A Spooky Surprise for Webmasters: Google Announces Penguin 2.1

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Google seems to be on a role lately, Not only did they recently announce that they had rolled out a re-written algorithm, dubbed Hummingbird, over a month a month ago, at the end of last week Matt Cutts revealed that Google would be launching the Penguin 2.1 update, which will affect approximately 1% of searches “to a noticeable degree.” Any update larger than a data refresh, which typically impacts just 0.1% and 0.3% of searches, is bound to make Webmasters uneasy, but after the impact made by Penguin 2.0, the 2.1 update is certainly an unwelcome frightening October surprise. But before you go hiding under the covers waiting for the Penguin 2.1 monster to get your website, it’s important to learn exactly what the update is, who it’s affecting, and how to move forward with your SEO.


What is Penguin 2.1?

Google Penguin originally launched in April of 2013 with the goal of lowering the rankings of any websites in violation of their Webmaster Guidelines. This meant any websites whose webmasters were using black-hat SEO techniques such as keyword stuffing, building artificial or spammy links, creating spam blogs and other disreputable practices. The 2.0 update, rolled out in May of this year, sought to further crack down on webspam and inconspicuous paid advertising used with the intention of boosting page rank. This latest update again seeks out webspammers and punishes them by lowering their page rank, though Google is being vague about what factors it is focusing on with Penguin 2.1. Below is a statement released by the search engine giant on the update:

“The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. While we can’t divulge specific signals because we don’t want to give people a way to game our search results and worsen the experience for users, our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.”


Who is Penguin 2.1 Affecting?

Much like with the Hummingbird algorithm release, Webmasters who have been following Google’s quality guidelines, producing quality content and building only reputable, organic links should not be adversely affected by Penguin 2.1. In fact, some are seeing their rankings rise as Google starts favoring them over spammy competitors. That being said, webmasters should be monitoring their rankings over the next few weeks. If you see your rankings begin to slip it may be time to clean up your poor quality links and ramp up your content creation efforts.


How Do We Proceed From Here?

Though we can respect Google’s thought process, wanting to avoid revealing information that would allow webmasters to “game” their system, it’s difficult to play the game responsibly if you do not know the rules. So, though we cannot know with 100% certainty which practices to eliminate based on the 2.1 update, there are steps we can take to ensure that our sites are in compliance with Google’s quality guidelines.

  • Creating Valuable Content:

    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: quality content is king. Gone are the days of writing blogs and creating pages just for the sake of building a robust site stuffed with keywords. Each piece of web copy you create must provide value to your users and enhance their experience. Keywords should only be added after your piece is written, and only in areas in which they flow naturally with the copy you’ve created.

  • Remove the “Link building” Mindset:

    Matt Cutts has been advising webmasters for some time that inbound links should not be their ultimate goal. Instead, he states that creating an optimal user experience should be the mail objective, predicting that natural links will come as “a byproduct of your efforts.”

  • Disavow Poor Quality Links:

    Maybe you hired a black-hat SEO company in the past or maybe you were just following what you thought was credible advice, but if you have inbound links from poor quality sites now is the time to remove them. Contact the webmasters and ask for the links to be taken off before submitting them to Google via the Disavow Tool.

The creation of high value content that enhances the customer experience on a regular basis requires a personal commitment and the dedication of a sizeable chunk of time each week. This is why so many webmasters have turned to quick-fixes, like link spamming, that have ultimately gotten them in hot water with Google. The real solution: partnering with an SEO company who understands your company, your customers and how to make connections between the two. If you’re struggling with the 2.1 update, give us a call. We’re here to help you get back on track.

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