Google Penguin 2.0 - What It Really Means

If you are involved in internet marketing at any level you really can't have missed the huge noise across social media about the landing of Google Penguin 2.0 - the latest Google Update, a huge refresh and algo change for the previous Penguin updates. It went live on Wednesday evening (US time) and since then reports have flooded in of websites being hit by penalties, such as the below, to others who are celebrating improved rankings.

But let's not get too carried away here, its not all doom and gloom. Lets examine what this update means to website owners and internet marketers, and let us consider the future.

What is Google Penguin 2.0?

Penguin 2.0 is the latest update to the Google Search Ranking Algorithm. According to head of webspam at Google, Matt Cutts, it is believed to have effected 2.3% of English based searches - it doesn't sound like much but when you consider the billions Google see's 2.3% isn't so tiny.

The Penguin series of updates is seen as a huge part of the Google War Against Spam (when said in a deep and rough voice). It's aim is to eliminate websites which are ranking due to use of black-hat seo techniques, such as bad linking techniques, spamming the web and others. The series is very much a "we are cleaning our results" pledge and (at least to me) is a series of updates that truly is working for the users of the web.

What is in the Google Penguin Updates?

This series of updates clearly shows a few things:

  • Links Are Still Giants. Let's not beat around the bush, Links are still at the very core of how Google's search rankings work. If this wasn't the case the mere fact they are devaluing the links would be pointless, this points to their integrity to the algorithms used. Also Google's recent want to update webmasters with warnings and information around links means that they are still vital parts of the algorithm.
  • Google is Becoming Conversational and Categorical. Google is using your content to categorise your website and each page, as well as looking at who links to you. This means Google can see if you should be ranking in a given niche market or whether you have spammed your way to those rankings, it's called natural placement and is likely to be something that catches out many websites who have garnered links through blackhat/greyhat techniques. It will also be of more use still once Authority kicks in for users, for example I write about SEO a lot and if i began writing about tyres or car parks Google may consider something funny to be happening and flag things to check.
  • Authorship Isn't Quite Ready. For all the SEO's playing with authorship thinking it will effect rankings any time soon, think again. Authorship is still a nice "add on" but isn't get ready to hit the big time for most users, although big "authorities" such as Rand Fishkin or David Naylor.
  • Changes Are Happening Through Webmaster Tools. Google are using webmaster tools to push updates to webmasters and SEO's to make changes. They are trying to push them before updates such that webmasters have a chance of not being caught if they are doing something "naughty". This includes saying "you have bad links" and giving clear warnings of this kind.

The Future of Google Algorithm Updates

This is where I do something really that should never be done, predict Google's next move. And it should never be done because it's usually 90% wrong when you do... but here goes.

Google I believe will roll out about another 3 major (named) updates before the end of 2013, 2 of which will be between now and September. The updates will include (i think) another Panda update - although it may not be announced - and a shake up in how Google see's what it considers spammy types of websites. It's already done the later in this update but it will continue to cut at websites like Pay Day Loans and other online spammy industries.

Andy KinseyComment