Who's Scared of a Little Penguin?

What is Penguin?

If you are at all involved with a website for your college or university, you should know about Google's Penguin updates. In March 2012 Google released an algorithm update aimed at targeting sites that overdid or "over-optimized" their SEO. Matt Cutts, "The Google Guy" and Google's head of webspam, said, "We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over-optimization or overly SEO—versus those making great content and great site." Google estimates that it affected about 3.1% of all English queries. The algorithm change was supposed to decrease the rankings of pages that violate Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Most of the algorithm change was aimed at cleaning up excessive spam, and a lot of that was done by looking at specific anchor text. Too many links using the same keywords to the same site could be perceived as spam. If most of your backlink profile consists of only a few keywords, there is a chance that you could be affected by Penguin. Some legitimate sites were affected by this if they focused too much on a smaller set of specific keywords too often. Google thought it was such a big deal that they came out with a Link Disavow Tool in recent Penguin and Panda algorithm updates to help them discern which links to not count as citations for a site.

Fast forward to today . . . Penguin 2.0

Matt Cutts recently tweeted that over the next couple of weeks we would probably see Penguin 2.0.

He even took extra time in his normal Webmaster video series to record a special note about the upcoming changes scheduled to roll out this summer in this post: “What to expect in SEO in the coming months.” Penguin 2.0 will do many of the same things that 1.0 did, but it is a little more comprehensive and will probably go a deeper and have a greater impact.

What should you do?

The first thing you should do is keep calm and keep creating great content. Google has said over and over that if you are focused on creating quality content, you have nothing to worry about. At Carnegie Communications we believe in doing things the right way. No short cuts. Create content that people would want to read and share and link to, and you will never have to worry about any algorithm changes. If you are "chasing the algorithm" or trying to game the system, you are doing it wrong. They will catch up with you sooner or later, and your site will be penalized. So here's to continuing to create great content for your users and having an uneventful summer.

UPDATE: Google's Matt Cutts has confirmed that on the afternoon of May 22 Penguin 2.0 was pushed live. About 2.3% of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice. Stay tuned for more followup.

You can follow me on Twitter @seo_george or on Google Plus as George LaRochelle.

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