Google Set to Release Penguin 2.0: What This Means for SEO and How to Prepare

May 17, 2013

We knew it was going to happen, that it was a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’. But now it’s official: Google is releasing a new Penguin Update. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, Penguin 2.0 is going to be released into the Google search algorithm in a matter of weeks.

When Penguin 1.0 was released last year, we called it an SEO Game Changer. As it turns out, we were more correct than we could have even imagined.

If you’re an SEO veteran, you know this story all too well. Last summer, the reverberations of Penguin were felt throughout the SEO world, as overly aggressive SEO campaigns were penalized and businesses saw their rankings, traffic and leads take a big hit.

And now Matt Cutts is telling us that Penguin 2.0 is much more comprehensive and will have a deeper impact than the original update. There’s a lot of mystery surround Penguin 2.0, so we wanted to examine what the update’s all about, what it means for SEO and how it impacts your business.

What is Penguin 2.0?

In Google’s own words, the Penguin Update is an attempt to refine the search results and penalize sites that are “over optimized.” This is a tricky thing to define because “over optimization” doesn’t mean “Black Hat”, which is strictly against Google’s guidelines. As we understand, over optimization is about taking your SEO too far to the point that you’re more focused on appealing to the crawlers than to your target users. And Google wants you think optimize for your users, first and foremost.

That’s why sites with over aggressive inbound linking, interlinking, dense meta content and cluttered navigation were all hit by Penguin 1.0.

Now, Penguin Update 2.0 is a little different. It appears to be much more focused on links. Penguin 2.0 is essentially a link quality filter, an algorithm update which attempts to reward links that look natural and root out those that appear like link spamming. This upcoming version, or “the next generation of Penguin” as Google puts it, is set to be a significant change in their algorithm with even stricter standards for link profiles.

As it stands now, we think that the sites that will be most hurt by Penguin 2.0 are the ones with aggressive inbound linking strategies, that are driving rankings with many thousands of backlinks from a small number of the same sites, featuring the same anchor texts optimized for their top keywords. Before Penguin 1.0, this linking strategy was a tremendously effective approach. But Penguin enables Google’s search crawlers to better detects these types of links and penalize sites that lacked a natural and diverse linking profile (more on that later). Penguin 2.0 is only going to make this old-school link building more ineffective.

The upcoming Penguin Update is expected to be more comprehensive, more thorough, and delve deeper than Penguin 1.0, which is why—more than ever—it’s essential to make sure you’re preparing yourself, and your site, to handle these changes.

Many SEOs and marketers are wondering what the degree of fallout will be this time around. Of course, Google is playing into this a bit. According to Matt Cutts, Penguin 2.0 is set to shake the SEO world, and make for a fairly “eventful summer.”

Is Penguin Motivated By Idealism or Business?

Penguin is and always has been a controversial subject in the SEO community. Google has always maintained that Penguin is like any other search algo update, in that it’s intended to enhance the user experience and improve Search by rewarding the most relevant, authenticated and valuable brands with best rankings. Since its founding in 1998, Google has had a single mission: to organize the world’s information. And the more refined the search algorithm can get, the more successful Google can be at helping users find the best and most relevant information.

But since Penguin was released, SEOs have argued that Penguin is an overly aggressive, if not punitive, attempt to minimize the impact of SEO so that businesses are more reliant on Adwords for their online marketing needs. By making organic placement more difficult to attain, Google’s algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin force many brands to spend more money on paid placement to ensure that customers can find them online. Of course, the puts more money into Google’s pocket.

So, which is true? Well, it’s more complicated than that. It can’t be ignored that Google derives 97% of its revenue from Adwords (putting them in the advertising business as much as the search business). And while Google is a truly amazing company with a unique blend of idealism and corporate savvy, Google is still a publicly traded company that has a responsibility to drive revenue for its shareholders.

In our opinion, Google’s idealism and business work together quite seamlessly. This is one of the company’s core strengths. The reason why advertisers are willing to pay so much for Adwords placement is because of the market dominance of Google’s organic search. Adwords is only as strong as the organic search experience, and Google knows this. So the better Google can refine its search algorithm, the more sought after Adwords will be.

Google’s core principle is providing an amazing search experience. That means getting users off the search page and onto a quality website as quickly as possible. But with an ever evolving algorithm and an impending Penguin update just around the corner, the ways that sites show that quality, and share that value, are certainly not going to stay stagnant, nor have they stayed stagnant since the first Penguin update back in April 2012.

In order to survive Penguin 2.0 and thrive in SEO, you need to ensure your website is strong, relevant and authenticated. One of the best ways to do that is by building a diverse link profile.

Diversifying Your Linking Strategy

Since the first Penguin, our SEO experts have spoken a great deal about the benefits of building a natural link profile and the importance of a diverse link strategy. This advice has never been more relevant.

For more information on Penguin and the future of SEO, watch our webinar on post-Penguin link building, as well as our webinar on Internet Marketing Trends for 2013 to look at the bigger picture.

For those looking for one single answer to Penguin, however, it will not be found. The key to surviving the coming Penguin is all about looking natural and diversity, diversity, diversity.

Internet marketing is not a simple, single-answered solution. Successful online marketing campaigns involve a number of strategies, from onsite optimization to content marketing, link building to social media marketing, and much more. Similarly, having only one form of link generation at your disposal is not going to impress Google, nor is it going to get you the rankings you’re after. Even the most natural link strategies, say infographic marketing for example, can appear unnatural if used excessively and exclusively.

National Positions offers some of the most comprehensive, extensive, and diverse linking campaigns today, with over 21 different linking services including everything from guest blogging, presentation distribution, image sharing, audio and video distribution, infographic marketing, and much more.

Having a natural looking link profile means generating links from many sources with varied anchor text.

With diverse link building, you’ll not only drive high quality backlinks to your site, but will grow your reach and your authority around the web—and Google will rank accordingly. Having a diverse footprint gives your web presence a natural feel, and shows search engines and searchers alike that your site is a source of relevant information and valuable content. And while there are fewer of these types of links, they are the furthest things from spam and some of the most powerful tools for overcoming Penguin 2.0.

Building a Natural Link Profile: “Aggressive” versus “Safe” Linking

When it comes to building a link profile that looks natural, it’s not as simple as; conservative linking is natural and aggressive linking is unnatural. Instead, linking in a post-Penguin world is essentially a more complicated question of risk assessment.

The more organic, the more natural a link profile, the less likely your site will be affected as dramatically by the coming changes. It also means that your site will probably rank more slowly. And the more aggressive your linking campaigns, the higher risk you’ll take but the higher returns you will experience in the short term.

Branding, Engagement, and Authenticity

Having a powerful brand is one of the best ways to stand your ground against Google’s Penguin update. Big brands aren’t entirely immune to getting dinged by Google, but the more prominent the branding, the less severe the punishment. You don’t have to be big brand like the BBC or Wal-Mart, in order for branding to benefit your rankings either. As long as you’re known in your niche, Google has a certain pressure put upon them to rank you so as not to seem, well, deficient.

Working to increase engagement helps naturally build your brand as well as boost your link profile. Relationships and engagements on social sites are often expressed in link from, whether they’re from Twitter, Facebook, a blog or a comment. The more you engage real people online, the more links you build, the better the results.

In the same vein, it’s equally essential that everything you do, and everything you put out around the web, gets credited back to you.

Rich snippets, with author tags and all, are a small but incredibly effective means of doing just that. Having optimized snippets, which help Google interpret the information within meta descriptions as intuitively and easily as a reader, ensure that your authors are always identified and your site and business are always associated with the content your sharing onsite, and off—which boosts rankings by showing Google you’re an authority, you’re authentic, and you’re presence around the web is far-reaching.

If you’d like to know more about Penguin 2.0 and what you can do to prepare, please contact us today. Our account managers and dedicated support teams are here to make sure you have the information you need, and the strategies you want, to keep your site topping the search results.

The Big Picture

Is Penguin an SEO game changer? Certainly. But that being said, the notion that these kinds of algorithm updates mark the death of SEO is simply absurd.
The fact of the matter is, consumers are relying on the Internet more, not less, to find the products and services they need. And they use Google Search to more than any other site or platform. That makes SEO (and PPC) the most effective and profitable marketing channel available.

Search Engine Optimization, by its very definition, is about ensuring your business is maximizing its exposure by gaining top placement on the search results and driving customers back to your site. To do effective and profitable SEO, you must constantly seek ways to operate within Google’s guidelines yet do so in a way that doesn’t put you in a position where you must rely on Adwords to drive traffic to your site.

But that’s the name of the game. The goal for every SEO campaign is to be relentlessly proactive and focused on generating great results by adapting to the new search landscape.

Free Link Analysis

If you would like us to analyze your link profile and identify any links that might be potentially harmful or toxic, please contact us and we will be happy to send you a report.

At National Positions, we have spent the last year working on a host of innovative SEO strategies, from Technical SEO to powerful new linking tactics. We’re excited to keep iterating, because we know that’s the key to generating great results for our clients.

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