So, What Did Penguin 2.0 Really Do For SEO?

The moment many SEO experts, online marketing firms and indeed webmasters have been waiting for hit last week, with the latest roll out of the SERPS changing Penguin hitting our computer screens. For some it was a good day, for others their business feels like it is now on a cliff, but did the good win and the bad lose like this update should really promise?

Although this update is officially update 2.0 according to Google, most in the industry believe this is actually the 4th update of this rollout, with April, May and October 2012 the other dates that this major algorithm change went live. April 2012 was the big one for most, with May and October mini refreshes, which although presented less of an impact that when it was born on April 2012 still happened to change many search results.

The update completed roll out internationally on May 22nd 2013, with around 2.3% of searches being noticeably affected.

When it comes to what I think this update really hammered, I would be pretty certain that the overuse of anchor text and unnatural link profiles are the two biggest aspects that many people that saw big drops will probably be fighting. So, if massive percentages of your anchor text were for keywords you lost rankings for, you can be pretty sure that this is one of the main reasons. Also, if you were just relying on poor quality, directory type links, you will also no doubt see issues here as well, as you need to be making sure that your link profile is diverse and offers quality links, rather than just link building in volumes.

I also think that it has targeted websites that were trying to get rankings for niches or areas they didn’t really back up on their websites. So, for example, say you were a removals company in Nottingham but were actively going for keywords outside of your area with no contextual backup on your site, I think you will have suffered. Also, people going for keywords that have no relevance on their own site will have seen issues as well.

This update also really targeted sites that were delving into the dodgy side of SEO, with black hat SEO really coming under fire, and in my opinion, quite rightly so. If you are trying to fool the search engines with three month get rich and then pull down websites, it is only fair that you should suffer, as good quality SEO is a long term affair and not about dodgy, or even questionable techniques. This update, according to Matt Cutts, targeted Black Hat techniques more so than previous updates, which will hopefully stop the bad guys winning longer term (we hope).

One of the biggest issues that every online searcher would of encountered that this update should of partially began to solve is spam in the results, but from my early research I am still seeing a lot of spam out there and also some questionable results, Because of this Google are now inviting people to report any spam they find which indicates to me that mini and more frequent Penguin updates could be on the horizon, a bit like the Panda updates which are now a constant feature in the algorithms, rather than just quarterly updates.

One of the biggest factors I have seen is the rise of the social elements in the rankings, with active Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets becoming more and more vital for Google when it comes to working out where you should appear, as this update seems to have really placed emphasis on making sure that you have these in place, working and working well.

As usual, there were winners, losers, haters and liker’s, but these updates still tend to cause questionable results for people that have sometimes never even carried out SEO and where over aggressive techniques still seem to keep people ranking, people we know shouldn’t be there. Of course, these algorithms are never, ever going to be perfect, but with the balance still questionable, is it fair that the innocent suffer? Probably not.

After keeping an eye on the industry buzz, a tweet from Matt Cutts indicating they were planning separate role outs for specific niches was one of the most interesting aspects for me:

matcuttspayday

So, does this mean that each niche can now have its own mini algorithms applied to it? I have thought this for some time, especially in the Adult industry online, but to see it pretty much confirmed does raise many questions about SEO and will there be specific techniques depending on the sector you are working on the SEO for.

These updates are never 100% perfect, after all, we have all been here before many times over, but there seems to have been less of an uproar than when compared to the original Penguin last year. Saying that, there are still many people saying they have lost rankings and have yet done nothing (probably majorly) wrong, but have still lost many rankings for many keywords.

I think the lessons to be learnt are pretty obvious:

  • Use a more widespread anchor text, rather than just building links for a few keywords. Take the emphasis away from the major stuff, and use things like click here, more info and brand name as a mix of link building anchor text techniques.
  • Make sure the keywords you target are totally relevant and make sure your website backs up the kind of thing you are going for.
  • Content is still the king, so keep plugging away, updating your site and making sure that you add relevant, fresh and unique content as often as you possible can
  • Look at your link profile and ask yourself just how spammy it is. If it looks bad then now is the time to start getting rid of the crap and going for the good, because less of the good links are still worth more of the bad.
  • Social signals seem to be a serious strength now, so outside of your SEO, make sure your social media is working and make sure you are proactive and really start to focus on how important this is.

I think one of the other most important things to take from this is that by putting all of your eggs in one basket, you are simply onto a hiding. Google can change the rules at anytime or you can become victim to a dodgy SEO company, but never just think you are doing a good job and that you will always have your Google traffic and therefore start to rely on it. Look at your analytics then ask yourself, if all that traffic from Google stopped tomorrow, could you survive?

Make sure you have other online (and indeed offline) marketing measures in place, with Adwords, Email Marketing, Social Media and Affiliate Marketing to name but a few, because once you start to rely on your organic traffic as your be all and end all, you are playing a dangerous game because this can soon disappear, a lot quicker than it took to come. Only Google decide where you rank and you have to remember that you are not guaranteed rankings because you did everything right, a common misconception that many online business owners seem to have.

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