Penguin 2.0 and Five Ways to Fortify Your Site – Matt Cutt’s 2013 SEO Announcement

In mid-May, Matt Cutts announced on his blog that there would be some serious changes to SEO coming in 2013.  In addition to some good news about communication with webmasters and some softening of previous Panda updates, came the news of Penguin 2.0.  This is bad news for all those already struggling with Penguin 1.0 recovery, especially small to medium eCommerce outfits accidentally caught up in the anti-spam update. So, what can be done to fortify your site in preparation?

Now Targeting All Kinds of Paid Links

Beyond the usually spammy directory style paid link, advertorials (content written with the express purpose of selling a product) and other less obvious styles of ads will now be targeted as “selling paid links.”  In addition to commercial sites that make their money from paid links, the everyday blogger who is making a meager pittance from doing the odd promotion, advertorial, sponsored post and selling a handful of 125x125s on their static pages will now become targets of Penguin 2.0.

Cutts clearly stated that it’s time to nofollow any link that has commercial value and to clearly identify any paid advertorial as advertising.

Targeting High Spam Industries

There’s good and/or bad news for sellers of Viagra, Insurance and Adult Images…. The upcoming algorithm update will include a measure of which sites in these industries are more credible than others and then move “spammier” sites down the search results.

It’s time to do a bit of network outreach.  If you’re in the insurance biz, why not find a few nice .orgs and a couple of PR6 .edus and offer your product at cost to members in exchange for links from their UBER credible website.  If you are in the pharma game, can you offer services, white papers, and resources to local universities, hospitals, or not for profits that benefit from your product in exchange for links?  It’s going to be all about credibility, so a few “strong, credible domains’ will go a long way.

Targeting Link Networks

So, that sales pitch about how your SEO provider has a worldwide network of link providers….that’s code for “we use one HUGE link farm to improve your SEO.”  Link wheels, link pyramids, link networks link webs….whatever the shape of the matrix, it’s still a link matrix, and your site is still caught up in it.  The new algorithm change will focus on identifying matrices and punishing them.

The good news is, this is still a little while off, so you have some time to get ready.  Ask your SEO provider right now where they’re sourcing their links and what they plan to do to protect you.  If they’ve added links to your own site that link out to random businesses, delete those asap.  You should then look at ways to build your domain authority up, get some high-quality links from different sources, and disavow or manually remove anything that is OBVIOUSLY going to get you into trouble.

Targeting Panda Spam

Ongoing Panda updates are all about poor quality content and in some ways, the new Panda algorithm update will seek to lessen the blow to some borderline content farms.  In recent weeks, sites like Squidoo have changed quality guidelines to make sure that new lenses offer more value (much like Ezine did a while back). This suggests that lens, hub, and article sites have prior knowledge that better days are coming for webmasters relying on links from article and content farms.  Whether or not they’ll revert to followed links is another question, but the nofollow debate rages on.  The fact that there is an algorithm change coming that will affect anyone vulnerable to Panda changes means it’s time to up the ante on unique content.

Get rid of any duplicate content (product descriptions copied from suppliers, for example) and use the Rel_Canonical tag to group SEO power for any similar descriptions.  Create rich, original content and post it to your blog regularly.  Create content rich and interesting (non-commercial) posts for Ezine, Hubpages, Squidoo, and the like in preparation for the return of the quality article.

What was and wasn’t said and what it all could mean

A bit of reading between the lines and staring at the same old obvious story delivers a few of the same old conclusions and a few less obvious ones.

User experience is everything.

It’s the Google catchphrase.  Content, user experience, and engagement are again the first cabs off the rank in this video blog by Matt Cutts.  Same old same old….but reading between the lines, here are a few potential SEO indicators that may or may not come into play:

Returning Visitor Rates

He mentioned this specifically, and it’s been dismissed before as being too complex to monitor.  Website stickiness is vital not only for SEO but for conversion rates and branding too.  Increasing stickiness is about increasing your social media presence, providing credible information and products and even hooks like blog series and the like.  Social bookmarking sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon have been part of the social algorithm for some time but, it’s possible that these bookmarks will increase in value in coming months.  Developing apps can increase your return rate too!

Bounce Rates

Bounce rates have been named many times as an SEO indicator, and yet trial after trial has shown that bounce rate increases do little to harm ranking, and Google has never said it is.  There is some indication that it plays a part in rankings but that it’s all a bit more complex than a simple percentage.  Creating great content, with strong internal linking designed to “funnel” clicks around your site, is the best way to improve your bounce rate. Other factors may include how often a user clicks on content that is marked with your author tag,  where they go after they look at your site, how long they stay on that one page and whether your brand was used in the search queries.

Branded Search Queries

Branded search queries have the best sales conversion rates, and that’s great, but the jury has been out on how much they impact your website’s performance.  Getting your brand name out there through PR, social media, networking, branding, and packaging is vital for all businesses.  There could be some indication of SEO performance depending on how many monthly searches there are for your brand name. This, of course, gives big biz a distinct advantage – so any update would be designed to penalize websites with NO monthly searches.

De-optimisation

After Penguin 1.0 anchor text and content, de-optimization was turned up to eleven.  This meant a bumpy and frustrating road to recovery, especially for online stores where exact match internal links are a common and accidental way to “add upsell” items to an order.  Google has said that it will go harder on this, which has massive implications for small and medium online stores.  Unfortunately, if it all goes too far, it will reduce the value of user experience by making navigation less efficient.  This will be an issue and one that search engines would likely try to correct over time.  In the meantime, though, this will be the one to watch for most online stores.  Deep linking using generic anchor text is the best way to fortify your site for now.

2013 looks set to be another crazy year for the SEO industry with Panda and Penguin looming large. Both these algorithm updates have been devastating in the past, but fortifying your site now could be the key to a change in how updates affect our livelihoods and the stability of service to our clients.

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