Google’s Penguin 2.0 was arguably one of the most significant search engine algorithm changes to hit since Panda in 2012. It changed how web content should be written — if you want to rank well – in many different ways.
Following is a checklist to keep handy to ensure that your web content adheres to these new SEO writing guidelines. But first, let’s back up a minute and explain briefly what Penguin 2.0 is/was all about.
Penguin 2.0: What Exactly Is (Was) It?
This was (yet another) update to Google’s search algorithm. It went into effect on May 22, 2013. FYI, this was one of the major updates. Google has said that it makes over 500 changes per year to it; most of them we never hear about. But I digress … back to Penguin 2.0.
The focus of this update was primarily on anchor text, backlinking patterns and shady link-building practices (eg, paid links). As explained in the HuffingtonPost article, Penguin 2.0: What Likely Changed and How to Recover, ie:
Recommended for YouWebcast: A Week in the Life of an Agile Creative Team
According to Matt Cutts, the new version of Penguin is primarily designed to penalize websites that utilize black hat SEO techniques and reward websites that offer genuine value. … The ultimate goal is to cut back on link spamming and hacking, while providing webmasters with the tools [needed] to fix hacked sites.
To achieve these goals, Google wants you to do the following now.
1. Vary anchor text: No more targeting one or a few of the same keywords to use as anchor text. Google now sees this as a form of spam. So vary them.
2. Avoid using exact match anchor text: In case you don’t know, this is when you use the EXACT form of a keyword/keyword phrase as anchor text — even if it isn’t spelled correctly and/or is grammatically incorrect.
You can thank spammers for this change. As a matter of fact, you can thank spammers for a lot of Google’s algorithm changes.
To explain, a lot of exact match anchor text contains spelling and/or grammar errors. But, this doesn’t stop a lot of webmasters from using them (especially spammers) because they get a lot of searches. Now the search giant is cracking down on rewarding content that has exact match anchor text.
3. Insert branded anchor text: In case you don’t know this is any anchor text that references the brand name or URL of a company. Following are some examples of brand-based anchor text.
**Your Company Name
**Your Company’s Website
Remember, Google is shooting for variety in anchor text; inserting your brand’s name is one way to get this.
4. Cite authority sites: Google wants to return “usable, credible” results for web surfers and this goes to the issue of quality when it comes to content. Citing authority sources gives your content more credibility, which makes it more likely to be usable to the end user.
5. Use good grammar /spelling: This is a basic, but you’d be amazed at how many sites have poorly written copy. So do the basics like proofreading and editing. If it’s not your forte, it’s worth it to hire a freelance proofreader/copy editor to handle it for you.
6. Claim authorship: Google’s authorship is becoming important to ranking well. How important?
According to the MediaShift article, Google Authorship: Why It’s Important and How to Implement It, “a number of blogs have seen traffic increase from 15 percent to 50 percent” when authorship was claimed. The author of this article said that when he added author tags to his own blog, he saw a 20 percent increase in traffic. So yeah, it’s important.
What is Google’s Authorship?
Simply put, it’s claiming credit for your content for all the web to see. To claim authorship is simple — all you have to do is add a snippet of code to your site, as the aforementioned MediaShift article explains.
Why Google Authorship Important?
One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is that with so much scraped and stolen content on the web, Google wants to reward those content producers who consistently produce great content AND stop content thieves at the same time.
Remember, the one of the goals of Penguin 2.0 – in the actual words of Matt Cutts (Google’s SEO guru) – is to “reward websites that offer genuine value.”
Most spammers don’t take the time to create useful, original content. They’re more likely to steal it – from hardworking webmasters who do. By claiming your content via Google Authorship, the proper site (yours) can be rewarded instead of some spam site that keeps popping up in results.
7. Produce quality content: The same concept as citing authority sites as listed above is at work here.
8. Promote content on social media: It used to be keywords that drove site rank to a large degree. This is not true so much anymore.
Google wants you to “build a community” around your content. How do you do this? Links from social media — in addition to keywords, in addition to brand recognition, in addition to your backlink profile, etc. – are one more ingredient in the ranking factor soup.
Hence, if you/your brand aren’t active on social media, the changes brought about by Penguin 2.0 give you more reasons than ever to get active – now!
9. Update site regularly: This is akin to sending out regular reminders to your customer base – it keeps your business top of mind with search engines. Hence, ostensibly, the more often you add content, the more frequently search engines will crawl your site and return it in relevant search results (if your content is relevant and useful, of course).
Now, how often to update your site depends on a lot of factors, eg, niche, competition, but as a very general rule, at least once per week is recommended.
10. Create a content marketing strategy: Piggybacking on this last point, it makes it so much easier to update your site/blog regularly if you have a content marketing strategy in place.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
I liken it to a mini business plan for the types of content you want to produce. It requires some upfront work – but it’s work that can pay off big in sales and leads over time.
How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy: Answer These 5 Questions
To develop your content marketing strategy, answer the who, what, where, when and how of marketing, and you’ll be off to a great start, ie:
Know WHO you’re talking to: This means clearly defining your target market so you can create content that speaks specifically to them.
WHAT you want them to do: Eg, sign up for a newsletter, attend a seminar, make an immediate purchase, etc.
WHERE / in what format will you produce the content: Will it be in the form of infographics, newsletters, videos, slides, case studies, blog posts – or a mix of all of them. The key is to meet your target market where they are.
WHEN / how often you’re going to produce content: Will it be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.?
HOW you’re going to measure the results? More sales, more site traffic, more newsletter subscribers, more social media followers, etc.
See how answering these questions will make it so much easier to produce content – content that gets you a pre-defined result?
SEO Content Writing Post-Penguin 2.0: Conclusion
As this list details, writing SEO content that gets results post-Penguin 2.0 is more challenging, and it has to be in order to weed out spammers and those who use blackhat tactics to rank well. But it can still be surprisingly easy to rank well — if you’re willing to put in the work.
FYI, Google’s 2011 Panda update spawned some SEO writing guidelines. The argument could be made that the recent Penguin changes underscore what the Big G has been telling us for a couple of years now.
Does the content you’ve been producing post-Penguin 2.0 include these elements?