Matt Cutts confirmed it on May 10th—Google Penguin 2.0 is coming in the next few weeks. In case you’ve been living under a rock this past year, or are brand new to the SEO game, Penguin was Google’s webspam update last year that went after sites with low quality link profiles and changed the world of SEO for good. Although the signs had been pointing that it was going that way for some time, the Penguin update made it official: the number of links a site has in its link profile is no longer more important than the quality of those links. Do you have 100 valuable links from trusted, authoritative sources or 1,000 links from blog networks? If you’re link profile looks more like option B you’re out of luck---Google actually deindexed those blog networks (among other things) and a lot of sites got hit hard for past link building activities. Even if your site was directly penalized from the update, if enough site in your link profile where whacked your SEO could have taken an indirect hit. There have been a few updates to Penguin since last April, but Matt Cutts told Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land that he “might want to downgrade previous Penguin 2 and 3 to Penguin 1.1 and 1.2. Upcoming release is the true 2.0.” Matt Cutts also mentioned how Penguin 2.0 will go deeper and impact more SEOs and webmasters than the first generation version.
Is your SEO, specifically your link building and link profile, ready to handle what comes with a major algorithm update?
1. Be honest about your SEO past.
After the first Penguin update hit I got a lot of calls from site owners that claimed to have been unfairly penalized. And while I’m sure there were a handful of site owners out there that were actually unfairly caught in the cross-fire, none of the sites I looked at had squeaky clean SEO pasts or highly valuable link profiles. Take a good hard look at your SEO past and make sure there are no skeletons in your closet waiting to come out and haunt you. What kind of links did that SEO firm from 2 years ago actually build? How many domains does Google see pointing to your website? Is there are large percentage of links to your site coming from footers, sidebars or other site-wide sources? What does your anchor text breakdown look like? Even if you’ve been on the SEO straight and narrow for a year or two, what you did in the past can still be held against you today.
2. Brace yourself for the fallout.
If you are honest enough with yourself to realize that your site might be on the Penguin 2.0 chopping block you have a little time to prepare for the fallout. Start pinpointing what areas of your SEO and link profile need to be cleaned up and get done what you can in however much time we have left. Got a bunch of paid links? Time to let them go (hey, it’ll save you some money at the very least!) Belong to a blog network? Hightail it out of there. Got some really, really bad links that you can’t get rid of? Submit them to the Google Disavow Tool and hope Google listens to your suggestion and doesn’t count them for or against you anymore. You might just be able to clean up your act enough that Penguin 2.0 doesn’t catch up with you. At the very least you’ve taken the first steps in moving towards a strictly white hat SEO approach, which is the best defense you have against any algorithm update.
Remember, Penguin 2.0 is an algorithm update, not a manual penalty. If your site is hit a reconsideration request won’t work; you’ll have to wait until the next refresh to see if your cleanup efforts have paid off, provided you fixed the right things!
3. Refocus your link building efforts.
Cleaning up your link profile isn’t enough. Think of it like a see-saw; as you remove the junk links you want to replace them with quality links in order to tip the scales back in you favor. Take a good hard look at your link profile and figure out what is missing and how you can refocus your link building efforts to actually help your SEO program. Do you have a content marketing strategy in place? Could your social media efforts be ramped up to help build social authority? What partnerships can you create and leverage in your favor? If your link building has always been just about getting directory links now is the time to look for industry sites, communities and forums to join, niche sites to get involved with and more. If you stick with your link building, even if it’s just one quality link a day, you’ll keep your SEO moving in the right direction and will build the right kind of profile over time.
Until Penguin 2.0 actually goes live we can’t say for sure what will happen or who will be the most affected—keep an ear to the ground and an eye on your Google Analytics account! Nick Stamoulis is the President of Boston SEO agency Brick Marketing. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamolis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.