Google Penguin 2.0 Update

The highly anticipated Google Penguin 2.0 algorithm update launched officially on 5/22/13. Are you at risk of the dreaded Google Slap? Will 2013 be the end of SEO as we know it? This piece will shed some light & provide some tips & best practices for handling a potential SEO algorithm penalty.

If you know you got slapped & you’re freaking out, we can help. Get in touch if you’d like to talk.

General

Penguin 2.0 is a Google algorithm update that launched on 5/22/13 and focuses on combating blackhat webspam. Penguin 1.0 primarily focused on spammy links and anchor text pointing to the homepage, so we can most likely expect Penguin 2.0 to look deeper (e.g. services pages receiving spammy links).

What To Do

Annotate in Analytics — “Penguin 2.0 went live – WebMechanix”. Other than that, you can’t do much right now. I do not believe this will affect any of our clients because of our heavy emphasis on good content and conversion techniques, but previous SEO teams or competitors may have sent some bad links our way. Either way, it’s something to be aware of and stay informed about.

If you have suspicions about it impacting your site, check Analytics 3-7 days after 5/22/13 to see if a steep decrease in Google organic traffic occurred. Additionally, you should check if there are any unnatural link messages in Webmaster Tools. If either of these indicators is present, then you’ll need to analyze any activities that may have been deemed suspicious by Google and resulted in a penalty.

Known Effects

The update will impact “approximately 2.3% of English-US queries to the degree that a regular user might notice”. That measurement means it’s a pretty darn big update because Google doesn’t think very highly of “regular users” ability to discern results (and they’re probably right).

Matt Cutts has identified the following blackhat webspam targets in a recent Youtube video:

Advertorials:
Paid coverage that has a link passing page rank. Nothing wrong with these but won’t be passing PageRank.
Upstream Link Schemes
Tiering your link building (e.g. building links through layers of sites with varying degrees of crappiness) is going be a lot harder
Authorities
They plan to reward authorities on subject matters. This is good news.
Domain Clustering
Separate update but refined; if one search engine results page has a cluster of results (most likely seen in the first ten results) then you’ll be less likely to see it on subsequent results pages if you didn’t click and stick with any of the links from the cluster. This is going to be yet another “personalized” factor for search engine results.

Speculation

write-up from Search Engine Journal offers some pretty reasonable speculation as to what Google may be analyzing with the Penguin 2.0 update. Here are some of the key points:

Disavow Data
All the data Google received through this tool might be used to identify spammy link farms.
Branded Anchor Links
Penguin 2.0’s predecessors paid attention to unusual ratios of keyword vs. branded anchor text, but they may tip the scale even further in favor having branded anchor text.
Guest Bloggers
With Matt Cutts mentioning advertorials as something being devalued or penalized, guest blog abuse would be a logical extension of that. Identifying guest blog abuse would be difficult, but Google can do some pretty crazy stuff.

Resources

Matt Cutts Youtube video with explanation

Matt Cutts Hours Before Penguin 2.0 Launch

Domain Clustering Changes from Search Engine Land

Google Algorithm Change History from SEOMoz

Search Engine Journal Write-up on Speculative Effects and Identifiers