Coming Soon: Penguin 2.0

httpv:// Matt Cutts announced on Monday that there are some pretty big changes in the Google algorithm coming down the pipes, as Cutts calls it: Penguin 2.0. Exact release date is TBA, but it sounds like it will be coming in the summer months. In the past, algorithm updates have only been revealed when they are significant. This one was announced ahead of time and labeled with a 2.0, not a 1.6,7,etc., so we can expect that the SERPs will be shifting indefinitely pretty soon. Some brands will likely see improvements in their search performance, while others less fortunate may fall off the radar completely. For those of you who prefer reading to video viewing, here is a summary of my interpretation of things to come:

1. Stricter Policy on Advertorials

There is nothing wrong with a pay for inclusion link in the form of an advertorial. But Mr. Cutts says that these links need to: a. Not flow link juice, and b. Provide clear disclosure that they are in fact ads and not organic links. Sites that do not adhere to these guidelines may be penalized for poor link tactics, even if it was not intentionally deceptive. If you are paying for a link, make sure you are getting a true ROI by requesting that these guidelines are in place. Otherwise, that link may do your site more harm than good.

2. More Sophisticated Link Analysis

Although he doesn’t delve too much into what this means, Matt says that the Goog is continuing to try to deny link spammers with any value. He doesn’t say that Google will de-index link spammers, but he does mention that he does not want shady links to provide sites with value in search. Maybe this means that some links will pass more “link juice” than others, based on legitimacy? Or maybe some links will essentially be labeled “nofollow” based on an analysis of factors that only Google knows? No one can know for sure, but based on the previous generation of Penguin, I would assume that some factors that will be evaluated will include: – The use of exact match anchor text – Links coming from sites that solely offer “SEOa for your website – Footer links

3. Webmaster Tools Improvements

Matt mentioned that there will be better detection and notifications for webmasters when a site has been hacked. As more and more sites continue to be targeted by hackers, this is definitely a positive. Better communication to webmasters through Google’s Webmaster Tools has been a trend in recent months, and it sounds like this will continue to be the case. Any information about how a site is appearing to Google is extremely valuable, so this is one thing I’m excited about.

4. Rewarding Brands for Authority

Brands that are “an authority” in a space will be rewarded with extra weight in search results. Exactly how this will be determined was not said, but I would imagine that social interaction, reviews, and link profile will all contribute to ”authority.”

5. More Diversification in the first page of results

Google, in an attempt to keep results as helpful and relevant as possible, is cutting down on clusters of pages from a single domain appearing on the first page of results. However, this doesn’t mean that deeper results pages will not include some of these clusters. In fact, Cutts implies that these might actually be more common on the second page of results.

Reading Between the Lines?

I don’t claim to be a mind reader, but my hunch is that we can expect the following as well: 1. Engagement metrics will increase in importance. Matt opened the video with saying that if webmasters continue to build sites that are engaging to users and include quality content, they are doing what they should be. We’ve always known that social interaction and things such as click through rate are important. But there has been some debate about how important some other metrics, such as time on site and bounce rate, really are. I have a hunch that Google might examine these things a bit more closely in the future. 2. Google+ reviews will matter even more. Similarly to on-site engagement metrics, I think that social engagement and reviews on Google+ will grow in significance. Why? The content on Google+ is all crawlable, and I would imagine that is no accident. Plus, we all know that Google likes it when people use their products, (hence why so many YouTube videos show in Google mixed results). Also, the fact that Google just rolled out a whole new layout for Google+ means that their developers are hard at work to make this platform optimal for users. I would suggest any brand to jump on the Google+ bandwagon and quick.

What does this mean for brands?

If you are aware of any spammy link tactics that a not-so-great search team has done for your website in the past, it might be time to clean up some of those links. Regardless, I would suggest taking a hard look at your site’s link profile and look for anything unnatural or of very low quality. The penalties for link spammers are only going to become more and more strict. Since the “Backrub” planning stages, links have been considered extremely important for giving a site legitimacy. So it makes sense that they would also be weighed heavily when deciding if a site has used manipulative tactics.

What does this mean for SEOs?

If SEOs are doing their job the right way, they shouldn’t have too much to worry about. There is always a risk that client sites will get dinged, even if you are following guidelines, but Google is fairly good at updating and correcting these imperfections in algorithm updates. One thing though, that I’m excited about at least, is a promise for more Webmaster reporting. Google has been really stepping up its game lately as far as providing us with more data in its free tools. With the new social measuring capabilities in Analytics, and more and more upgrades in Webmaster Tools, they seem to be working on improving these tools significantly. Now if only they would get rid of “keyword (not provided)”.