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May 23, 2013

Link Building and SEO In The Penguin 2.0 Environment

Penguin 2.0 algorithm update is here and it promises to hit webspam hard. With the next generation Penguin 2.0, (called so because this change is not just a data refresh within the existing algorithm, but changes made to the algorithm itself) Google attempts to specifically target black hat spam and give greater thrust to content quality and ethical link building. 

Before going further into our discussion, it makes sense to recapitulate what the original Penguin update was all about.

The original penguin update (Penguin 1.0) was released on April 24, 2012 in an attempt to de-rank all websites that participated in unethical SEO practices (Black Hat SEO) that include keyword stuffing, anchor text over-optimization and unnatural link building. The Penguin update also came down hard on the so called 'link networks' that promised quick SEO results for their clients. Google subsequently made several 'data refresh' updates to the original algorithm to counter webspam more effectively.

What to Expect from Penguin 2.0

Penguin 2.0 is the next gen kid and thus better equipped to counter webspam than its predecessors. The update will attempt to target the following areas

1. Coming Down Harder on Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO as I have already mentioned is an attempt by sites to manipulate search rankings by participating in several unethical practices that include 'stuffing' articles with keywords, manipulative link building using paid link networks (you pay to buy hundreds of links that go live overnight), over-optimizing anchor texts (including use of exact-match anchor text) and similar other practices.

Black Hat SEO gives an unfair advantage to webmasters who indulge in such practices and often lead to poor content finding a way to the top of the search result pages. Penguin 2.0 would seek to provide a knock-out punch on the face of such practitioners by ensuring that only quality content (that are of relevance to the users) are assigned the top-spots in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)

2. Devaluing Low Quality Link Building

Guest Blogging and Infographic releases have emerged as the most important link building techniques in the recent years. However a large number of organisations have been outsourcing these functions to agencies who produce content in bulk and get them published in a large number of low quality websites and/or blogs. The same goes for Infographics as well. 

With Penguin 2.0, Google will devalue links from low quality blogs and websites. Thus links from low-quality sites (see Panda Update) = No links at all.

Also links coming in from unrelated sites will hold less value than links coming in from 'related' sites.

3. Negating Paid Social Media Promotions

We know that social shares can have a positive impact on SEO. We also know that social shares can be purchased. Thus this leaves room for manipulation of search results - something that goes against Google policies. Thus with Penguin 2.0 and the updates that would follow, Google will attempt to pull in the plug on such paid social media promotions. How Google attempts to achieve this is not known and will become evident in the months to come. Perhaps they will come down hard on 'agencies' that 'sell' social media shares or they will concentrate (while considering the impact of social shares) more on the authority of the 'person' making the shares than on the number of shares received.

4. Better Information Dissemination

With the new Penguin update, you can expect greater information dissemination to help webmasters better identify (and rectify) grey areas in their optimisation process.

5. More Thrust On Author Rankings

Author Rankings are starting to play a very important role is SEO. With Penguin 2.0 the thrust on Author Rankings will be more profound - thus helping content written by authors with more authority to rank higher in SERPs. 

Link Building and SEO In The Penguin 2.0 Environment

After the short discussion on what to expect from the next-gen Penguin update, I will now discuss how you need to adapt your link building strategies to match the requirements of the Penguin 2.0 environment.

As with any Google algorithm update ignorance in this case is not a bliss.

1.  Create Authority Articles.

Focus on creating authority articles within your given niche. Authority articles are articles which extensively discuss a particular topic and come across as a 'complete resource' for those who are seeking more information on the given topic. 

Focusing on this strategy can bring you twin benefits. One, such articles can help improve your domain authority. Second and more importantly, authority articles easily pull links from other quality sites - who might want to link to your article page in order to provide more complete information to their readers (a natural link building tool) .

Thus authority articles can give a huge boost to your search engine optimisation efforts and help you rank high within your niche.
2. Disown the Black Hat

Stay away from all black hat techniques (that promise results overnight). Instead focus on ethical link building and other optimisation techniques. White Hat SEO commands greater investment of time and efforts, but in the long run will also give you better results.

3. Do the Guest Blogging Right

As I have pointed out earlier, links from low-quality sites no more count. Thus, you need to adapt your guest blogging tactics accordingly. An authority website will never publish an article that is low in quality or copied from other sources. Therefore to make it to a quality blog/website, your article has to be well written, informative and relevant. It is also important to ensure that the site you guest post on is related to your site so as to get the maximum benefits from your guest blogging endeavours.

Thus if you have been guilty of producing content on the bulk and getting them published in sites which are low in quality, its time you gave your strategy a serious rethink. Focus solely on quality content that can easily make a quality website its home. 

The same holds true for Infographics. Only those Infographics which are 'high' on content and attractive in design will be picked up by authoritative websites. Anything else is simply a waste of time.

4. Incorporate Authorship Tags

The Rel=Author tags helps Google match your GooglePlus (G+) profile to the content you create on the web and thus keep track of the same. An author who churns out quality content on a regular basis is generally assigned a higher 'Author Rank' by Google and his/her articles generally command a higher rank in SERPs. Thus Google Authorship can give a huge boost to your SEO.


5. Maintain Anchor Text Variations

Maintaining Anchor Text variations is very important if your want your link building efforts seem natural to Google. The cardinal rule here is not to use the same anchor text throughout. Instead introduce variations. 

For example, assume you are a social media management company, and have targeted the anchor text "Social Media Optimisation" in one of your guest posts. In another guest post (on another site), instead of targeting the same key phase, you can use the phrase "Optimising Your Social Media Promotions" as your anchor text. 

Also make sure that all your links do not 'lead' to the same page. Diversify your links throughout your site.

6. Staying Away from Paid Linking Or Paid Social Promotions

Here I would like to specially mention the fact that you need to stay away from paid linking of any kind. Google in the past has been severe on those 'link networks' that had sprouted on the web. Inspite of several take downs by Google, webmasters still continue to employ paid linking as a tool to manipulate search results. However with Penguin 2.0, Google will be fishing more aggressively for webmasters who still employ such paid linking tactics. Therefore do not at any cost accept or offer money to create links.

Similarly stay away from paid social shares and instead focus your efforts towards building a thriving community of social media followers (based on a give and take relationship) who joyfully share your posts around.

Is This The Death Of Blog Commenting?

No I don't think so. Blog commenting as an SEO tool will still continue to exist, however, its influence on search rankings might be considerably reduced. 

As a safeguard never comment on blogs with un-moderated comments. Ideally you should be commenting on quality blogs within your niche. Each comment should go beyond the usual "Great post buddy" claim and add some value to the post. And, please stay away from links within the text.


I hope with this article I have been able to provide an outlook on what you can expect from Penguin 2.0 and how you need to modify your link building and SEO efforts to keep in sync with the same. Let us all resolve to keep #webspam out and make the web a more useful place from the unsuspecting reader.

For any queries or suggestions feel free to use the comment form below.

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