Penguin 2.0 hit on the evening of 22 May 2013. It was expected and everyone in the world of SEO waited with baited breath to find out how severe the release would be and whether or not they would make it through alive (read: with rankings intact). Matt Cutts had given us a fair amount of warning when posting his video on 13 May 2013, that foretold - typically, in not too much detail - of the update that was soon to be expected. It was then that those operating under the guise of "grey hat" SEO started to panic.
Let's face it, as professionals who work within the field of SEO, we're all quite aware of what's ethical and what's not. There are black hat techniques, white hat and the abstract grey hat techniques, which are actually just a label that make black hat techniques appear less toxic. It can only be one or the other, either it's right or it's wrong and Google are making rankings less attainable for those who are leaning towards anything but right.
Penguin 2.0 had a driving purpose to devalue sites that were benefitting from low-grade links. A lot of sites have been built with the purpose of simply holding links to point in any and all directions. So much effort goes into creating these sites, disguising them as reputable businesses or information portals, while their sole function is to link to your website for a small fee. While it doesn't seem "too wrong" - grey hat, one might say - delving a little deeper, one would notice the cracks behind the facade and Penguin 2.0 had the job of highlighting those cracks on behalf of Google.
Sites That Weren't So Lucky
Searchmetrics posted a list of sites that were knocked after the Penguin 2.0 update and the majority was made up of pornography and gaming sites that experienced a large percentage drop in rankings. You can view the full list here. According to the same blog post, other sites like the Salvation Army and dish.com also took a beating, however it doesn't seem to have had the impact that everyone was expecting.
The last Panda update caused a huge stir and the same response was expected this time around with Penguin 2.0. A lot of assumption centers on the fact that this could merely be the beginning phase of roll out and that more damaging action is yet to come. Could this be true? Or have we learned so much from our previous mistakes that we're already crafting perfectly tuned SEO strategies and sites that no one takes a knock anymore? A romantic thought, but no.
So How Do You Protect Yourself From Any Further Releases?
The best way to roll with any Google update is to do it ethically. Play by the rules and no one gets hurt and it's really simple to do. Going back to the mention of "grey hat"; if you're in any doubt as to whether or not it's ethical, it's probably not and should be avoided.
Brafton published a really great and informative infographic that offers survival techniques with regards to Penguin 2.0. The main point that stands out for me in terms of Penguin is to "Begin varied and dynamic organic linking".
- If you're paying someone to build links into your site - you're doing it wrong
- If you got a bulk deal on 200 inbound links per month - you're doing it wrong
- If you're happy to get any and all inbound links, no matter where they come from - you're doing it wrong
It boils down to the simple truth that any link coming into your site is a vote of confidence in your favor. If it's coming from a dodgy site that speaks about plastic surgery, football and hardwood floors in the same sentence, then you probably don't want to be associated with them. It's got to the point where you have to get creative with your link building techniques, and by the sounds of things, everyone is soon going to be on a level playing field as there will be no benefit to mass producing links from any and all domains. If we're all starting at ground zero, then it'll be just as difficult for me to get inbound links and authority from other sites as it will for you, which makes the stakes quite fair.
Let's see what else Google has in store for us, but in the meantime, perhaps you should be taking a good, hard look at how you're building links and whether or not you can honestly say it's ethical. Is it?
Image courtesy of:https://twitter.com/AveryThePenguin