When Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google, announced the launch of Penguin 2.0 last month, he directed people to a video that explained the upcoming goals of his team, what actions to avoid, and what actions Google wants to reward. The video appeared to be a preemptive attempt to address questions post-launch.
This post will attempt to analyze and translate Google’s post-launch comments and explain how they impact content creators.
SEO analysis & translation #1
If you’re doing high quality content when you’re doing SEO, then this [Penguin 2.0] shouldn’t be a big surprise. You shouldn’t have to worry about a lot of different changes. — Matt Cutts
Enterprise marketers who produce valuable, problem-solving and/or entertaining content, both earned and owned, have nothing to worry about. The true impact of this update will be felt by traditional link builders and brokers who place links on questionable websites pointing to generic product, service, or category pages for the sake of SEO instead of creating remarkable, compelling content.
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Cyrus Shepard of SEOmoz says, “If you don’t have a linkable asset, now is the time to start working on one because they earn more links than anything else.”
He’s simply stating that remarkable online assets like eBooks, guides, studies, and white papers with real value are link bait. They naturally attract link citations throughout the web. Most generic product, service, and category pages aren’t remarkable or shareable.
By adding a little digital PR, marketers can pitch this advanced content to online media outlets for write-ups, exposure, and citations, too. These efforts can drive hundreds — even thousands — of natural links in a short amount of time. Short-term benefits include brand coverage, increased website traffic, and conversions. Search benefits are realized and grow over the long-term.
Takeaway #1: Quality content, on- and off-page, is a future-proof SEO strategy.
SEO analysis & translation #2
We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is more of an authority on a specific space. You know, it could be medical. It could be travel. Whatever. And try[ing] to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority… we think might be a little more appropriate for users. — Matt Cutts
The best off-page SEO practitioners today get inbound links from relevant and authoritative websites. Google maintains a very short list of these websites, called Hilltops.
Earning inbound links from Hilltops requires two things. The content the link points to must be remarkable, problem solving, and/or entertaining. Next, there must be topical relevance between the Hilltop and the site it links to. The best content marketing fulfills these two requirements, earning inbound links from highly authoritative websites.
When several industry Hilltops link to a brand, Google will most likely view it as an industry authority, too. Matt Cutts says above that they want these brands to “rank a little more highly” than the others. Because of this, links from Hilltops don’t just affect the page they link to — they also have a positive impact on the entire website.
Takeaway #2: Google’s goal is to promote authoritative websites. Climbing Hilltops in your industry is a future-proof SEO strategy.
SEO analysis & translation #3
If someone pays for coverage, or pays for an ad or something like that, those ads should not flow PageRank… We’ll be looking at some efforts to be a little bit stronger on our enforcement as far as advertorials that violate our quality guidelines. — Matt Cutts
Buying links has been against Google’s webmaster guidelines for a long time. Brands that get caught buying and selling follow-links risk being de-indexed from its algorithm. Google has gotten much better at detecting these practices. Great content marketing earns inbound links that add value over the long run without risk of penalty.
Takeaway #3: You can’t buy a ticket to the Hilltop. Earning links, rather than buying links, is a future-proof SEO strategy.
SEO analysis & translation #4
We are looking at Panda and seeing if we can find some additional signals, and we think we’ve got some to help refine things for sites that are kind of in the border zone… if we can soften the effect a little bit for those sites that we believe have some additional signals of quality, that will help sites that were previously affected… to some degree [by Panda]. — Matt Cutts
Driving quality off-page signals (like links and mentions) can help offset any previous negative impact from Google’s Panda algorithm. In essence, the Penguin can reverse the Panda. The best way to drive the biggest and most diverse set of off-page signals is by deploying a deliberate and strategic earned media campaign. This can exponentially expose current owned media and content marketing efforts to a targeted, usually larger, audience. Some off-page signals include:
- Social mentions: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, Digg, reddit
- Middle-of-the-pack direct advertising website links: Articles on industry communities and blogs
- News curation websites: Paper.li, Scoop.it
- News aggregation websites: The Huffington Post, Alltop
- News feed syndication: Private companies and public organizations
- Print publications: Remarkable online content can be cited by magazines, newspapers, and trade publications
- Slideshows: SlideShare, PDFs
Having a broad diversification of off-page signals communicates authority and trust to Google. Earned media and content marketing can meaningfully drive these signals naturally. Search engine algorithms will easily be able to determine the authenticity of the off-page signals.
Takeaway #4: Earned media and digital PR can help you recover from Panda. Driving a variety of quality digital signals is a future-proof SEO strategy.
Content marketing and digital PR folks who primarily rely on their compelling content to drive search engine traffic should be smiling now because the future looks bright for them. It looks bright because with each algorithm update, Google gets even better at rewarding good content from authoritative people and brands.
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Cover image credit: seanbjack