Today we write a new page of history – the very first guest post on the blog about a Rand Fishkin ranking case study!
I have always refused guest posts in the past as they don’t meet the quality standard that I like to publish.
Even when they were up to scratch, I advised the authors the posts are better off on their own blogs.
But today is VERY different :)
What You Will Learn
- How I ranked for Rand Fishkin, SEOMoz & Moz.com
- The EXACT tactics used to for rank above Forbes, Wikipedia, Moz & others!
- The Tools I used to build links
- The results after just days of link building work
Introducing Charles Floate!
I started my blog a little while ago, it was initially out of the pure boredom of sitting up, awake, in bed at around 2am in the morning when it hit me that I had a kick ass domain sitting there along with a Matthew Woodward tutorial blazing in the background.
The start of this post is the prologue that led up to this event, if you’re looking to head straight into the cool Rand Fishkin ranking case study I compiled then just scroll down until you find the pretty huge header.
A Quick Look At The Rand Fishkin Ranking Case Study
I set out initially to rank 2 or 3 different pages for the term “Rand Fishkin” – All pages feature within this article though the main page that I ended up focused on ranking though was this page.
Today it is still ranking first page (close to 4 months after the case study was started). As the study evolved I included more keywords.
The keywords I ended up targeting were:
- Rand Fishkin
- Rand Fish
My goal was to rank these pages with totally black hat backlinks, that I could then prove would “stick” as most of the white hats out there will tell you: “black hat it’s just not long term”, however these techniques have lasted now months and haven’t seen anything get penalized and almost no rankings drop even after we disavowed all the links.
Why Did I Create This Case Study?
I thought I’d start by giving a bit of backstory for this post, as it can be a little confusing as to why I did it.
Whilst coming up with my blog, I was trying to think of keywords I could rank for as well as products and services I’d be interested in. Around this same time was a bit of a controversial post that I’m sure many of you will have seen, involving Rand Fishkin & his buddies.
Just to clarify for the 1 billionth time, I have nothing against Rand (check out his blog here). I enjoy his content and why else would I be posting to his company’s blog to give them yet even more traffic? Except to get a link of course; we all want them damn links!
After I’d made this post, I got forwarded an email from a burner Hushmail account from someone naming themselves the “Pink Hat SEO” – In the email was a conversation posted between Rand and ‘Pink Hat’. Also within the email were the following words:
and you can tell that Randy boy, I could knock his own name off the SERPs if I wanted to
I took that quite literally around a week later when I was emailing Rand for some information about a post I was doing on Penguin 2.0. Which, I may add, he gave a rather generously large statement on and generated quite a bit of traffic!
Back to the main premise though, the statement above really caught my imagination and I thought.. Well if he could “Rank for Rand” why can’t I? I emailed Rand and got his permission as well as the permission of Ruth & Cyrus on the Moz team, who replied graciously with “bring it on!”.
I’d already seen Dan Petrovic’s post on how he hijacked Rand Fishkin – but inevitably only did it for Australian searches, I went after the full Google US terms.
This led me to a few different bits and pieces which I’ll be going over in the following case study. Enjoy…
The Case Study (Where Things Get Interesting)
The actual link building wasn’t all that interesting, but I thought I’d go through step by step (or round by round) how I approached the link building.
I used a few automated tools along the way, all my spun content was done through a few different services – I’d either compiled my own articles and got them manually spun via contractors on oDesk.
In total I spent under $60 on Content, and got well over a total of 90,000 words spread across ~9 articles and a few social bookmark/forum posting spun content.
Round 1 – SAPE, The Russians are at it again!
The first thing I noticed was the ton of referring domains being .Ru – I already knew of the giant that is SAPE (For those of you that don’t, it’s Russia’s largest link network with around 700,000 domains).
I even did a small post on SAPE which was wholly based around my findings over the next few weeks.
However in the end, I decided against using SAPE as I thought using illegally hacked websites to gain my first position was a “bit too black hat”, even for this case study.
Round 2 – The “Semi-Private” Blog Networks
For any of you who are members of the deeply secret (yeah, right) BlackHatWorld forum, you’ll know that the current rage of buying “private” links.
Although you can view threads and buy them without actually being a member so I’m just going to call them Semi-Private Blog Networks like the service Jacob Hagberg runs.
I bought a range of the packages available at very discounted rates as it tended to either be in return for Review copies or just a couple of Skype buddies who were running the threads.
I also invested $7 into Link Emporer to grab 30,000 credits, which converts into roughly 150 orders (at 200 credits each). I only went with the Quality blog networks, which still built me well over 400 links total, from DA 15 – 80 sites.
Round 3 – The Scrape and Blast!
I actively use a tool called ScrapeBox for a bit of diversity in my backlink profile, it allows me to scrape tons of potential sites and keywords, as well as check PR and more of potential sites.
In this case, I used the scrape backlinks and blast technique – Where I pulled the list of backlinks pointing to the Rand Fishkin blog, about us page and his Twitter feed.
I imported the link list into ScrapeBox, set up some spun comments and set the names to my anchor text (Rand Fishkin, Rand Fish, etc…) and blasted away! I ended up with around 1,900 successes.
The aim of this was to built a megaton of nofollow backlinks that take around 3 weeks to get indexed by Google and create a larger amount of diversity in my backlink profile than just contextual posts. The spun comments were all Rand/SEO related though.
Round 4 – Automated, Contextual Tier 2s
I used a number of SEO software tools to pull this off, and the premise is to build as many damn Tier 2 backlinks (which are contextual) as possible in a short amount of time and don’t send them to any Indexing service, allow them to be naturally indexed.
I pulled my list of around 550 private blog network posts (which had been spread across the links) and used a number of black hat tools to boost them all – The end result was well over 8,000 links built and a ranging PR from 0 all the way up to 8 – With a few .gov and .edu posts sprinkled along the way.
This added yet more power and PA to my private network posts and helped me create a multi-tier link building campaign.
Round 5 – Automated, Tier 3 Blog Comments, Social Bookmarks and Forum Posts
I already had access to a number of black hat tools from an agency I’d worked for around 2 years ago and asked if I could borrow their RDP for a few campaigns.
I’d already got ScrapeBox for the blog comments, so I decided to take a look at some of the tools on the RDP.
The tier 3s blasted in total built me another 200,000 links – Sorry to the forum owners that suffered my wrath of manual, 4 tier sentence spinning.
Round 6 – The Indexing
I wasn’t too sure on what service to use for indexing for my Tier 1 backlinks. I ended up manually using a fake Google+ Profile I’d been using to build up some authority with, along with Link Pipeline and Linklicious (which were both recommended to me on BHW).
Most of my Tier 1 backlinks were indexed the same day that they were made, and the maximum it took was 4 days. Ahrefs even picked up 20 backlinks on the 1st day I’d started my link building campaign.
The Results Week By Week!
Lets take a look at how the results developed week by week-
Week 1,Content Creation & Posting
I spent the first week preparing all the content I’d be using, I moved jobs and had 3 days spare to do all of this.
I sat down, wrote a ton of content that I’d use for the backlinks and also wrote up the post on my blog, as well as various other posts I’d be looking to rank for these keywords.
Once all the content was written, I looked around oDesk & iWriter for some good content writers and manual spinners – I spent a couple of hours interviewing a few people and I’ll be using a number of them again.
I specifically asked for examples of manually spun content from all writers I interviewed so I knew they had some basic knowledge of SEO as well.
I then built a folder where I could put all of my bits and pieces that I was going to be using.
Week 2, Let The Links Begin!
This was the week I spent building up my Tier 1 links, I started out looking through and contacting a few faces on black hat world, as well as sitting down with the Matthew Woodward tutorial on Link Emporer.
I’d used Link Emperor over a year ago and remembered some of it, but needed a bit of a catch up.
Once all the links were ordered and my Link Emperor credits balance had plummeted to a lowly 0, I waited for the reports.
I’d only ordered links that I knew I’d get full reports on (showing me all the links) and back within 7 days.
I’ll also give a shout to Jon Cooper for his link building strategies post which helped me indefinitely with the names of most of the methods I was using (I always forget the technical terms).
Week 3, Tier 2/3 & First Rankings!
I spoke to my old, old boss and got access to the RDP, started building all my tier 2/3 backlinks from my pool of content.
It was also the same week where I started to see the rankings coming in, granted they were pages 9-15 but it still counts! All of the keywords I was targeting came in, with the following positions (and changes over the 7 days) –
Rand Fishkin – Monday I saw it hit page 14 with position 141, by the end of the week (Friday) I saw it hit page 10.
Moz.com – Monday, it hit page 18 and by Friday was up to page 11
Moz – Monday, it hit page 16 and by Friday was on page 9.
SEOmoz – This was ranking on page 20 and didn’t move all week, I decided to build a few more Tier 1s to this with a fresh order from a friend of mine for a quick $20 and giving him the content I got another 20 links built!
Week 4, Keep On Rankin Baby!
This was the day I published my newest article on and I saw the following EPIC Results:
Rand Fishkin actually went upto #7 around 3 hours afterwards and I saw page 2 results for Rand Fish (Which I wasn’t even targeting) and moz.com as well as moz.
The only disappointment I had was SEOmoz, which was still only Page 7 –
I grabbed the full report for links built with the anchor text “seomoz” from my spreadsheet and went at attacking it aggressively with Tier 2s.
I also went about building another couple of blog network links with a 2nd Link Emperor account, as I really wanted to hit it with this keyword!
Week 5, The Results Are In!
Week 5 was the final week I wanted to see rankings, I wanted to spend the whole of Week 6 writing up a full report and wanted to hit Page 1 for every keyword, if not position #1!
Monday Morning – I checked the SERPs as per usual and saw the following positions:
Moz – #4 – Just above the Forbes, Wikipedia and Open Site Explorer listings! Just below the Moz Facebook.
What I thought was funny was that this was 2 days after I’d done the 2nd post on God of SEO, and it had only been created 2 days prior!
Rand Fishkin – I was now sitting at #7 & #8! That’s pretty incredible to have 2 links on the same page, trying for a 3rd by the end of the week!
SEOmoz – Was sitting at #29, still not seen too much in this, but it’s slowly marching up. Might hit 1st page, you never know!
Moz.Com – Sitting at #2!!! – That’s above the Wikipedia result and just under the 7 SERP Result for the main page, pretty awesome..
I doubt I’ll be able to hit #1 by the end of the week though, but as I said, you never know…
Week 6 – The Write up
So, it’s the final week and we’ve come so far! The final results are as follows:
Rand Fishkin – #3, #5 and #56 (Seen fluctuation and differences in Google US and Google UK)
Moz.com – #2 – I couldn’t hit #1, then again that was taken up by a gigantic 11 SERP result that dominated the first page..
SEOmoz – #15 – The highest that I could hit was page 2. Super competitive keyword and maybe given a bit more time I could have hit page 1!
Moz – #3 – Sitting just above the official Moz Facebook, Wikipedia and OSE, but just under the Moz Twitter (Which isn’t surprising, due to the amount of social signals and followers Moz gets from Twitter.
I didn’t quite hit #1 though I did manage to get some killer SERP results, and I saw quite a bit of organic traffic hit my blog from the Moz related keywords.
The Grand Finale!
I achieved these results in a mere 6 weeks, with just 2 weeks of link building and result checking while putting this entire case study together.
So, I decided to give you guys a quick FAQ, feel free to give me some questions to answer in the comments box below!
You gained a ton of black hat links pointing straight to your site, won’t it get banned?
After all this, I disavowed the entire link profile (start to finish) of the Tier 1s I’d built for this case study, and I also requested that any of the network links I’d built to be removed by the network owners.
Will you be doing this kind of “attack” again?
I doubt it, at least for awhile – If anyone wants to do a follow up, maybe for a HUGE name or corporation name (get permission first of course, you don’t want to get sued for libel) then I’d be happy to offer some help/feedback.
Where did you learn about all the Black Hat Link Building Techniques?
From using a number of black hat forums, and also from people I’ve met along the way in the SEO community.
There’s a ton of literature out there and I’d put down a lot of the methods that I’d learnt from the following people: Matthew Woodward, Blackhat Agent, Jon Cooper, BigBuddy (from Black Hat World), Backlinko and a few other awesome people who have submitted content to various forums.
What “Hat” do you class yourself as?
I class myself as a grey hat SEO. If my client wants to be number #1 for a keyword in 2 weeks, then by all means I’ll help them.
If they want to build a huge content marketing strategy and do tons of outreach across a number of months and build a sustainable authority site, then I’ll do all the manual labour that it requires.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Common question, I think everyone should answer this)
I’m hoping to be earning a hell of a lot more than I am now, as well as still be running my God of SEO blog with some even more powerful content.
My main aim for the time being is to carry on learning, rank my current clients with kick ass services and keep growing my personal sites!
My Final Thoughts
So, after all this you might ask, what have I actually learnt and what have I proven?
Well, I’d start by saying I spent $120 over 2 weeks to rank for some pretty huge branded keywords, god knows what I could do with a larger scale budget and some more time.
This is also going further than that though, it’s to the point where I did this purely out of a bit of spite, not for Rand Fishkin or Moz, in fact that’s far from it!
It’s in spite of this new era of “Rand Fishkin content marketing” – if this is the only way forward, why am I still able to rank so well with a few black hat backlinks and a few hundred words?
Well, it’s because Google and the likes of Matt Cutts suck you in, they produce a load of fluff to say they’re going to come down on you like a ton of bricks, which in actual fact… you’re more likely to get a couple cuddly toys thrown at you.
I saw more proof of this with my own company. I have a personal company website in which I sell my SEO services, and in the space of 3 months I built close to 15,000 back links, 90% of which were contextual backlinks or paid for.
Results? 3,000 unique visitors per week and 5 enquiries a day. It took Google over 4 MONTHS to hit me with a manual penalty. The result of the penalty? I dropped from #4 on one of my keywords to #7, most of the other keywords are still perfectly fine.
So, after reading all of this, if you haven’t learnt anything…
Don’t believe everything that you read, especially the fluff that has changed our industry, in my opinion, for the worse.
A Sneak Preview
So what’s next?