Toward the end of May, Google delivered the promised major update to Penguin, the search engine giant’s anti-spam-site algorithm bundle. Google’s Matt Cutts described some of what site owners should know about the changes, and early data backs him up in his forecasts. You don’t need to be familiar with the technical aspects of SEO under Penguin 2.0 to see that Google – and by extension, every other major search engine – is all in for high-quality content.
Here’s what changed with the latest adjustments.
A sharper focus on advertorial content: Site owners who got around the first iteration of Penguin 1.0 by cloaking advertising pages as reviews or testimonials now face closer scrutiny and risk downranking if Google perceives the content as too sales-heavy. Ads should be clearly and conspicuously labeled; editorials and articles should have high-value links and offer meaningful content to stay on the right side of the latest updates.
Authority matters more: Google has worked hard to separate authoritative sites from pretenders, according to Cutts. For sites that have built authority and brand identity over time with frequently updated blogs, articles and customized content, the change is a benefit; to sites that relied on low-value back-linking and keyword stuffing for their SEO, the news is not good.
Deeper drilling: Google’s looking more deeply into overall site structure and noting how pages interrelate. With greater depth, the search engine’s algorithms can assemble a clearer picture of the total site. As with the changes to how Google rates a site’s authority, this is good news to sites that have been carefully constructed and don’t abuse linking strategies.
Social media signals grow stronger: Part of assessing a site’s authority is measuring how many people look to it for information. Authoritative sites generate genuine buzz among visitors and earn mentions in various social media channels. For Google, that data is a valuable source of feedback about a site’s value, so look for social media to be an important influence on PageRank.
Security as a way of life: Comment spam, paid links featuring exact-match anchor text strings and hacked sites are anathema to readers, so Google intends to deal with them harshly. Improved security measures can lead to blacklisting for sites that endanger visitors with suspect links or poor content management systems.
Google doesn’t release the details of how it does what it does, but it isn’t hard to see the general thrust of Penguin 2.0. Like its predecessor, the new Penguin wants to deliver authoritative, high-value sites to readers; unlike the earlier version, Penguin 2.0 can better discern worthwhile content from dross. More sophisticated link analysis prevents small and mid-sized business sites from getting caught in the content mill net, an issue that happened when the first iteration of Penguin went live.
If you already have a business content management team in charge of your static site, blog and social media channels, you’re ahead of the game. Natural content written by humans instead of article spinners and translation software inherently protects you from running afoul of exact-match anchor text penalties and ad-heavy text. Putting your blog and its comments section in professional hands also saves you from the potential double whammy of getting hacked or spammed, then facing a Google penalty for spotty security measures.
If you don’t yet have an effective, Penguin-ready content strategy, the writing is on the wall: Google will no longer tolerate scraper sites, spam and filler. Revisit every page of your site and see it through the prism of Penguin 2.0 to find weak points such as advertorial pages, unnatural link profiles and keyword-heavy SEO if you want to stay on Google’s good side.
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