Matt Cutts, head of the Google Webspam team, has announced that Penguin 2.0 has been released, affecting 2.3% of all English search queries in the United States. Penguin 2.0 piggybacks on the previous Panda and Penguin updates to the Google algorithm, which is pushing Google’s emphasis on high-quality content with natural language and linking practices.
In May 2013, before Penguin 2.0 was released, Matt released a video on the Google Webmaster YouTube channel that explained what was next for SEO when it comes to Google. In the video, Matt alludes to some of the updates that Penguin 2.0 has encompassed, including the identification of suspicious queries, links, and content on websites. Penguin 2.0 also again places emphasis on the fact that well-written content that provides answers to what users are searching for on Google will be considered more authoritative, leading to better search engine rankings.
Authority comes down to making sure your website is utilizing SEO best practices as defined by Google. Many of the updates have revolved around what not to do, as a way to teach SEOs what Google is really looking for when it chooses its search results for each user. Knowing this can help webmasters carve a path toward a well-written, authoritative website that gets ranked more easily and prominently.
Spammy Search Queries
With Penguin 2.0, Google is continuing to target websites that aren’t providing value to the user. They’re specifically targeting inbound linking practices that use keyword stuffing and anchor text solely designed for manipulating PageRank and/or search engine result placement. Google’s algorithm is constantly becoming more intuitive toward natural language and content that includes information users are specifically looking for.
This is great news for good content writers as natural phrases may show up in results more frequently for related queries.
For instance, if a knitting blogger talks about “how to fix a dropped stitch” but doesn’t mention that query specifically (instead using phrases like “fixing a dropped stitch” or “I repaired my dropped stitch”) may still appear in search results over a spammy blog that contains the original “how to” phrase several times, in an unnatural manner.
RECOVERY: While this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t optimize your titles and headers, Google is emphasizing that content should be the focus, not necessarily what the best, most-SEO’d title is. Remove any content solely geared toward manipulating search results or that include keyword stuffing or unnatural links.
Advertorial Spam and Black Hat Link Building
Another black hat SEO tactic that Penguin 2.0 focuses on is advertorial spam, which is the practice of crafting entire “editorial” content pages for the specific purpose of linking to non-related content or websites that aren’t of high quality. In the simplest of terms, if a content page is created just for the reason to include a link, Google will take notice.
Any other black hat link building tactics will continue to be targeted by Google. This includes spam comment links, any content that doesn’t make natural sense, unnatural link swapping, buying links, or anything other scenario where providing a link isn’t giving value to anyone who may see it.
RECOVERY: For paid links, be sure to use the rel=”nofollow” attribute and remove any advertorial spam that doesn’t provide any true value to the reader. Be sure to alert anyone who has paid for those links that they will no longer be shown. Hopefully they will be receptive, as this type of deceptive content can harm their website as well. Remove as many shady links as possible on your website, as well as on external websites (first by request to that webmaster, and followed by using Google’s disavow tool).
Before you can start removing and disavowing bad links, you’ll need to first identify them. Here’s a post I wrote that details how to know which links to disavow in Google. If you’d rather have a professional audit your link profile and figure out which links should be removed or disavowed for you, there are link profile audit and removal services available.
Higher Quality Content = More Authority + Better Rank
It just can’t be said enough and in too many variations: Content rules. Content is king. Write good content. Set up Google Authorship for all content producers on your website. Then write more good content.
Focus on producing less content that’s of higher caliber and you’ll see results. As web users get smarter with both their searches and the way that they navigate the internet, it’s imperative to create content that makes an impact.
Give good answers and teach users something, and they’ll stay engaged. People use the internet to find answers to questions, no matter what they are doing. A college student who is browsing Facebook is asking, “What are my friends up to?” is the same as a budding graphic designer who is asking, “How to I make a .jpeg transparent?”
Everyone is asking questions; you just have to figure out what your target market is asking and then give them the right answers in a simple, succinct way. That’s exactly what this very article attempts to accomplish!
While this can always be done through keyword research, the Penguin 2.0 update reminds us that the best content is produced by those who are an authority in their field. And authorities, who are in their industry every day, should have no problem finding questions to answer. From customer service emails to events in their own daily routines that have spawned their own questions and answers, niche authorities will find the natural questions and write great content addressing them.
RECOVERY: If your content isn’t giving you the traffic you want, re-write it. Make it better. Remove unnatural links and language residing within your content, and focus on teaching the reader something. If your content is thin (ie, not helpful and thorough), augment it or remove it entirely. Set up Google Authorship if you haven’t already.
Other Penguin 2.0 Developments
Besides the most obvious impacts of Penguin 2.0, there are a few other developments, including a better variety of results on SERPs and more Webmaster Tools data, both of which can greatly benefit SEOs. The first means that one website won’t “hog” all the first page search results (also known as domain clustering), leading to a better variety of options for the user and also giving more authoritative websites the ability to get ranked on the first page of search results related to their content.
While not completely spelled out in the update notes, the second development (more Webmaster Tools data) hopefully means that Google will continue to give webmasters and SEOs even more information that explains how and why their websites are being placed in search results.
Google will never give out all their secrets, but they certainly seem to be open to providing SEOs with more information about algorithm updates and what they are looking for when it comes to indexing websites and determining search rankings. It’s now up to SEOs to reciprocate this gesture of goodwill by cleaning up their websites and getting better at providing higher quality content that Google can be proud to display in its search results.