At the turn of the summer, Google announced the release of their latest update for the famous, or rather infamous, Penguin algorithm. Penguin 2.0 is the fourth update for Google’s search engine algorithm, and like its predecessors it has SEOs and webmasters scratching their heads and many feeling the pain with decreased rankings. The ultimate effect of Penguin 2.0 on performance and page ranking is impossible to accurately gauge. However, we do have enough information to help SEOs and webmasters to take this Penguin update head-on, and to begin recovery measures if necessary.
Let’s take a look at some basics of what’s in store then move towards your link profile and how to get a better high-level view in evaluating your current links.
What’s In Store with Penguin 2.0
One thing that Matt Cutts and Google have made clear, is that Penguin 2.0 is designed to be much more aggressive than the previous generation. It will go deeper into a website, targeting lower level pages in order to determine a site’s quality and overall value. The recent changes will continue to target black hat web spam techniques, but with a renewed vigor, paying particular attention to link spamming, paid links and paid advertorials designed to artificially boost a site’s page ranking. In short, the new generation of Penguin is less about reinvention, and more about tweaking the existing algorithm to ensure that users are provided with relevant, high quality content, at all times.
So, as Penguin 2.0 begins to take effect, what do SEOs and webmasters need to concentrate on in the coming months? And more importantly, what can they do to avoid the wrath of the new improved Penguin?
Do Your Links Have Value
First and foremost, the value of a site’s links are going to more highly scrutinized, and the fact that Penguin 2.0 will be looking more closely at a site’s internal pages means that it will be much harder to hide and exploit any black hat linking schemes. It will also become more and more important for webmasters to closely monitor their links, and to consider where they are coming from and where they are leading. While SEOs are always trying to build links to their sites, and rightly so, the quality of those links will now be an even greater factor in the way Penguin assesses a site. Links from low quality sites, or sites using manipulative black hat techniques, may end up having a negative impact on otherwise solid websites. It may be guilt by association, but good sites with an abundance of links to “bad” or “low quality” sites may see an impact on their own page ranking.
A very basic rule to start with is to check the linking site’s PageRank. If the site that is linking to you has a page ranking of 4 or above, chances are good that it is a solid, and respected site. Keep in mind that PR is simply a starting point. A full analysis of the link site using tools such as MajesticSEO or OSE is much more exhaustive and recommended. Webmasters and SEOs should also look at the site’s social media activity to see if their content is being regularly shared on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. Sites with highly shared content are typically viewed by the Penguin as high quality, and are generally safe to link to. If any of your site’s backlinks are leading to sites that fail too meet this criteria, it’s time to remove, or disavow, them.
Are You Building Links to Quickly?
One of the other things Penguin 2.0 will be looking at, is how fast a site is acquiring links. Google realizes that SEOs are always building links to their sites, but they also understand that organic link building takes time. Penguin 2.0 has been designed to recognize when a site is acquiring backlinks at a heightened rate, and will single out those sites out as likely to be employing manipulative linking strategies. Sites demonstrating a sudden burst in link activity will be “sandboxed”, and their page ranking will be automatically reduced. In the wake of Penguin 2.0, webmasters need to continue to build links organically, and at a steady pace. Using manipulative linking strategies will be a red flag for Google’s algorithms, and the site will be penalized.
How Can You Evaluate Your Current Links?
There are some great tools available to asses your current links. If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution, head over to Link Research Tools. Their Link Detox tool is phenomenal and shows you links that are “deadly risks” though “low risk”. The chances of getting a response from the webmasters on this list is close to nil for the links on the “toxic” side. However, when building your spreadsheet for disavow outreach, Link Detox will really help speed things up by copying from one CSV to another. And, if any webmaster asks for a donation to remove your links, just add these to your spreadsheet and move on to the next evaluation. Another favorite is the Panguin Tool 2.0 from Barracuda. It simply hooks into your Google Analytics and overlays milestones with the many algo updates. It’s fantastic to get a baseline of where things might have gone south.
Link building remains one the most reliable tools in the SEOs toolbox, right up there with solid content marketing. However, with the launch of the latest generation of Penguin, it will be increasingly difficult to get away with trying to manipulate the system. Penguin 2.0 is looking at websites, and scrutinizing their links with a renewed vigor. It’s time for SEOs and webmasters to really dive into housecleaning mode on their websites, removing and disavowing any links that may lead to low quality, or spammy, sites.
The Penguin is coming strong, and it’s taking no prisoners.