A few weeks have passed since Google released Penguin 2.0, and websites across the Internet are feeling the impact. Some are seeing decreases in organic traffic while others appear to experience little to no change in comparison to Penguin 1.0.
According to Matt Cutts, “About 2.3% of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice. The change has also finished rolling out for other languages world-wide.” This algorithm update mostly affects those sites that had engaged in dodgy practices to begin with, but it will necessitate many needing to adjust their SEO strategies going forward as Google shifts its ranking metrics.
Those that are experiencing a hit to their organic traffic are left with many questions about what they can do to mitigate the effects of this Google update. In order to fully understand Penguin 2.0, we must return to the Panda and Penguin 1.0 updates and come to a fuller comprehension of what direction Google is attempting to take the Internet.
Panda and Penguin 1.0 Sliced Through SPAM
Panda made it clear that Google was on the path to increasing the value of quality content. It punished low quality content and rewarded user-valued content. Unique content was elevated to a positive indicator of value. This effectively reduced the value of copy-and-paste websites and plagiarized articles to nil in order to reduce SPAM in search engine result pages. The goal here was clearly to flush out over-optimized, low-value content.
Penguin 1.0 accomplished an almost identical quality goal with links and grey-area link-building strategies. Sites with paid text links, those from comment spam, or from questionable or clearly paid marketing sites all took a massive hit when Penguin 1.0 was released. The goal here too was to eliminate SPAM search engine results that ranked due to over-optimized, low-value links.
Clearly, Google is attempting to create an environment in which gamesmanship does not equal true search engine user value. While some in the SEO world may grumble about having to retire familiar though outdated strategies, the overarching goal of these updates was to increase the quality of content presented to search engine users, and that is a good thing.
Penguin 2.0: Site Context and Local for Mobile
Penguin 2.0 then takes Google’s plan for a higher quality user experience to where the user lives, both figuratively and literally. The next step in Penguin’s validation of a site’s topical authority is an effort to ensure that websites are indexed in the right context so that they may be presented only to relevant queries. The effort appears to be about contextualization, whether that context is industry, marketing vertical, field, or topic-based. Penguin 2.0 attempts to ensure that sites are put into the proper grouping with their peers, competitors, and other sites of the same topical or functional value to search engine users.
Further, Penguin 2.0 appears to indicate that Google has noticed how much search engine user behavior is migrating to mobile devices. As search engine users continue to do more online browsing via mobile platforms, the nature of their search engine use is changing as well. Local search is one of the dominant uses for the mobile Internet, and Penguin appears to be preparing us for this mobile future.
Penguin 2.0 Wants to Know Where Your Site Belongs
Google has made it clear that the word of the day is authenticity. Penguin 2.0 is an attempt to validate the value of sites in their proper context and in the eyes of their topical target audience. As discussed in the GoogleWebmasterHelp video embedded below, Penguin 2.0 raises the value of content both onsite and offsite in order to validate site value. By evaluating articles, PDFs, podcasts, presentations, press releases, videos, webinars, and other website content, Penguin 2.0 takes a skeptical eye to every site’s user value.
Penguin 2.0 offers a renewed perspective on the value of hosting video assets on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. After Penguin 2.0, this can now be almost as valuable as hosting them exclusively on your own site pages. The goal here appears to be not only to encourage the further creation of user-valued media, but to also allow for that media to reside where users expect to find it. It also ensures that distribution of rich media with audience as a primary goal is no less valuable than glomming rich media onto your own website.
Again, appearances indicate authenticity will be derived from user value via media channels, social media approval, and your site’s presence within the proper link-network context.
Penguin 2.0 Values Branding and Locality
How are users searching for you? Do they search for a brand name or are you mostly found via generic terms. Odds are that your brand has value, possibly even more value regionally, and this value is what users are looking for when they search. People do not necessarily search for “furniture online,” but they do search for “Ikea” often. While that example may seem monolithic, Google appears to have found that search is becoming more focused and that users are likely to value Ikea’s regional competitors appearing on search engine result pages more than they would multiple applicable Ikea website pages in the results. Penguin 2.0 attempts to ensure that the way sites are contextualized via their content and links is genuine to how users engage it.
Local is making user search behavior all the more focused as well. The dominance of local search queries and the way that such platforms as Google and Apple Maps meet the needs of those queries appears to be a guiding force in this update. Regional associations attempt to further contextualize sites in order to present the best search engine page results. Naturally, this has put the word “NAP” on many webmasters and SEO analysts’ lips as Google appears to be scanning sites for real-world names, addresses, and phone numbers as geotargetting indicators.
The days of high-value directory linking are being replaced with greater value on those links from other sites within a site’s industry, field, or niche as validated by AuthorRank and social. This combined with the focus on local search is likely to put local brands on more equal footing with global brands when it comes to actual search engine result pages. From a user perspective, this appears to be Google’s effort to ensure that your local pizza parlors show up with Dominoes and Pizza Hut when you search Google for “pizza delivery” or “pizza Atlanta.”
Panda, Penguin, and Google’s Long-Game Goal
Google has made it clear in the latest updates that they are on a SPAM-shunning spree in an effort to ensure their results pages better meet user needs. This authenticity will build trust, and trust ensures return users. Google wants those users. It plans to capture them via their mobile devices. It will use their social media to judge your site’s value, and it will use their real-world location to further contextualize your site.
Search engine optimization in a Post-Penguin 2.0 world then is going to be dominated by user experience. Providing valuable content as Panda indicated, presenting your site to the correct audience in the proper context as Penguin 1.0 indicated, and now courting your niche audience for validation in Penguin 2.0 all indicate that Google has its eye on how valuable your site is to users.
Penguin 2.0 makes it clear: engagement with your audience or customer community and peer-network as an ultimate inbound marketing goal is going to be the best SEO strategy going forward.