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July 8, 2013

Why Penguin 2.0 is Google’s Gift to the Web

In late May, Google launched the much anticipated update to their Penguin algorithm, dubbed Penguin 2.0. Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear the impact has been fairly significant, and that Google has effectively (but certainly not flawlessly) furthered their mission to identify and penalize webspam and black hat SEO practitioners. Ultimately, although it may be frustrating to experience the shifts and changes of the algorithm updates, content creators should be celebrating Penguin 2.0, as it wholly supports the creation of quality, user-friendly sites and content.

Need some tangible reasons to rejoice about the latest updates? Keep reading and prepare to become a Penguin fan.

HowPenguin 2.0 Rewards the Good Guys

“White hat” SEO optimizers are those who are looking to improve the user experience. They work to create valuable content, a seamless user interface, and ultimately strive to manifest the best overall experience in their niche for each visitor. These are precisely the folks Google is looking to reward with Penguin 2.0. What’s good for search engines is also good for users, and that means Google will not rest if webspam continues to reach top ranking positions in their search results.

As a rule, white hat tactics also indicate good marketing strategies. If a company employs integrity and care in their SEO, they likely carry that attitude through all their business practices, using creativity to entice customers, not trickery. Although Google continues to be the search engine powerhouse, sites like Bing are providing healthy competition, motivating the leader to ensure their user experience is superior. That means highlighting the best sites available for every last search. And that means those professionals who have tirelessly worked to truly provide quality experiences to their users are getting more and more attention and well-deserved prominence.

Expertise Trumps Black Hat SEO

If you run a search for “best plastic surgeon in Hollywood,” you’re obviously looking for the most trustworthy and experienced professional you can find. To help determine this authority, Penguin 2.0 is giving more prominence to author rank, and helping to elevate bonafide experts in each field. Again, the best customer experience equals the best search engine; Google has become increasingly savvy in developing ways to identify who the experts are, and who might is blowing smoke to garner page views.

In a recent video describing the Penguin 2.0 changes, Matt Cutts, Google’s search ambassador, had this to say about identifying experts:

“We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is more of an authority on a specific space. You know, it could be medical. It could be travel. Whatever. And try[ing] to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority… we think might be a little more appropriate for users.”

While they obviously won’t reveal the specific methods to ascertain expertise, this is fabulous news for those marketers and content creators that truly are highly knowledgeable in their field. In essence, Google is looking to reward hard work and dedication. That’s a tough mission to argue with.

Rewards for Honest Link Building

Building a network of reputable and reliable link partners is perhaps the most challenging aspect of white hat SEO, and Google is working harder to reward best linking practices with better rankings. In many ways, this is the heart of Penguin 2.0. The best SEO professionals devote a significant amount of effort into attaining inbound links from relevant and respected websites, ideally those on a small list of approved sites that Google calls Hilltops.

A Hilltop is a site Google ranks as the best of the best, and gaining their recognition (in the form of a link) requires two key components. First, the content you offer must clearly be entertaining, solve a definite problem, or showcase some level of remarkable content. Secondly, the Hilltop site must have an obvious resonance with the business it links to. These two principles are near and dear to the best content marketers, so the compatibility is obvious. Hilltops hold a high level of trust in the eyes of Google, as each are operating under the same stringent quality ethics. If you also do not settle for a mediocre experience and can showcase that via your own site, court a Hilltop link and Google will aptly reward you.

Offset Any Negative Effects from Panda

Panda, Google’s other algorithm tour-de-force, has certainly ruffled some feathers with some more mysterious shifts. If you’ve followed content quality rules without engaging in webspam and you’ve still seen your rankings drop, Penguin might just help balance the scales. Best practices with off-site SEO tactics (like social mentions and link building) are some the aspects that Penguin rewards, and an excellent effort in this arena may help you balance the dings of duplicate content, older posts, and other Panda frustrations. Even Matt Cutts acknowledges that Panda can and will be “softened.”

“We are looking at Panda and seeing if we can find some additional signals, and we think we’ve got some to help refine things for sites that are kind of in the border zone… if we can soften the effect a little bit for those sites that we believe have some additional signals of quality, that will help sites that were previously affected… to some degree [by Panda].”

Top Off-Page Tips for Maximum Penguin Benefits

We’ve already outlined that high quality content brimming with expert commentary and a sincere attention to a seamless user experience are the on-site tactics for high rankings. There are a gaggle of off-page signals that can help you increase your rankings through Penguin’s updated algorithms too.

Here are a few of the best practices:

1) Social mentions – These are becoming more and more critical. Engage your fans and followers on social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter to share your news, like your content, and otherwise interact with your social offerings. And by all means, do not forget Google+ – you better believe Google notices when mentions are coming from their social hub.

2) News sites – A great PR strategy that generates buzz from any of the major news outlets is a huge boon. Positive mentions and articles on sites like The Huffington Post are extremely powerful.

3) Industry niche sites and blogs – Likewise, finding partnerships in the blogosphere or via other industry experts are also integral to good off-site practices. If none of the experts in your field are giving your company accolades, you lack the credibility Penguin is searching for. Reach out to those folks who are talking about your industry, create a link share, and give them reason to spread your message. Not only is this obviously a critical marketing strategy, but search engines love it too.

4) Print publications – Any offline content can be quoted and cited online, whether it appears in magazines, newspapers, or trade publications. If experts are talking about your site, online or off, Google wants to know.

Google’s mission is simple: to return the best results on the web for any keyword search. To reach this goal, Google is becoming craftier at rewarding the marketers and sites that are working the hardest to give the people what they want. For those content creators and site owners that have always followed rules of quality and integrity, Penguin 2.0 is a godsend. For those that continue to employ sneaky tactics with the hopes of flying under the radar and achieving top rankings, the glory days are over. It’s always good news when the good guys win the battle.

Thanks, Penguin 2.0, for getting us closer to that reality. You may not be flawless, but your intentions are golden.

Tell us about your experience with Google’s recent algorithm updates in the Comments section and whether you have benefited or suffered.

Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.