A little over a year ago every webmaster whose site avoided being downgraded in Google breathed a little sigh of relief. That’s because Google had just released Penguin, a major change to its algorithm that cracked down on spammy links.
Well, Penguin is back and it’s better than ever. Last month Google released Penguin 2.0, the latest step in its battle to eradicate spam from the internet. Just as with the first version of Penguin, this update means some changes to what constitutes successful SEO.
Matt Cutts, Google’s webspam guru, has already confirmed that the update affected 2.3% of search queries. For those who prefer to go straight to the source, here’s some information about Penguin directly from the horse’s mouth.
Obviously downgraded sites need to take steps to recover. And even unaffected sites need to make sure they are adhering to Google’s best practices to avoid any future trouble.
The first thing to recognize is that Penguin 2.0 is consistent with Penguin 1.0’s goals. In other words, Penguin 2.0 continues to punish any links Google deems as spam. The following types of links are best avoided:
- Paid Links
- Links with Keyword-Heavy, Exact-Match Anchor Text
- Comment Spam
- Guest Posts from Low-Quality Sites
- Links from Article Directories
- Links from Any Site that Does Not Feature Quality Content
The major difference with Penguin 2.0 is that it’s more “comprehensive,” to borrow Matt Cutt’s words. Even more sites will be affected by 2.0. And not only will more sites be affected but more of each site too.
Penguin 1.0 looked primarily at spammy links to the homepage. Penguin 2.0 looks at spammy links to deeper pages, such as category and subcategory pages. Now every page of a website needs to be devoid of spammy links.
Sites that have been downgraded can mitigate some of Penguin 2.0’s effects by combing through their link profiles and removing unnatural links. But the best thing to do going forward is to shift the focus of the site toward building quality content.
No one who has been following Google’s efforts to crack down on spam over the last two years should be surprised by this update. Webmasters who have always practiced white hat SEO, or who made a real effort to crack down on spam after the original launch of Penguin, should be fine.
So what kind of links are okay? There are plenty of SEO articles out there screaming that link-building is dead. That’s not true. Certainly unnatural and manipulative link-building is dead. But building links is still an essential part of any successful SEO campaign; they just need to be built organically through great content that actual human beings actually link to.
Ultimately Penguin sends the message to the entire internet that quality, user-oriented content is an ongoing endeavor. It’s not about surviving (or recovering from) one update. It’s about constantly improving, constantly providing visitors with fresh quality content. When it comes to webspam, complacency is not an option.