Penguin Reflection

Penguin 2.0 Reflection: Google Getting Back to Its Academic Ways

Penguin 2.0 Reflection: Google Getting Back to Its Academic Ways

The following are my thoughts on where Google’s search algorithm strategy is headed post Penguin 2.0, and tips for how you can stay ahead of the curve.

Looking back on Google’s Penguin 2.0 update, there is a lot we can learn about Google’s algorithm strategy and where it is headed.
Google did two things in the Penguin 2.0 update that jumped out at me:

  1. Punished sites that overly promote their own content. Sites that have high levels of internal links to external links ratios per page are getting penalized.
  2. Addressed the issue of domain crowding in first page of search results. Sites that are attempting to canvas a specific keyword or set of keywords are being penalized.

The days of trying to canvas a keyword with your blog to place well are quickly coming to an end.

Google’s Motivations Behind Penguin 2.0

It’s no secret that Google began as part of the Stanford Digital Libraries Project. Google has never shied away from its academic origin and historically has pulled many inspirations for its search algorithm strategy from academia. This seems to indicate Google wants a more “academic” discussion around topics and is going to promote those sites who play into the community discussion and penalize those who do not.
Google has already started to incorporate a social component into how they determine a site’s authority on a topic, and we can expect this to become increasingly more important. If it wasn’t clear two years ago when they launched Google+, it is certainly clear now with Google +1’s being incorporated into the rankings and Google introducing the idea of Google authorship. I am sure more will be coming in this direction very soon.
If you don’t believe me, just look at how much time and money Google has invested in Google+. Strategically, Google sees no other option than becoming or acquiring a social media heavyweight as they need this data to propel their search algorithm into the social search frontier. For more on this, see my post from last year on this matter.
One area Google knows is important and will almost certainly be trying to figure out is how can it factor engagement into its rankings. Historically, it used back links to establish site authority. Now it combines back links with plus 1’s. This is clearly not the end of the line as both of these factors can still be gamed.
One area that we can certainly expect Google to explore is further qualifying links by factoring content and timeline that the link was made into how it affects a page’s authority. Another is further incorporation of reader interaction and engagement with the site. Google could go at this from a lot of different angles, including gauging the number of people engaging in discussion around a subject or product on a specific website or developing a system to systematically rank social sentiment (social rank).
Google Search Strategic Direction

What Does This All Mean For Your SEO Strategy?

Here are two tips to help you recover from Penguin 2.0 and/or get ahead of the SEO game:

  • Reactive SEO strategies do not work very well. You will eventually get caught in mid-stride and it will cause some serious pain trying to figure out what went wrong. Many companies learned this from Penguin 2.0. You need to stay at least one-step ahead of Google and really start thinking about how you can position your website ahead of your peers as Google makes its transition towards social search.
  • Make your site more “academic” by:
    • Creating content that generates interaction around key subject matters between your site and other subject matter authority websites.
    • Make sure every blog post you write incorporates links to other authorities on a given subject matter.

Please share your thoughts on what we can expect from Google’s search algorithm strategy for the upcoming couple of years and let me know what you think about my projections.

Marketing Manager, Pricing Strategy
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