Rand Fishkin’s Email Conversations with a Black Hat SEO

Rand Fishkin’s Email Conversations with a Black Hat SEO

I received an email myself yesterday, the contents of which are now being leaked below.. Apparently the owner of the Black Hat Reviews site that Rand had tweeted about in my earlier post “SEO’s in Denial” had emailed rand and this was their conversation. I hope it makes you at the very least laugh and at the very most, learn.


Starting email (sent from Owner of the Review Site) –

Hey Rand,

I would appreciate if you would please remove the shared tweet labeling the XXXXXXXX site as a product of blackhat techniques.

Founder of XXXXXXXXX


Hi XXX – I very rarely delete tweets. That one point to a Google+ post where someone else is making the assertions, and these were later confirmed by Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, who noted that there are algorithmic elements they’re working on to combat sites like this (indicating that the site is, indeed, and in Google’s eyes, manipulating the results).

Rand, the damage to my web property is done for being associated with this along with the other featured companies.

I cant speak for the others but we actually are paying customers for your company which brings it to another level. Not only are you damaging our brand, our credibility, and our reputation but you are also damaging a significant source of traffic for us!

Since when did you step down from moz and join google’s webspam team?

You are entitiled to your opinions on search and traffic and rankings and content but when it comes to a direct malicious attack on a particular website? Where does that fit into moz’s and your agenda?

What exactly is the motivation behind this attack on this site and the indirect damage it could potentially cause the companies featured on it?

I cant really remember a time when you have came out and publically attacked a specific site like this… deliberately outing it for the webspam team?

But alas, the motivation isnt very hard to decipher if you look a few layers below the surface.

Could it possibly be that you were motivated by your close ties to Distilled and their competing site bestseocompanies.com that has enjoyed a slightly longer run at the exact same key terms…??? Lets overlook that it sports a very questionable link profile at best…

Where were you on that one for the last 9-12 months?

That is a pretty disgusting abuse of your influence in my opinion.

I thought Moz’s mission was to be the foremost informational source for seo. And to provide the best analysis tools and consultative services in the industry.

It is quite shocking that you would deviate from that mission to maliciously slander a site competing against your buddy’s.

Lets not forget distilleds close ties to wow internet… you know their equity stake… but I dont really need to point out all your reasons for this deliberate attack to you do I?

Moz… ethical seo industry authority… unless it interferes with their agenda.

Have fun pretending to be an ethical unbiased industry authority.

Would hate to see what kind of damage publicizing this hypocrisy and clear conflict of interest would do to you and your company’s reputation.

Hi XXX – a few items:
• First off, thank you for being Moz customers; that’s really flattering and awesome to hear. I hope we can keep making the service better for you.
• I’ve long been criticized on the web for acting this way – I share webspam stuff I (or other people, as in this case) find regularly. I’m fascinated by the open discussion of webspam and by being able to study examples of sites/pages that break Google’s guidelines, yet clearly still rank. This is not a sudden change for me; it’s a historic, long-standing pattern.
• While I’m sure you will not believe me, this example had nothing to do with Distilled or my friendship with many of the folks there. I saw the post on Google+, thought it was an interesting example in light of Google’s release of Penguin 2.0, and shared it. It was during the flow of surfing social media, not based on some desire to exact revenge on a site ranking in proximity to a friend. I’ve shared lots of examples of webspam of all kinds over the years, often on Twitter.
• I don’t know anything about bestseocompanies.com
• I think your threat to publicize your critiques of my tweeting the link and the imagined motives for such aren’t helpful, and they definitely don’t help me see your position in a better light.
• Deleting the tweet now would also be meaningless. Tweets don’t have long term visibility; they’re seen for a few hours at most. Matt Cutts and the webspam team are already clearly aware of the issue (and likely were long before my tweet or the Google+ post).
I wish you the very best of luck and I harbor no ill will. If I can ever be helpful on other issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


We use your services and study your literature in the quest to be the best in our industry. Over the years our personal views have diverged more and more as your brand has matured into its current very wholesome image and in my opinion you guys have basically became a Google parrot (leaving distilled in the trenches doing all the dirty work for you while you collect checks from them).

I believe that this facade is really a diservice to the people who blindly follow you as an authority on SEO.

You are so out of touch with what business owners want when it comes to SEO (but you arent really… you just pretend to be). This pretend out of touch with reality position is easy to hide behind so it suits you. After all, it is easy to hide from Business owners who are out of touch with their own goals as well.

They may not know it but in most cases they want rankings. They want to dominate their space. They want relevant traffic, and subsequent leads and sales.

The problem is that if your white hat fan boys were honest about the ROI that their services will likely never produce then they would never get hired.

If anyone is manipulating anyone it is all these super “ethical” guys taking money from clients every month under the guise of a long term “likely” roi. And you are one of the leaders driving them away from what their goals should be.

I ask you what is the job of an SEO service provider? My answer to that question would vary based on the goals of the client. But I just told you what 99% of the clients want above. So just like any marketing medium, 99 out of 100 times the goal should be to deliver an ROI.

Tell me, when is the last time you developed and deployed a ranking strategy for a site that established any level of traction in any competitive niche?

And yet you still are speaking on stage telling everyone about this miracle content revolution that is supposedly happening while also referring Distilled to anyone interested in hiring an SEO…

If you can show me a white hat site that is ranking, I will show you non white hat Seo strategies at work. That I am certain of. Want to know why?

Because quite simply… there is NO such thing as white hat SEO. Google’s official guidelines are centered around you delivering top notch content and clean code.

The field of dreams mentality – “If you build it they will come.”

So let’s think about it a little more indepthly…

First I need to hire John Grisham to write my content then I need to hire some top comedy writers to spice it up then I need some top artists and UI guys to make it awesome and attractive and ultra ultra user friendly. Then Google will magically send me traffic right? Wrong.

So how do you get traffic? Here’s the kicker… You buy it.

So what is white hat SEO (according to google)? You build a kick ass site. You build out a very robust foundational internet presence. You work day and night on awesome content – stuff that is entertaining, inspiring, and so damn compelling that when people see it .0001% will share it.

OK after that we get our million dollar traffic budget together and start driving traffic, we hire a PR firm, get our stuff out to the media, buy some radio spots, TV, put 900k into ppc etc etc and voila I get 300,000 visitors and it results in 300 back links worth anything. Awesome.

The reality is that since google rose to prominence they have aggressively attempted to scare people into not deconstructing their algorithms and the sheep have all followed (behind you).

A real Seo is a computer scientist. An experimenter. A tester.

There is no such thing as “black hat” or “white hat” Seo. There is cause and effect. Action and reaction. The black hat terminology was deliberately coined to manipulate SEOs into not pushing the boundaries. A scare tactic designed to trick SEOs into not testing the variables like real scientists. Fear Mongering. The Bush administration probably borrowed heavily from their road map.

We test. Manually. Automated. Tools. Services. Aggressive. Conservative. We Analyze competitors. We Identify variables and test again and again. As scientists we repeat until we verify our original hypothesis or it evolves. We establish a theory then test it some more.

Then we deliver value. Real value. ROI. Something 90% of the SEO sellers have never even accidentally done for a client.

Charles Floate
I'm a UK based Search Engine Optimisation and Search Marketing Consultant. With over 5 years in the Search Industry, I'm hoping to build up God of SEO as a Dedicated Internet Marketing Blog with tons of Information for the Community to engage with.
Charles Floate
Charles Floate
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