The industry reflects on initial impact of Google’s Penguin 2.0 update

By Chris Lee

Google Penguin – the search giant’s algorithm change from April 2012 aimed at fighting keyword stuffing, cloaking, duplication content and unethical link building – has been updated. Google’s blogger Matt Cutts said that Penguin 2.0 would be “a little more comprehensive” and have “more of an impact” than Penguin 1.0.

Cutts believes the change has already impacted 2.3 per cent of English language queries in the US. Meanwhile, search engine optimisation (SEO) marketing software maker Searchmetrics listed those sites which it believes had been hit hardest by the Penguin 2.0 algorithm change.

So what does the UK market make of Penguin 2.0 and what is the latest best practice on the subject?

It’s all about content

For Yesmin Celis, head of SEO at independent media agency Total Media, as Penguin 2.0 targets webspam brands need to make a “concerted effort” to create genuine content that people want to link to and share with their networks.

“Organisations that have obviously tried to artificially increase the number of incoming links may be penalised. This includes paid sidebar links, completely irrelevant sites and low quality directories or ‘link farms’,” she warned. “Organisations with too many links that have keywords as anchor texts will get noticed. For example, having dozens of links with the text ‘UK Car Insurance’ rather than the brand name will appear unnatural to algorithms.”

David Gelb, owner and managing director of digital agency JBi, added that Penguin 2.0 would see the power of SEO shift from more technical people to website and business owners.

“The winners out of this change will be business owners who are passionate about their product and service and not only have something to say about it, but more importantly something we want to hear,” he told NMK.

Time to build links honestly

The goal for businesses now is to attract links using useful and informative content that answers the questions their prospective customers will have about their service, according to Nichola Stott of search marketing consultancy theMediaFlow.

Stott urges companies to turn away from the practice of buying or exchanging links and instead focus budget and efforts on on-site content development and external placement.

“Think about it in terms of personal health,” she told NMK. “If I wanted to look and feel better I need to make a long-term investment in my personal health. Join a gym, take regular exercise and eat a healthy diet as a long-term lifestyle change. Spending £300 a month on placing links is like getting a botox shot. It’s comparatively cheap but treats only symptoms and is certainly not going to work long-term.”

Penguin 2.0 best practice

Total Media’s Celis recommends the following steps in order to compete in the post-Penguin 2.0 world:

1: Never pay websites to link to your website – instead give relevant publications other reasons to link to you, such as hosting original resources and interesting content. If you do have a lot of links coming in, make sure there is a 60/40 split between branded and unbranded keywords.

2: Agencies need to find out as much as possible about any previous work done by former SEO service providers. It is possible that they have been employing outdated or risky methods without your knowledge which need to be remedied as soon as possible. If you have any irrelevant or low quality websites linking to yours, request that they be removed.

3: Competitors may still be trying to trick the algorithm through loopholes or other shortcuts – instead of trying these for yourself, sit back and see how far they get. Odds are that playing by the rules will always be the best approach.

4: As quality content and integration is key, SEO costs have been increasing but so has the value of the service. Greater online visibility across channels is more important than ever as digital marketing continues to grow and fragment.

5: Last but not least, if you don’t hear from your SEO agency, be worried! A good agency will always be more than happy to share results and campaign progress upon your request and supply regular monthly reports.

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