guest post by Matt Beswick
For the past month, bloggers and webmasters have been coming to terms with the latest Google algorithm change. A Google search update is a lot like George Michael getting arrested in that you can count on it occurring roughly once a year.
The Penguin update has been notorious for its effect on the long tail of online Search Engine Marketing. While it's true that niche marketing has taken a hit with the release of Penguin, the more profound effects are a bit more subtle.
Below you'll find a brief breakdown of what the update means for webmasters and site owners.
In a nutshell, Penguin is all about matching search queries with user expectations concerning results. That's really been the goal of Google since Day One, but Penguin takes it to another level entirely.
From Google's point of view, Penguin is important because it indirectly punishes Black Hat SEO practitioners by negating shortcuts to the top of the front page via niche keywords alone. It cracks down on unnatural anchor text, attacks link cloaking, and generally focuses on taking the evil out of SEO.
Essentially, it attempts to reward solid, well-connected content that's highly regarded by authority sites and negate the impact of sly tricks.
What the Changes Mean
One distinction that's important to make between Penguin and previous Google search updates like Panda comes down to the nature of the update itself.
Penguin is an algorithm change that seeks to improve results by actively penalising sites and pages that have what Google sees as an unnatural link profile. The key to success is now most certainly quality over quantity.
Sadly, this also opens the way for the term 'negative SEO', which is an ugly side effect that's caused both confusion and panic in the world of search. If it's just a case of pointing some poor quality exact match phrases into a site then what's to stop your competitors beating you down?
Retooling Your Content
The most important difference that Penguin brings to the table is the fact that exact keyword matching no longer matters as much as it did in years past.
Trying to over-optimise your anchor text is no longer a viable strategy. Mixed anchor text is the best tactic in the post-Penguin world. That's because the Penguin update as well as Google's Knowledge Graph both aim to use semantics more heavily when ranking sites.
High-quality content paired with Latent Semantic Indexing matters far more than a gaggle of low-quality links. That's how it's going to be from now on, and you may as well get used to it.
Penguin vs Panda
A year ago, Panda seemed to focus more on the connections between content without a lot of consideration given to the quality of sites from which backlinks originated. Google's fixed that with Penguin, which can really be considered a response to the changes that Black Hat SEOs made in the wake of Panda.
Penguin focuses on elevating the good, whereas Panda was all about sinking the bad. That makes it a lot harder for low-quality sites to simply tweak a few elements here and there to get back on top.
With the advent of Penguin, the loopholes that allowed lousy websites to climb the PageRank ladder through clever keyword optimisation are rapidly closing. Paid links just got a whole load more risky!
The Final Word
Site owners who've seen a drop in traffic will simply have to adjust their sites to adapt to the new Penguin reality.
Building organic links from well-respected authority sites is the best way to go. Whether you opt for a guest blogging approach, a reliance on social media networking or some other strategy, the links will have to come naturally from now on.
It's always been true that quality content eventually wins in the end. Penguin doesn't do a whole lot to change the status quo, but it does help out honest webmasters who put out a quality product and don't resort to cheap tricks to promote their content.
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