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The Penguin Whisperer


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  1. Terry Van Horne says:

    Penguin is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum! Anyone who thinks they have the answer to all is a deluded fool. I bet even most of the engineers at Google don’t know much about it. I believe there is a lot of evidence pointing to a combination of disavow and link removal (including deleting affected pages and off topic pages). That said, I think to recover and raise ranks you have to replace the link equity lost with new links of higher quality and more social signals underpinning it.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Agree for the most part. I think too many people treat Penguin as if there is a one size fits all solution. IMHO, it is a case by case solution basis. The main component is obviously links, but the link profile of the client has everything to do with how we implement recovery.

  2. Agent Blackhat says:

    Thank you for the read.

    I’m very selective to who I listen to online, its always good to approach everything with a pinch fo salt and remember that Google has become so complex and so difficult to reverse-engineer that even SEOs with hundreds of sites can’t make accurate presumptions.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      True. There is always going to be that “fringe case” that breaks all the rules we’ve come to know and associate with various filters and penalties. I have one of those I work with. Those are the most frustrating – to me – for sure.

  3. Hi Paul and Rae,

    As Moz’s Senior Content Manager I take ultimate responsibility for this WBF. We knew going in that Josh’s personal point of view would be controversial – so we thought it best to frame it as a discussion and open it to debate. We wanted to hear from our community of experts. From this perspective it generated a ton of valuable debate on a much needed subject. Everyone learned a ton from industry veterans weighing in with different points of views in the comments.

    That said, you’re absolutely right that by simply appearing on the Moz Blog, people could easily assume Moz vetted all the information and vouched for it – no matter how many disclaimers we place stating all posts are the opinion of the author.

    Moz is 80% user generated content. That’s one of its greatest strengths, and sometimes a liability. I’m often amazed how much SEO knowledge, research and education has sprung from the community on this platform. On the other hand, we have a responsibility to carefully select which UGC we choose to promote. I think it’s safe to say if we had to do it over again, we’d carefully consider a different course with this particular piece.

    • Paul Macnamara says:

      Thanks for that Cyrus. And again, it wasn’t so much that he was making an argument as to if disavow on its own was enough to escape Penguin, it was his condescending tone towards others that would dare disagree with his conclusion both in the post itself and in the comments afterward that ruffled feathers.

      • Marie Haynes says:

        Agreed. I wouldn’t have minded the video and even the discussion if it weren’t so condescending. I think we should all be encouraged to publish our theories…but we need to be respectful of others.

        Josh keeps asking me repeatedly for examples of sites that have seen Penguin improvement with just a disavow. In another case I showed him a case that I had done disavow work on with no removals and with Penguin they improved from #8 organic to #1 – #3 for most of their terms on the date of a Penguin refresh. He said that that was not a valid case because it was too small of an increase.

        I asked a client if they would like to share their url with him and they did and then he went and tweeted about their site, totally throwing away their anonymity. He claimed it couldn’t be a pure disavow recovery because ahrefs showed link loss, so therefore they must have been lying about not removing any links. I’d like to see a site that had previously engaged in spammy link building that DIDN’T have any link loss.

        Thanks for the article Paul (and for the mention as well) and thanks for publishing this Rae. It was quite a read!

        • Casey Markee says:

          I can’t say enough how much I love this statement:

          “Josh must have some pretty damn good outreach skills when it comes to removals because as someone that has removed a very significant number of manual penalties, I can tell you that a 20% removal rate would be considered extremely high and removal rates of 5-15% would be far more typical. These numbers are not nearly enough to spring a typically afflicted site from Penguin. ”

          As Marie can probably attest to, I can count on ONE HAND the amount of link pruning projects that involved a removal % over 20%. That’s EXTREMELY high.

          But I have to say the best comment from Josh was his “I can do 300 audits a year.” Apparently, Josh must do audits in the bathroom, while at the gym, and on trips with his family because that is some pretty fantastic time management.

          I’m currently #1 in Google for “Google Penalty Site Audit” (among others). And at NO TIME has that ever even generated close to 300 queries in a YEAR for penalty auditing — much less ACTUAL penalty audits. Hell, I get more queries from peer-to-peer referrals or as result of Pubcon/etc. speaking engagements.

          Finally, I got to say Marie if Josh ever did to one of my clients what he did with yours on the confidentiality front, we’d be having a much more physical conversation. Ridiculous.

          • Josh Bachynski says:

            you are threatening me physically now, and I’m the one who is ridiculous?


            Paul, Chuck, Marie and whoever you are, and whatever other seo who wants to weign in on this, I understand if you want to bilk your clients out of more money so you take extraordinarily long in your site audits, hey that’s your client’s problem.

            But quite frankly it just shouldn’t take longer than a day at utter max unless you are a complete amateur. I will put my seo report up against anyone.

        • Travis Bailey says:

          It seems that pointing out ‘link loss’ is a convenient defense. Almost every site will show link loss over time. And strictly pointing to ‘link loss’ from a single tool is more than likely erroneous. Robert Fisher wrote a pretty good post at https://moz.com/blog/google-webmaster-tools-just-got-a-lot-more-important-for-link-discovery-and-cleanup.

          I mean, ahrefs is on the top of the Bad Bots list. ‘Link loss’ may be the result of sites blocking popular link data bots to prevent removal requests. :D

          • The “pure disavow” thing is a false premise to begin with. A straw man argumen. Very few people are claiming that a Penguin penalty can be escaped with nothing more than disavowing. Not google, and as far as I can tell, not anyone who really does this stuff professionally.

    • Hey Cyrus,

      I’m very glad to hear you would take a different path given the same situation in the future.

      I’m sad to say this has been yet another post in my space that I chose not to comment on – until I could stand it no more today and finally vented my feelings of disappointment and frustration in the nicest way I could think of.

      This niche is not one where game playing, horn locking or chest beating have any place.

      It saddens me to see how many seem to have forgotten there are people out there losing livelihoods, homes, marriages, friends and I dread to think what else. The fact that someone can make easy money from people who still have some is annoying, but a matter for their conscience.

      Giving those people a platform to set themselves up as experts and deliver flawed messages that will likely be taken as gospel by the thousands trying to claw back their businesses by themselves is something that should never happen. I talk to those people every day. I hear the things they have “learned” from all manner of “experts” and every post with the potential to send more people down a rabbit hole with no return annoys me. When I see it on a platform like Moz, it breaks my heart.

      To clarify:
      1. I am not referring solely to the post in question.
      2. For anyone who cares to take notice, my silence on posts that are clearly within my area of expertise never signals my disinterest.

      Thanks for taking the time to put some thought into the reactions.


    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Hey Cyrus,

      It almost sounds like you expected (and welcomed the controversy). My guess is that you didn’t expect Josh’s attitude to be what it was when it came to defending his position. I respect Josh’s attempt to have a different opinion and go against the grain, even if I don’t agree with his findings. But, his attitude in the post was shocking – even to me, LOL. And we all know I’m far from the most politically correct person in the world. :)

      Either way, YouMoz is one thing. With regard to WBF: Y’all have positioned yourself as an authority, especially to the newbies. That comes with a huge responsibility I’m glad I don’t have. WBF screams “moz approved” and in the future, I’d be a lot more careful – not even so much with the ideas you promote through it, but with the people you are giving a platform for promoting those opinions.

      • Wise words, Rae. With that, we’ll push the reset button (not the first time in our 10 year history) put our heads down and get back to the work of earning our reputation every day.

        • Whilst I agree with everything said here you have to respect this response from Cyrus. The measure of a company (or man) should not be that it never makes mistakes, but how it deals and responds to those mistakes and in this regard Moz has owned up to this being a mistake.

          One thing we seem to see with Penguin is different approaches have all worked. I have a client who set up a new site after being brutalised by one of the earliest penguin releases but they have now seen the original site recover of sorts with no disavow or link removal. That said, it could be that the crappy links have just naturally died over time but certainly nothing was done.

          I have other clients that have done everything possible – granular link removal and disavow and are still struggling.

          There is even a video where John Mueller states that simply getting good links can be enough to recover from Penguin: http://youtu.be/Ba_qLBFlIe4?t=33m51s.

          The truth as ever with SEO is going to be a complicated array of factors that are completely unique to the individual case.

          All the above said this has all stimulated some good discussion and insights from the folks in the trenches doing this kind of work in the end everyone can benefit from that.

          On the audit side of things – we have a view from 10,000 feet audit that can be done in a day and some compartmentalised audits using the tools that can be done in the same time but our typical SEO audit takes closer to a week but to be fair, the link aspect of that is just a small part. I guess this one is a matter of what one defines as an SEO audit at the end of the day and the level of granularity taken.

          Certainly though, there are lots of smart folks with lots of experience doing there absolute best to help people with big problems and no Google approved recovery system so calling them out as shysters trying to simply do folks out of money is straight up wrong.


  4. Chuck Price says:

    Hi Paul: Spot on analysis. Thanks for taking the time & having the courage to write it.
    Rae: Thanks for giving Paul the platform to “vent.”

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Thanks Chuck – I think he did a great job with the post. It was definitely “Rants in Bitchland” worthy in my book.

  5. Josh "the supposedly condescending a-hole" Bachynski says:

    This is nothing more than a rant filled attack against my character. Which is fine.

    No one at Moz told me I had to respond a certain way. You may be surprised, after being in many dog fights myself, that I don’t respond in the way anyone else may dictate or prefer.

    My video was completely vetted and approved by Moz employees.

    If other people read vitriol (the adjective I used, interesting enough, to describe their posts against me personally) that is not really under my control

    It is very transparent: I outed the practice that many SEOs are selling ( a pure disavow) and other people’s gospel position, Moz was not ready to handle the ire of their doctrinal community, and now I am being vilified.

    Which is all perfectly fine. Yes, I can do 300 site audits a year. Any professional can. It is called using the data, not personally visiting every single page manually. If you can’t, then you are doing something wrong.

    Taking my videos from years ago is not quite fair play and is just an obvious, and rather amateur, attack on my character.

    And if you think I have ruffled feathers now… just wait.

    I haven’t even started yet

    • Paul Macnamara says:

      >>>>This is nothing more than a rant filled attack against my character.

      I think that if you were going to call into question the character of penalty removal professionals in your original post then I think it should not be any surprise that I and others have questioned yours.

      Again, if you had done nothing more than just presented a theory as to why you believe a certain technique doesn’t work, then I would have just hit the next button. But that isn’t what you did. You called into question the integrity of those that don’t share your view and smeared them in the process.

      >>>>Yes, I can do 300 site audits a year.

      I have no idea how to respond to this except to say that your definition of what an audit is likely differs substantially from what mine is.

      • Casey Markee says:

        >>>> have no idea how to respond to this except to say that your definition of what an audit is likely differs substantially from what mine is.

        Bingo. And not just you.

      • Casey, I have to agree. As someone who actually builds large data sets every day the idea of 300 audits worth a damn per year by one person is beyond reality.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I’m actually gonna try and do you a solid here Josh:

      “You may be surprised, after being in many dog fights myself, that I don’t respond in the way anyone else may dictate or prefer.”

      Neither do I – anyone can tell you that. But, there is being confrontational while being respectful. I admit, I didn’t always follow that line. 6 years ago, this post would have been optimized to rank for your name, because sometimes back then I cared more about winning the fight than the topic being fought about. I really don’t care how you respond to things, but, as someone who has been doing this a long time, I’m advising you to learn to disagree – and make a point – without looking like a raving lunatic while doing it (said from experience).

      “My video was completely vetted and approved by Moz employees.”

      I absolutely believe your video was fully approved – complete with the expected controversy it would cause. However, by your account, it was not indeed “vetted.” Moz would have needed to know your method and see multiple examples of the outcome to have “vetted” your WBF.

      “I outed the practice that many SEOs are selling (a pure disavow)”

      Look, you could argue you have a better, faster method. You could argue that maybe a disavow might recover you, but your method does better at recovering pre-penalty ranks. But you cannot argue a disavow doesn’t work, because it does and has for the majority of the people doing penalty recovery – from both algorithmic and manual penalties. It might not *always* work. But it does work for some cases. I might be inclined to question if they work in OOP penalties. But not in Penguin. Having a “better” way is an arguable position. Declaring “the earth is flat” is not an arguable position.

      Additionally, at some point, somewhere, you claimed penalty specialists wanted to promote disavow working to be able to charge for it. That’s when shit got nasty. You’re promoting – what – link removal? I’m pretty sure that costs three times as much to get done from most penalty professionals. So, by your own argument, you would have more to gain financially by claiming disavow doesn’t work than those who say it does. Rule #1 of successful arguments, examine every argument you make – before you make it – to see if it can be turned around against you.

      “Yes, I can do 300 site audits a year. Any professional can. It is called using the data, not personally visiting every single page manually. If you can’t, then you are doing something wrong.”

      Sigh. Again, you attack and then act like you don’t understand why you’re being attacked back. I’ve been doing this for 16+ years. For companies large and small. For my own sites (AKA, if I stopped doing consulting tomorrow, I would still make 6 figures doing affiliate marketing). I have a proven track record of ranking, of recovering sites from penalties and for being ahead of where Google is going.

      I could not do 300 audits a year.

      That equates to about an audit a day assuming you don’t work 365 days a year. It takes 2 days to crawl a 200K page site, another several hours to research their indexing in Google, another few hours to go through their Google Webmaster Tools and their Analytics. Then it takes time, depending on the number of issues, to figure out what the hell is going on with their site – especially if penalized or losing ranks – and put together a list of all the issues affecting them and how to fix them. Then it takes quite a bit of time to write it all up into a document that both their marketing director and their IT guy can understand. And don’t forget the follow up call to explain any parts of the audit they find confusing.

      So, I’d have to say your idea of an audit and my idea of an audit are two different things. Because there is no way someone can do the above in a day, unless it is generic and automated (and even then, crawling a 100K+ page site usually takes longer than that alone).

      Once again, you can argue you have a different kind of audit. But you can’t argue that you have more hours in a day than the rest of us.

      “Taking my videos from years ago is not quite fair play and is just an obvious, and rather amateur, attack on my character.”

      Most would argue you swung the first low blow between the two posts. If you’re going to give those kind of attacks, you have to be willing to take them too.

      “And if you think I have ruffled feathers now… just wait.”

      What’s the point Josh? You make comments like that and they make you look like a frat kid vs. an SEO. Do you think there’s something to gain from being seen as a jackass? Honestly, if you noticed, you probably didn’t get the type of rises from your arguments you were hoping for. It’s because your comments here have made you look unstable vs. just argumentative. Sorry, I don’t have any other way to put it.

      But here’s what I can tell you. This is my motherfucking house.

      You can either take this as a learning experience or not. You can either hear what I’m saying – as someone who took every fight I could find my first decade in this industry – that there are smarter ways to take an unpopular stance or not. You can ask yourself if you wish to come off as unpopular vs. a lunatic and act accordingly. You can continue to post comments.

      But, I will not approve another comment – in my motherfucking house – that insinuate that I have a lack of skills or ethics (“any professional can”).

      Again, trying to do you a solid dude. You graduated high school in 2007 according to FB, so you’re what? 25? I thought I knew everything at 25 too. I didn’t. I sure as hell am not suggesting you conform, only that you position yourself as an outlier and not an asshat.

      • Kristine S says:

        Beautifully said Rae.

      • Good advice, now lets see if he can actually take it on board or not.

      • josh "the supposedly controversial" bachynski says:


        The attacks against me here are no more intelligent than the invective posted against me on Black Hat World, where the main substance of their argument against my professional SEO career was that they disliked my teeth.

        You got every single fact wrong.

        The order of events. What I actually said. Even my age (thanks for snooping around my Facebook profile btw to dig up dirt against me).

        The conclusions you draw from them are obviously flawed.

        You should be ashamed of yourself.

        PS: Thanks for doing me the “solid” of posting my response. How “generous” of you.

      • Financial Samurai says:

        Ah, to be 25 again

    • Frank Watson says:


      How about sharing say 20 sites you have done audits for and if not how about a list of just 50 factors you analyze in your audits – yeah there are tools out there to grab the info – guess you run 3-4 at a time – but when it comes to large scale ecommerce sites or those with 10s of thousands of pages just checking the inbound links is not a site audit and takes serious consideration and thought – unless you have an audit template and 80% of the content is the same for them all

  6. Jeff Libert says:

    “We knew going in that . . view would be controversial . . We wanted to hear from *our* community of experts . . *Everyone learned a ton* from industry veterans weighing in . . ”

    That reads like a description of pre-planned, high-yield videobait.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I would agree with you there. The problem is that they only saw / accepted to potential backlash for the topic and not how Josh would behave when questioned / disagreed with.

  7. Hey Josh,

    This is not an attack, but I would like to learn how you were able to get clients out of a Penguin penalty in two to three days. You went on a pretty big tirade about SEOs selling “snake oil” by selling disavow services to clients. To be honest, a 2-3 day expected recovery claim seems extremely illegitimate.

    • Josh Bachynski says:

      that is a perfectly valid and reasonable request given the circumstances :-) unfortunately, & I am loath to give my critics any more childish ammunition,but I cannot share that here for many reasons not the least of which is that it might stop working. And it is my competitive advantage. so yes of course I charge for it :-) I would be an idiot not to. any sensible person who is not taking things too “personally” would agree :-)

      if you want help recovering your site’s rankings I would be happy to help out. but I think you were just asking from a put up or shut up perspective. Which is a perfectly valid challenge I think under these circumstances :-)

      • I can understand where you are coming from in that regard. However the claim itself still concerns me. It definitely was a put up or shut up challenge, albeit a respectful one. At least that was my intention. In looking at my language after the fact, it may have been too strong.

        • Hi Josh,

          I think you may need to prove this 2-3 day recovery method you have however rather than tell us all exactly what you do why don’t we collectively agree on a site that has been hit recently, let you do your thing and then we can all monitor to see what happens.

          On the site auditing front, from my own personal experience, I think to put together a professional site audit varies from site to site as each website generally has a different set of issues that need to be addressed. Typically I’ve found that putting a site audit together can take anywhere between 2-4 days then there’s the Q&A that comes out afterwards depending on the clients needs and in-house expertise and then finally the post audit work that we’d usually check to make sure things have been implemented correctly.

      • Kieran Headley says:

        I am sorry but on several occasions you call people out for saying that they cannot give you examples of clients that they have recovered from penguin with just a disavow (in light of what you did to Marie I am not surprised they don’t supply you with URL’s) then on the other hand you wont give an example of a client recovering in 2-3 days (Which is an astonishing feat in itself and I would love to hear John Mueller’s comments on if that is possible) from penguin its a bit hypocritical.

      • “I cannot share that here for many reasons not the least of which is that it might stop working.”

        Giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are seeing 2-3 day recovery, tactics that stop working if too widely disseminated are almost always the type of thing that Google can take algorithmic action against in the future.

        That’s an important distinction to make, and probably one of the reasons why so many people are pushing back against your initial claims. For sites that are risk averse, dealing with links that they may not have had a direct hand in creating, or under particular scrutiny from Google, disavow may be a perfectly solid long-term recovery option, and the best one available.

        Your tactics may be perfectly valid and work on a certain type of site, but with such a small sample you can’t definitively say that it’s the best option in all cases.

      • Rae Hoffman says:

        “for many reasons not the least of which is that it might stop working”

        Here’s the thing – there are many tactics I’ve either used or witnessed over the years that would fall under, “we can’t tell people about this or it might stop working.” But, we didn’t choose to do WBFs all about “our special tactic we can’t reveal.” You either have a secret sauce and keep quiet about it (a virtue too many SEOs don’t have) or you put yourself in a position where you need to defend your mystery tactics. Next time, keep quiet. Anyone with real SEO secret sauces isn’t waving it around on Moz and then getting pissed when no one believes them.

  8. Jarrod Wright says:

    I have an intellectually generous disposition and generally give people the benefit of the doubt. I have, however, disagreed with almost everything I’ve seen that Josh has produced. To me, he has always seemed to have propensity for bullshit and a delivery steeped in narcissism. I’d hold neither against him if his ideas ever held water.

    I’ve always thought my visceral disdain was misguided since his opinions seem to go largely unchallenged in a community well versed in biting criticism. I remember nearly yelling at my monitor the first time I found one of his videos. He seemed so wrong about so many things that I fantasized about posting video responses to all of his horseshit. At the time he seemed like a clueless poser trying to bolster his image to a local market. It has been torturous for me to watch his visibility increase in the years since.

    I’m sorry for taking this personal. It may very well be my issue… but listening or reading anything that guy says is torturous for me. To me he seems unable to string more than two sentences together without lying or getting something completely wrong. Why he continues to enjoy an audience or find platforms to express his ideas boggles my imagination.

    Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

    • Josh Bachynski says:

      hey Jarrod if you have a criticism of something I have said in particular I would be happy to clarify.

      however if you just don’t like me then that is unfortunate. Because you’re going to be seeing a lot more of me :-)

    • Doc Sheldon says:

      “Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”

      Yeah, you could be, Jarrod. But if it’s any consolation, I think your impressions have been slowly taking on epidemic proportions.
      I, too, can just ignore egotism and ad nauseum name-dropping… but when it shifts to spewing totally wrong information, particularly from a podium with the reach of Moz, it’s time to speak up.

  9. I’ve got white hat friends who have recovered sites solely from doing a disavow. I have agency friends with clients who have recovered sites solely from doing disavows.

    I just build more links. It’s not about link quality, it’s about your %’s. Doubt that one makes it through the Moz vetting process. :)

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      I’ve recovered both algorithmic Penguin and manual penalties solely from disavows.

      “it’s about your %’s”

      Boom. Been preaching that since long before Penguin. OOP’s were the same.

  10. John Rampton says:

    I love this post. Addresses both sides and takes a stand. I liked the Moz post as well, he has a right to his own opinion and a lot of people stepped in and defended both sides.

    Where is Matt Cutts for this whole thing? I’d love to see what he has to say about this and clear up any confusion that any of us are having. Would be nice for someone to come out and explain things!

    Personally, I can agree with BOTH sides on this matter. I’ve had sites where I dissavow and NOTHING comes of it and we did other things (building high quality links and content) and got out of it. And others where we submitted a dissavow and it went smoothly. We were fixed in a matter of weeks. I think it really depends on the site and industry.

    @josh let’s stop hurting people in our industry and start really promoting good tactics that are working and will help our industry. Us bitching ourselves out and calling-out people will do nothing but hurt our industry as a whole.

    Here’s to making 2015 full of recovery stories! (both dissavow and normal)

    • Casey Markee says:

      >>>>@josh let’s stop hurting people in our industry and start really promoting good tactics that are working and will help our industry. Us bitching ourselves out and calling-out people will do nothing but hurt our industry as a whole.

      Well said John. And best wishes on your future ventures now that you’ve moved on from SEJ.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      “Where is Matt Cutts for this whole thing?”

      LOL, on sabbatical. I, personally, believe we’ve seen the last of Matt as the public face of the webspam team to the SEO community. It went from, the team working without him to a new spam czar being appointed, but whose identity has been kept anonymous.

      • Can you really blame him? Matt has taken a lot of crap from the community as a whole. If I were to new czar, I’d keep my head down for fear of getting shot.

  11. Doc Sheldon says:

    I can’t recall ever reading anything on your site that didn’t make me nod in agreement, Rae, but this post by Paul is absolute gold!

    I’ve often said that with the notoriety and following that Moz enjoys, comes a lot of responsibility. Unfortunately, I think Rand’s willingness to allow people an opportunity sometimes outweighs that implied responsibility.

    There have been a number of previous YouMoz posts that got promoted to the main blog, which I felt were dangerously misleading to the many novices in the Moz community… this WBF goes beyond the pale. Josh’s entire premise was seriously flawed, he apparently has no clue about proper experiment design, he demonstrates no objectivity and he displays all the people skills of a wolverine suffering from IBS.

    Other than that, I guess it was a peach of a WBF!

    Thanks for a great read, Paul…. I hope you’ll be more visible in future.

    • josh bachynski says:

      “Beyond the pale?” Give me a break.And people say I have a flair for the dramatic.

      My methodology was not mistaken.I was never conducting an experiment but checking other people’s experiments.

      You’re just jumping on the bandwagon

      Bored now

      • Kristine S says:

        Josh I am not going to speak to your actual presented theory for there is none. Without transparency whatever your claims are – well they are meaningless.

        I will address your demeanor. Your level of disrespect is “beyond pale”. Your accusations of others as snakeoil salesmen with no proof except that your method works – is in itself snakeoil and the whole poor me victim routine – guess what – it bores me. The thing is taking issue with you is useless and a waste of time and effort for you think this schtick will get you somewhere in life. (Trust me it doesn’t but people of your nature tend to have to learn that on their own)

        So I am going to redirect the issue and say my issue is with Moz for ever giving you a platform and legitimizing your presence. I did see the apology from Cyrus and appreciate it, but I think Moz should really start being much more careful in the future about who they allow to be featured on their site.

        If it were the first time I would be more willing to just let it pass without mention as Josh is clearly in his own class. However, this is not the first time there has been an issue with invalid or unsubstantiated claims being made using the Moz brand to bring validity and legitimacy. I am not sure sorry is enough this time for this community member. Although to be fair this is the first time I can remember them promoting someone of such poor manner and behavior.

        Moz you’re really starting to tarnish your brand. I hope you will tighten it back up and only allow your brand to assist someone when they have earned it and deserve it. To say because user content is just not sufficient any more.

        Finally a big thank you to Sugar Rae for this post, so I can use it as needed going forward when having to dispel the nonsense in the other.

        Have a great weekend everyone!

  12. Eric Covino says:

    The argument of “only” is a complete red herring. The selection of a variable that, given potential link loss or gains or X variables that we or any tool (publicly available) can’t see, is by definition unprovable is a joke at best and intentionally obtuse at worst.

    SEO Avenue is littered with folks who thought making a name for themselves by smearing others and creating “controversy” was the way to make a rep. Short lived, flamed out, the Jerry Springer SEO approach is old hat and tired and lame + just proves that folks who take that approach are generally out of their league in a given setting.

  13. Patrick Coombe says:

    Started off like a good post but went into drama and whining. #nothanks

    • I agree too much with Patrick. This post started off decent. Hell within the first few paragraphs I even sent it to a colleague because we had our own lengthy discussion about the validity of Josh’s post. But then it got petty.

      In the beginning, Paul’s thoughts were well articulated and I agreed with them. Midway to the end, it was a hair pulling temper tantrum. I thought “seriously? calling out some dude’s post from 2012 on Penguin and comparing it to your 2015 knowledge? That is what I call a professional!”.

      I hope this isn’t indicative as to what our industry is becoming.

      • Rae Hoffman says:

        Hey y’all. I think the “drama” was more a rebuttal to the comments made on the original post. Josh went on a rampage, complete with name calling, in the comments on the Moz post. In regard to comparing 2012 to 2015, I think that’s valid. It shows Josh has a track record of stating opinions as facts (and charging money for that false information) that were later debunked.

        “I hope this isn’t indicative as to what our industry is becoming.”

        Our industry has been “this way” for over a decade. There’s just more people now, so it seems like more “of this.”

        • @Rae, fair enough. I agree with the fact that Josh went on a rampage, so he kinda had it coming.

          As far as showing how he states opinions as facts that are later debunked – I feel that is a topic for a different day. Far too many people in this industry are “gurus”, “ninjas” and “rockstars” that peddle this sort of nonsensical, opinion-based SEO. If we all wasted our time calling people like this out, we’d have no time to do the stuff that pays the bills. Hence why it felt so petty.

          In relation to our industry being “this way”. I feel it is getting much more prevalent in our industry despite how rapidly the industry is growing. Man, I remember back in the day when it was pretty damn easy to know exactly what worked and what didn’t (fairly quick too). The fact of the matter is that it is much more complex now and with that complexity are those who wont actually test or dig deep. They will go off of other people’s research and forge a hollow opinion of how Google works, then sell subpar services that make our industry look bad. To them I say “cheers”. I’ll sit back and keep pulling in cash.

  14. Jon Burnham says:

    Google = divide and rule.

    Seems to be working well. Let the serfs squabble as they continue to pledge their soul to the almighty Sun-God – waiting in vain for a good harvest.

    Forget SEO. Forget Google. Learn marketing or die.

    • Rae Hoffman says:

      Preach brother.

      Except, still learn SEO. The real, technical SEO. Not the fake SEO most of those “born” into the industry from 2005 to 2010 learned. :)

  15. Hi Josh,

    Just a quick Q.

    You tweeted a privately shared example. So playing by your rules would you be open to sharing a set of your 300/year domains that you have audited (client approved obviously (that is not an attack but a polite request))?

    I don’t want to know your competitive advantage, that does not concern me and I understand your unwillingness to share, but as a community and the platform you have chosen, we should equally have the opportunity to look into finer detail at your work without having a bias on your character.

    If this is an unreasonable ask then I will carry on with my day quite happily.

  16. I have zero knowledge in this area.

    I do have knowledge of process and processes and of corporate strategy.

    Two suggestions:

    1. Ignore the “300 per year” claim. If I were Josh and could actually do that I surely would not tell anyone in the first place and if I made the mistake of letting it out I would not be willing to “prove” it by revealing sites. And if he is unable to do it nothing is to be gained by showing him up for it.

    2. As to whether it is possible to do this by disavowal an earlier writer proposed the challenge of fixing a mutually agreed upon site. That would be an excellent way to resolve the matter if both parties are willing. It would seem Josh should be willing as he would not need to give away any secrets and that would immediately silence his critics.

    If I had to guess I would say it will never happen.

    One can easily figure out why I say that but it is better left unsaid.

    Sooner or later it comes down to this.

    And this is the QED.

    Or not.

  17. Chris Sanfilippo says:

    a website can lose backlinks any day of the week. Just because a website is losing links doesn’t mean someone is conducting a cleanup. Did you look at exactly which links were removed? How about the anchor text, and domain metrics of the source website?

  18. Kristine S says:

    On Josh’s 300 audits a year. We regularly do audits and I can tell you this is possible. Possible if you only run a tool and write a few paragraphs to frame it using the tool output.

    Of course as those of us who do this know tools are often wrong and the data they provide only tells you the parts of the elephant, you are very likely to miss that it is indeed an elephant because you would not have examined the parts of the whole in their relation to each other.

    So for you Josh –
    Real site audits take time Josh because you make sure that the data you think you are looking at is really what you are looking at, that the other data supports it and you understand how your data conflates. My guess is your clients are getting a lot of data points with no one ever looking at how they relate.

    In other words – All of us can run a Screaming Frog report and say here client enjoy! Most of however have better ethics and understand this is not an audit report, but just a data pull and proper interpretation of that data is what the client was paying us for in the first place.

  19. Rae Hoffman says:

    “just a data pull and proper interpretation of that data is what the client was paying us for in the first place”

    Additionally, this is only part of an audit. You have to look at indexing as well. Google finds a lot of crap that isn’t found via a crawl. And no, no way can you do a 100K e-commerce audit a day and have it be actionable to the client. There is no standard for what an audit is, and I have seen huge differentiations in what people call an audit. :)

  20. Michael Martinez says:

    SEO Rule No. 1: Assume the guy making egregious marketing claims is trying to sell you something.

    SEO Rule No. 2: Ignore anyone who tells you to ignore what a search engineer says.

    It’s rule no. 2 that leads a lot of people into violating rule no. 1 (look at how many people believe the daydreams and fairy tales on Moz). Search engineers don’t have to lie; they just have to withhold some of the truth, and that kind of partial transparency is very frustrating for people.

    John Mueller has now disclosed that all you need to recover from a Penguin downgrade is to improve your ratio of “good” links to “bad” links by any means (accrue good links, disavow bad links, remove bad links).

    And “recovery” has nothing to do with previous traffic levels or rankings. When you recover from a penalty or downgrade, all barriers to your growth in future traffic (imposed by that specific penalty or downgrade) have been removed.

    Replacing lost traffic is not a recovery process but a growth process.

  21. Paul Macnamara says:

    Latest Webmaster Hangout has John Mueller saying that link removal is not required for Penguin recovery and that technically, the disavow treats the link as if it was removed for algorithmic issues.


    • Richard Hearne says:

      John also said this during a HOA back in 2013. I asked him directly if there was any distinction between manual removal and disavow from a Penguin perspective. He said no.

      Enjoyed reading this thread. A. Lot.

  22. There have always been SEOs who take a couple raw experiments, call them facts, make a fool out of themselves to the community, at the hope of signing some naive clients. There’s a fun crop of them now (one mentioned in this post) who’s good at this. Big claims of big brands and big experiments with “facts” that fail to ever be validated. But be damn sure every post has some kind of self bravado or plug for themselves.

    I’m sad this ruffled so many people. I laughed it off.

  23. Michael James says:

    t’s rule no. 2 that leads a lot of people into violating rule no. 1 (look at how many people believe the daydreams and fairy tales on Moz). Search engineers don’t have to lie; they just have to withhold some of the truth, and that kind of partial transparency is very frustrating for people.

  24. Jason Lancaster says:

    I’m just a lowly marketing consultant who doesn’t have the high-profile experience or background of a great many of the people commenting here, but I’ll go ahead and chime in anyway: The Moz blog is mediocre at best. I have no idea why anyone reads it.

    I think the slide to mediocrity began when SEOMoz became just “Moz”. The community and focus seemed to change, shifting from what I might call expert SEO analysis to gems like “How to Deal with Challenging Clients” and “5 Ways to Prove to the Client that the Traffic Will Come.” I mean, what’s not to love, right??

    Now, 1 in every 5 blog posts (or more) is Moz promoting Moz. While there are some interesting posts now and then, the topics range wildly from “hey, I could use that” to “who cares” to “2008 called and they want their SEO advice back.” Maybe if I knew what the blog was supposed to be about – or if I had any idea about when posts I was going to be interested in were going to be posted – it would be easier to follow. But I unsubscribed from the updates months ago because it seemed like 90% of the posts either weren’t interesting, weren’t actionable, or weren’t advanced enough for me to care.

    And then, to add insult to injury, there’s the fact that a lot of the comments are people saying “great post” or “many useful information for me”. What used to be an amazing discussion area is now filled with spammers who just so happen to be paying Moz.com customers, and thus are given a pass.

    To be fair, my company blog sucks. We never update it. Half the stuff I write isn’t really relevant to our clients. I have absolutely no room to be critical. But still…the Moz blog kinda sucks. I appreciate calling out a shitty WBF post, but the larger message ought to be “Read something else.”

  25. Wow, Josh is a huge douchebag… and troll. That is all.

  26. Patrick Hathaway says:

    If anyone is wondering about his ‘secret’ 2-3 day recovery technique (which ‘only works on certain websites’) is it clearly just removing pages with bad links.

    As others have noted, algorithmic penalties like Penguin are all about the ratios. You can fix Penguin by building a load of good links. Or, by finding ways to remove a lot of bad links.

    1. Find all links and look at target URL
    2. If target URL is not the homepage, 410 the pages with unnatural links
    3. Wait for Penguin to update

    Number 2 is the crucial one and is why he says it won’t work for all sites. So basically he’s just cherry picking the easiest cases, rather than dealing with the worst ones (where most of the bad links point to the homepage).

    So 2-3 days maybe to get the work done. 2-3 days to actually recover from Penguin? No chance.

    And not doing a disavow file (even if removals are done) is surely all of the following:
    1. Stupid
    2. Lazy
    3. Negligent

  27. Josh is an obvious narcissist. He cannot accept when he’s wrong, nor does he respond well to criticism. Comes across as pompous and arrogant. Fix your attitude son.

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