The first major update to the Google search algorithm in over a year has just gone live (In the middle of last night for those of us in Ireland and the UK. Labelled Penguin 2.0 by Google, it is the fourth update to the original Penguin update back in April of 2012.
Google say that it will affect 2.3% of websites (English – U.S). That may seem like a small number, but it’s really not.
Here is Matt Cutts of Google talking about what could be expected a few weeks before the release of Penguin 2.0.
What’s new in Penguin 2.0?
Essentially it’s really more of the same….. but with more depth. For instance, paid advertorials are to be hit hard. What do I mean by paid advertorials? Well, any article published on the web that has been paid for. Of course this is only relevant if the article passes page rank. This means nofollowing any link from the article to avoid penalty. Unfortunately the link (without a nofollow tag) was probably the entire point of the article.
This could have repercussions for one of the most popular link building techniques of the moment – guest blogging (where money has changed hands of course).
This shouldn’t be a surprise. It is after all a way of getting paid links which contravene Google’s quality guidelines.
Furthermore, Matt said in the above video that advertorials should show “Clear and conspicuous disclosure”. In other words, like with advertorials in magazines and papers, any internet content that is advertising should state it clearly.
This is not new. Interflora were hit with a penalty back in February in the UK for page rank passing advertorials. They dropped for all their main keywords including “interflora”.
However, I just took a look at one Irish site network that has only paid advertorials that pass page rank (little other content) and it does not seem to have been affected at all yet. It may be worth putting in a spam report, although I do like to live and let live in general.
Google 2.0 is supposed to have “smoother edges” meaning that sites that are borderline will not be hit as hard as was the case with Penguin 1.0. This is good news for sites that have not actively engaged in Black Hat (web spam) techniques but may have inadvertently done something that they shouldn’t have.
Overall, movement seems to be small at the moment but we can expect more fluctuation over the coming weeks.
Exact match anchor text
This was targetted by Penguin on its first outing and seems to be given even more weight as a punishable exercise this time around.
A mistake site owners seem to be making a lot in this regard is changing this text to read “click here” or something to that effect. This does not enhance user experience or give any information at all. In my experience dropping a link with the full url (where the url contains keywords) does no harm and would be a better option.
Also, just diversifying your anchor text would be a good move. If all my links to this site had an anchor text of “SEO” then I would be in trouble. I get away with “SEO Training” because it is the branded name of the site. In practice though, on this site I don’t do much link building at all, preferring to let the back links come organically. It’s a slower process but it has served me well to date.
Google Disavow Links Tool
It would seem crazy of Google not to use the data they have been collecting from the disavow links tool. Webmasters have been showing Google exactly how they have been spamming for the last few decades as they desperately try to recoup rankings lost by Penguin 1.0. Surely that information is built into 2.0 ?
It’s a bit early to tell for sure.
Cries of “UNFAIR!!!”
There have been very few cries of unfair in relation to Penguin 2.0. This is probably because Google seem to have got it right so far this time around. Perhaps it has been a little too nice. Looking at the black hat forums there seems to be a general feeling of relief and surprise, with only a few people reporting total site devastation.
What should I do if I have been affected?
My advice would be to sit tight for a little bit and see what happens over the next few weeks before taking radical action. However, it would be prudent to find out what part of your backlink profile is causing you problems.
More sophisticated link analysis and tackling upstream sites of comment spam etc. That’s according to Matt Cutts again.