenge, it just couldn't hurt them. On a side note an algorythim won't be the same from top to bottom, so you can't say as X site is affected like this Y site is affected like that. It may have a completely different set of metrics for a site of low authority than one for high authority


08/03/2012 04:37 pm

100 lbs. of good links. 2 oz. negative SEO. No change in traffic. 2 oz. of good SEO and 10 lbs. of Penguin bait links that have been driving your site up in SERPs. I think the resulting takeaway of the bad links will get incorrectly identified as a "penalty" but it's still just a takeaway. I'm not saying there aren't cases where there is an actual penalty but I don't think that's the algorithm. I've read that penguin penalty cases had a personal review of the links first. That really tends to reduce the threat of negative SEO. If you want anything more perfect, good luck. This is an imperfect world. Move on.


08/03/2012 04:38 pm

Er maybe the dodgy SEO hired by the small mom and pop shop which ranks directly below the one your referring to maybe just some bored kids who have a copy of scrapebox and want to have a play My point being that just because people aren't likely to be targeted doesn't mean Google should leave them wide open to it if anyone wants to have a crack


08/03/2012 04:58 pm

Following your logic, it's better not to start business at all, because bored kids have access to the matches )


08/03/2012 05:14 pm

I'm pretty sure the competition for the keyword "Small Business in 33123", where 33123 is a zip code, is not big. I doubt there is competition at all in most cases. If small business wants to rank well for the keyword "Small Business in Miami", they have to understand, that they are not small anymore. At least they pretend not to be. They have to gain authority first. Desire is not the main factor to play big game )


08/04/2012 10:23 pm

I think you hit the nail squarely on the head, Roger.


08/04/2012 10:49 pm

The answer is -- Yes, Negative SEO did beat seomoz. The Negative SEO'ers tripped a google flag and a notice was issued. The real question is -- what does this new notice mean? Everyone knows that google shows a bias to Brands; it's been developing since the Vince update in 2009 so no one ever thought that Negative SEO would bring down seomoz (to include the Negative SEO'ers). google has many reasons to want to protect brands and we can only speculate as to what they are. I would guess they are at least 2 fold -- 1) What if you searched for BMW and found no search results -- how much credibiltiy would google have? 2) Eric Scmidt (when he was CEO) said, "Brands are the solution, not the problem...brands are how you sort out the cesspool." I'll let you decide who he thinks the cesspool includes. So what is the purpose of this new notice? -- 1) Is it issued to Brands instead of the "unnatural links" notice (which in theory will result in a site wide penalty) because google doesn't want to affect their rankings? 2) Is this what everyone will receive from now on? 3) Is this a repudiation of their old "unnatural links" notice strategy that, in theory, affects the whole site and results in a penalty? (Maybe. However, there are many sites waiting for the other shoe to drop -- of the ~ 1 million notices issued, most have never been penalized and requests for reconsideration haven't been responded to.) 4) Is the new notice tripped algorithmically based on evaluation of the site's link graph? 5) Other? What This Test Proves -- That a notice can be generated through Negative SEO, even on a site with a broad link graph. The Fear -- Your E-Commerce site won't get the same treatment as seomoz because the nature of E-Commerce doesn't allow you to generate the kind of link graph that an information site can. Based on google's actions towards E-Commerce sites in general, I think you should be worried that you won't get the seomoz treatment, i.e., that, instead, you'll get a penalty. Afterall, google says you're not their customer, they're not interested in providing customer service to you, and they want to sort out the cesspool -- their Branding and PR strategy, not mine. Along those lines -- “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” --Andrew Carnegie What has google done to business websites in the past?

Scott Gimble

08/05/2012 01:04 am

Dont we have to wait for the next PENGUIN refresh to make this call? If Panda hits next week couldn't the site in theory be wiped out? The past update was Panda. What would that have to do with Negative SEO. What is the part I am missing. There has been no Penguin refresh. duh.

Rusty Craig

08/05/2012 08:54 am

I don't think SEOmoz is threatened with the negative SEO. They did negative links but did not lower down SEOmoz's rankings. Still not that tough.


08/06/2012 11:39 am

I think that this is just a piece of cake for SEOmoz, considering that they are one of the most powerful sites on the Web with regards to SEO. I also think that eventhough they had a warning from Google, Rand's team are already trying to figure out what happened and is now making ways to that it will not affect their ranking. Rand's team is very intelligent and 1 negative link shouldn't hurt them.


08/06/2012 02:26 pm

Of course its setup by Google...Google has arrangements with these types of websites like SEOmoz including Seroundtable even though they wont admin it. Google knows what people read so they reach out secretly to these sites clearing things up through them. Also, I think @Anti-SEO maybe working for Google or on their behalf as he keeps defending them on every occasion. my two pennies

Diego Fernandez

08/07/2012 01:45 am

It's pretty obvious to me that Rand Fishkin wouldn't had started this "experiment" if he weren't completely sure that these tactics can't hurt his own site. Others have mentioned the reasons already, so I won't insist on it. A much more balanced case study would be much more useful.


08/07/2012 01:21 pm

It would not be surprise if SEOmoz get some traffic boost after that)


08/07/2012 04:42 pm

No, following my logic, Google shouldn't make websites so flamable

Lord of SEO

08/07/2012 08:54 pm

Huge PR fuck up by that blockhead matt cutts, and Google, why would a warning be issued if it was 'algorithmic ally' ignored anyway? They most likely just pulled a lever seeing as it was SEOMOZ or any penalty would not have been applied as it is in the main stream media, man Google is so full of bullshit!


08/08/2012 05:58 pm

Exactly! You took the words out of my mouth. Starting a new project today on the net is more dangerous if you want to rise fast (if you get noticed you might be target of negative-SEO before you build a trusted reputation for your site). And some competitors might be aware of this and just bang you to oblivion...


08/09/2012 01:08 pm

did Rand and Matt made a secret pact? :)


08/09/2012 02:44 pm

Yet another proof of the fact that SEO is nothing but charlatanism and bullshit. The only way to get and keep good ratings, if to have good content, as simple as that, no "expert" can manufacture that for you. SEO = imaginary career path for people who are complete anti-talents in everything else in life.

Steven Lockey

08/20/2012 12:06 pm

Love the way that all the 'Negative SEO is real' guys are now claiming either a conspiracy between Google and SEOmoz or that 'SEOmoz are just too big to hurt'. Never let facts get between you and a good panic/blame session on someone else. Negative SEO doesn't exist in the literal sense. Only the perception of negative SEO exists. For example: Someone has a site with 100 links to it. 50 of them are 'low quality'. Panda/Penguin does a sweep and DEVALUES the 50 low quality links and sends the webmaster a warning. The webmaster goes around screaming 'Negative SEO killed my site' when in reality all that has happened is the credit for the 50 low quality links has been removed from the site, given these links were boosting the site up much higher than it deserved to be, it looks to the webmaster like he has been penalised when all that has really happened is the credit from the spammy links disappeared. A good example of this happening was a client's site of mine (taxi company, often a competitive area locally). They got a negative SEO attack (200 natural links before) which added an extra 20,000 links to their site, all poor, low-quality, typical penguin bait links. Site JUMPED massively for a few days, then we got the webmaster tools warning, then the site reverted to EXACTLY THE SAME PLACE IN THE RANKINGS IT WAS BEFORE THE 20,000 SPAM LINKS. If there had been a penalty applied then the site surely would have been lower than it's old position (which was #3 for the keyword 'taxi + city' and was #1 briefly after the spam links came in). I'm sure there are a lot of people who would rather blame Google than admit to their own spammy tactics, but if you want your site to recover, well thats not really an option.


09/03/2012 02:29 pm

This would have been interesting if someone did a proxy hijack attack...


10/12/2012 01:01 pm

Are you one of the "smart" people sending "remove links request" around? If Google say jump, you just jump? Google is now the new "bad guy", even worst that Microsoft in their best times, are you using G analytics? Google is enemy #1 of all small business.


11/02/2012 12:49 pm

Thanks, for very interesting post. I have a high regard for the valuable information


12/29/2013 08:40 pm

give me ten min and you're done! I'll NSEO you until your ass is sucking buttermilk. Let me know if you want to see it first hand.


01/17/2014 08:21 pm

content doesnt mean a thing if the engines can crawl the site properly. write it and they will link... nope. good luck with that. whats your site anyway? ive helped well over 100 business in the past several years with my charlatan SEO bullshit, and made them go from 0 to profit in the hundreds of thousands in the first few months of the site being live. dont be mad because you dont understand how search works, and maybe you have been burned by a few bad apples. i'm talented as hell... i can act, draw, juggle and dance. I also quit stone work (which was a lucrative trade career) once i realized i was ranking sites in 2003. thats a decade in search as an SEO, and you say bullshit. lol at the clueless id10T. i was a soldier in afghan when i started my learning of the engines and how they work to understand a web page. so in hindsight, i gave up two career paths because of my love for the imaginary no talent industry we call search. hahaha, to the bank beyotch!


05/12/2014 11:56 pm

Now that nearly 2 years have passed, does it not seem odd that no verified instances of negative SEO have worked on anything other than sites that did much link spamming on purpose? Many people here seemed to think it would work on sites not as strong as moz, but it has not.

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