Back in March, the head of the web spam team at Google, Matt Cutts announced that there would be a big Penguin update later this year. Well we didn’t have to wait long. On Friday whilst responding to @mrjamiedodd on Twitter, Matt confirmed that they will be rolling out Penguin 2.0 in the next few weeks.
Penguin first hit in April 2012 and impacted 3.1% of English queries. The update aimed to tackle the likes of link schemes, other manipulative linking, keyword stuffing and some other over-optimisation techniques.
But is this Penguin 2.0 or 4, since there have already been two updates, in May and October 2012. Well @dannysullivan questioned this and Matt confirmed that internally they’re calling this 2.0, so it’s looking like a bigger update than the last two.
As with every Google update, nobody really knows what’s coming. However, Matt Cutts has been a little more open than usual and in this GoogleWebmasterHelp video released on Monday, he speaks about targeting advertorials and similar tactics that violate their guidelines. He also speaks about paid ads that are passing page rank, another sign that they’re cracking down on paid links. And the one that jumped out at me was the hint at something everyone has been talking about… author rank.
Since the first Penguin update was released the preferred method of linkbuilding has often been guest posting. However, this needs to change, depending on what type of guest posting we’re talking about. This tactic has in many cases, become another spammy technique. When looking for guest posting opportunities, think about the following:
- Is this a good quality site?
- Is the site relevant?
- Is all of the content on the site from guest bloggers?
- Forget exact match anchor text!
- Do you really want all of your links to be in an author area at the bottom of the page?
This last point in particular is something which Google will look at, if not in this upcoming update, then at some point soon. The hammering out of guest posts just for the sake of links, is exactly the type of tactic Google will soon clamp down on.
But not all guest posts are bad. The Econsultancy blog for example has many guest posts but they are all relevant, high quality posts that are great for Econsultancy’s readers.
Simple Tips for the Future
If guest blogging has been your only tactic (and I really hope that’s not the case), you really need to look at some simple and legitimate ways to drive your campaigns forward.
- Mix it up – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Your campaigns should consist of various strategies, not just one or two.
- Get your onsite right! – In the past I have worked on some campaigns that were hugely successful from doing onsite optimisation only on an on-going basis. Too many people seem to neglect their onsite optimisation so they can just focus on links.
- Build a brand – I still see a worrying amount of exact match anchor text. Work on building a brand and include your linkbuilding in this work.
- Conversion Rate Optimisation – Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. You may be trying to increase rankings and traffic but the end goal is to increase conversions. So is your site doing enough to attract relevant visitors, keep them on the site and ultimately convert them? As with the onsite optimisation, CRO should be key to your campaign.
- Social integration – Social should be high on your list of priorities. And I’m talking everything from social profiles to social buttons. I still see blog after blog with no social buttons whatsoever. And remember Google+ is only going to get bigger and become more important so don’t ignore it, especially with author rank looking like being more important than ever.
- Make use of your own blog – Make sure you have a blog on your site and use it. Post quality, useful content and share it.
- Build relationships – Remember, you don’t have to place content on other sites to get links. Use tools such as Linkdex to find relevant, influential people to build relationships with. They may write content for you, link in existing, relevant content or simply give you a mention or retweet. Great, especially if they’re highly influential in that industry.
- Guest posting – “Eh? Didn’t you say avoid that?” Well actually, no. The spammy type of blog posting that’s just for links and going on sites with a flock of other spammers, yes, avoid them. If you have great content, then approach some great sites, trade magazines, relevant publications etc.
Time to Panic?
Does the announcement of Penguin 2.0 mean it’s time to panic? Well, that depends on what you’re doing about it. If you’re sitting back and hoping for the best then yes, I’d probably worry. By now, everyone should have a clear idea of what their link profile looks like, whether you’ve had a penalty/warning or not. And if that profile is full of junk, then you should be doing something about it. There are regular debates about whether to do a manual clean-up of these poor links or to just head straight into a disavow but whatever the choice, something should be done, and soon.
The flow chart below is an example of the steps that can be taken when sorting out a link profile that is just asking for a bite from the Penguin.
Just sitting back and hoping your poor link profile will slip through the Penguin’s net is asking for trouble. Google’s updates in recent years have shown that being proactive is vital when it comes to search campaigns. Website owners and SEO’s need to think about protecting their sites for the future and about the tactics they use from now on. SEO has changed a lot in recent times and the industry must adapt to think less about about ‘links links links’ when it comes to delivering results.
What are your thought/predictions for the upcoming Penguin update?