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What We’re Learning from Penguin 2.0

Now that some of the dust has settled from Google’s Penguin 2.0 algorithm update, released May 22, 2013, it’s time to take a look at what it targeted. Approximately 2.3 percent of search queries were affected and regardless if you were helped or penalized by its release, we’re calling it an improvement.

At the end of the day Google wants its users to find quality websites that are relevant, engaging and informative. It may seem like a simple concept, but the qualifications for becoming one of the top ranked sites in your niche are quite complex.

It’s been said again and again, but if Google’s intentions could be summed up in one word, it’s “quality.” Penguin 2.0 has stressed the significance of this philosophy as lower quality sites have been penalized in recent weeks. While Google Panda focused on content, Penguin has targeted link building – specifically link spam.

What is Link spam?

Penguin 2.0 has reinforced much of the initial Penguin update from April 2012 by improving its definition of link spam. It focuses on a number of manipulative link building techniques that include the following:

  • Purchased links
  • Lack of link diversity
  • Bought site-wide links
  • Irrelevant or low quality guest posting
  • Unnatural keyword anchor text
  • Obtaining links through link networks
  • Having links on irrelevant or low quality sites


Although the first Penguin update shared a similar list, Penguin 2.0 is essentially smarter and has a better chance of finding low quality links. You could also say that Penguin 2.0 simply has less tolerance for bad links.

Steps to Avoid Penalty

Your strategy to be at the top of your niche should always be evolving. If you focus on quality link building, quality content, and perform Google-friendly practices, you shouldn’t find yourself in the recovery phase following an algorithm update. The goal is to be proactive and make continual improvements to your strategy, not reactive changes.

The latest trend in quality link building is guest posting – the distribution of content to relevant and reputable websites with backlinks to your site. It’s important for some of your links to be keyword-focused and others not so much. Having a nice blend is ideal.

Satisfying Google is all about adaptability. The race to the top of SERPs should be slow and progressive. If your site reaches the top spot overnight, chances are high that you’re using black hat SEO practices and your time there will be short-lived. If you wish to climb in the rankings and avoid penalties, don’t be tempted by SEO shortcuts.