In May 2013, Matt Cutts – head of Google’s Webspam team – gave us a vague but clear warning that another round of algorithms had shaken up the Googlesphere once again; to be known as Penguin 2.0. While the first Penguin update in April 2012 marked the beginning of the ‘over-optimization’ penalties; Penguin 2.0 dives even deeper, targeting the entire process of ‘over-optimization.’ This latest update, not only focuses on your website, but also challenges the quality and relevance to every link pointing back to it.
Here’s Matt’s Video in case you missed it.
What is Over-Optimization?
Answer is…everything and anything that is forced, shoved, or stuffed with the goal of manipulating Search Engines’ rankings. Penguin 2.0 takes it a step further and not only penalizes for an over-optimized page on your website, but also measures offsite pages that are pointing to you as well. They are ‘grading’ you on the quality of the website hosting the link, the relevance of the website hosting the link and, most importantly, on the ENTIRE copy that the link originates from. This includes, but is not limited to, exact match anchor text and ‘keyword rich’ text within the content.
This means that, it’s not just about quality content anymore – it’s about quality shareable content. Last year, Google put the smack down on those taking advantage of SEO and strongly encouraged SEO’s to rethink the quality of their content. Penguin 2.0 is telling us; not only does Google have to deem your content high quality, but everyone else better agree too. Google spiders may offer you a pat on the back for a job well done but unless the masses and the Social God’s spread the wealth, then there’s little proof that you’ve got a good thing going.
Content is Still King
While the demand for quality content onsite seems to have sufficiently sunk in for most webmasters, many have left that concept behind once they venture offsite to build links. What Penguin 2.0 is telling us, loud and clear, is that the quality of any content that mentions or points to your website, is as important as the onsite content itself. So before you spin an old article or pay a copywriter with no industry experience to write an ‘expert’ piece – think about the penalties that will come along with that. And even if there aren’t any penalties…I can assure you, there will be no benefits either.
I’ve stated in a previous blog – many think that guest blogging is becoming a dead source of link building. I disagree – I say that ‘content blogging’ or ‘content outreach’ is your number one source for links post penguin 2.0. I think that the entire thought process of content outreach needs to change, and quality will need to give way to quantity and that is how one will earn their position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Reading Between the Lines
“…[Penguin 2.0 is] Trying to make sure you make a great site that users love, that they’ll want to tell their friends about, bookmark, come back to, visit over and over again. All the things that make a site compelling.” ~ Matt Cutts, May 2013
I am here to tell you that that one, seemingly small, sentence tells us everything we need to know about the direction of SEO and the weight of links. He is telling you everything you should be doing, everything that is relevant and dropping some, not so subtle, hints about it. Google wants us to stop trying to ‘beat the system’ and start earning our place. This is to be done with social networking, social bookmarking, content blogging, and online socializing. If you’re not in the middle of the online conversation for your industry – you need to get there – quickly.
Online Socializing – the art of tactfully placing yourself in the center of attention.
If you’re still unsure about this whole, “social networking” thing and you’re still convinced that ‘liking’ other people’s pages is detrimental to your own success – get over it and fast. If Penguin has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all in this together. Google needs to see that, not only are we saying that our products/services are the best, but other people agree. Google has put enormous pressure on the masses to decide which sites offer the highest quality and most relevant products/services in an industry. All of this is done through social networking, social bookmarking, blogging, forums, and return visits to your site.
Ditch The Sales Pitch
When it comes to successful online marketing, you need to scrap everything you’ve learned about sales and start networking instead. This goes for everything; from your Facebook posts to your content outreach to your very own blogging. If you haven’t already, you need to stop trying to pitch your product and instead position yourself as an authority on the subject. This may be a slow process and one that takes time to reap the benefits, but once you’re up there, it’s much harder to be taken down by the competition.
Use what you know and share it with your online communities. Whether you are a small time electrician in Perth or large Hotel chain in the USA, you have an area of expertise and why not share it with your followers. It doesn’t matter if you’re sharing DIY project tips or revenue management secrets – if you’re the expert – it will shine through and people will respond.
So What Does Penguin 2.0 Ultimately Mean?
For anyone who has been following the bouncing ball over the past year, it means that you were on the right track all along. It means that your hard work will begin to pay off (if it hasn’t already). But mostly, it is one massive check-mate to anyone who is still trying to manipulate the system with black hat SEO, link farms, and lazy content. These series of algorithm changes that have been rolling out these past few months are only the beginning of Google’s enforcement of quality websites.
My end advice would be to start throwing some weight at quality writers and legitimate industry experts. Start sharing things on your website that people will want to talk about, spend time and effort on your social channels, and – for goodness sake – stop ‘over optimizing!’ If you are not sure where this is all heading or need some expert advice, consult with a reputable SEO Company.