Penguin 2.0 and the Evolution of SEO Writing: A Web Optimization Specialist Details What’s Changed and How to Adapt


The following is an editorial by Alan Smith.

Pre-Penguin (and Panda), Ranking High Was So Easy!

In the not-too-distant past, optimizing a website so that it was returned fairly high in SERP results was fairly simple. All you basically had to do was:

(i) Select a popular keyword phrase that was related to your blog;

(ii) Work that search phrase into copy over and over a certain number of times to achieve a certain keyword density (making sure to utilize it in a couple of headings);

(iii) Do a little meta tag coding; and

(iv) Then, wave the miraculous “optimize my site” wand and voila! . . . your website would likely rank high in Google search results.

An Overview of Google's Penguin and Panda Updates and How to Recover from Them

Eaten by Google’s Panda Bear

Then a fresh predator arrived on the scene . . . the none-too-cute-and-cuddly Panda.

If you thought pandas were cute before, after Google’s Panda update, you probably didn’t think so highly of them. Many sites saw their ranking drop drastically afterwards. As a web writer, you should know that Panda isn’t the only change Google has gone through or even will go through in the future.

While the debate surrounding each update and how fair/unfair they are will rage on, the point is, the simplistic days of search engine optimization are gone.

Regular Guest Posters Wanted: I’ve received several responses to my post in last week’s SEO Writing Jobs newsletter seeking regular guest posters. To all who’ve responded, I’ll get back to you this Friday. I wanted to clarify a bit more about what I’m looking for. Here are the details.

Things Affected in Past Google Algorithm Changes

Images: What the Panda update did was look to see if the text matched the images used on page/in a post.

Google likes to return mixed-media results, so the search giant ranks pages that have informative, descriptive [Alt] tags describing their images higher than those that don’t. In short, if the alt text used in the image fails to explain it, then you could expect a decline in rank.

Advertisements: Google penalized sites that were “top heavy” with ads.

You know the types of sites where the actual text is buried under a slew of ads that appear at the top of the page. Google doesn’t want that. They want surfers to be able to get to the information they are seeking as quickly and easily as possible. Hence, penalty.

Page Load Times: If it takes a page on your site a long time to load, Google frowns on this. So just what is an optimal page load time according to Google?

Independent (not by Google) tests have shown that more than 3 seconds is a problem for users. And Google’s own tests show that shaving even 0.1 second off their SERPs load time increases user engagement. … Google webmaster tools suggest that 1.5 seconds or less is fast. [FYI, this is] not a reasonable target if your site has any features beyond plain text/html and basic images …

Grammar/Spelling: Yes, Google’s Panda Update even got this detailed. See #5 in these SEO content writing guidelines, which came about as a direct result of Google’s Panda Update in 2011.

Web Spam: In April 2012, Google’s Penguin update targeted web spam. This covered a slew of things, ie, thin and/or low-quality sites. These are sites that have pages with lots of ads, lots of products with little content; sites with lots of scraped content; etc.

Parked Domains: Internet marketers found that many of their parked domains were hit after Panda. These were deemed thin and/or low-quality sites. The article, Parked Domain and SEO – What Google Thinks, explained this, and how to handle it, writing:

Google does have a Parked Domain Detector, which detects empty parked domains, or empty web pages which don’t offer any value to the readers. . . . You can avoid the above problem by simply putting some content on it. Like two or three paragraphs about your online ventures. In this case, Google will not think it as a parked domain. Instead, it treats it like a normal domain.

Exact Match Domain Names: These are no longer provided top-quality ranking. In other words, a person can’t just get a URL of your website like and exploit the search results traffic with no useful content available. 

Web Optimization Tips Post-Panda 2.0

I have performed optimization on several websites. Following is some helpful info I acquired during the process. 

(i) Add content regularly, eg, 1-3 times per week (top-notch, of course).

(ii) Don’t focus so heavily on keywords and phrases because they will no longer do the job of drawing in a lot of traffic like in the early days.

(iii) Read content on other sites and produce unique, diverse, higher-quality material where possible.  

(iv) Reduce advertising on your web page to just one or two and put them underneath the fold. 

(v) Remove low-quality and/or irrelevant backlinks. Spammy or cheap websites that link back to you could end up you getting punished by Google. E-mail the webmasters and ask them to remove the links.

Note: Not many of them will; by some estimates, only 5-10% will. So using backlink disavow tools can help.

(vi) Make sure that the graphics and images on your site are tagged correctly (ie, use the Alt tag) and are of a premium quality for your search terms. 

(vii) Good site design is essential.

Tips for Recovering from Panda 2.0

If your site has been hit by Panda, following are some things you can do to get on the road to recovery.

(i) Add brand-new content material at least one once a week; with two to three times being even better. Again, make sure that the content is well-written and has a few links to authoritative sites that provide more valuable info that web surfers can use.

(ii) Edit/update outdated content on your site to help it meet current search engine guidelines, eg, varying anchor text, removing harmful backlinks, removing exact match keyword, adding brand name anchor text. Over time, these pages can help your rank (instead of possibly hurting it as they may be doing now).

(iii) Seek (to earn) backlinks coming from quality websites. The way to do this, of course, is to produce high-quality content that others WANT to link to. This way, you don’t have to go on a “link hunt”; your links will grow naturally, over time.

(iv) Start a subscriber list in addition to your e-newsletter. This way, you retain visitors. In order to entice them to sign up, offer a free (valuable!) report or ebook. Note: One of the major benefits of this is that over time, as your list grows, you will be less dependent on search engine traffic.

Google Updates: What You Can Expect in the Future 

If there’s one thing Google has been consistent about, it’s that it values – and rewards – high-quality content. This is backed up by every major update – from frowning on poorly written copy, to penalizing the overuse of keywords, it wants to deliver pages to web surfers that serve their interests.

So, it’s your job as a webmaster to think of how what you’re producing services the end user. If it’s self-serving, spammy and not useful, then it’s likely not going to rank high. So when you sit down to update your site, you should really forget about SEO and think about your end user. Devise content that helps them with their needs.

THEN … you can go back and “SEO it up” before it’s posted. If you adhere to this standard, you’ll build an authority site that users will gladly return to over and over again – in spite of what Google’s latest algorithm update may be.

And the ironic thing is, Google will come looking for you (your site), instead of you slaving away to get its attention.

Share Your Thoughts

Did your site lose rank after the Penguin 2.0 update? Yes? No? Are you working to recover from it? Have you heard from any of your clients about this update? Please share in the comments section below.

About the Author: Alan Smith is an avid tech blogger with vast experience in various IT domains, currently associated with SPINX Inc.; a Los Angeles based Web Development, website design and internet marketing company. Follow Alan on Twitter.

P.S.: FYI, did you know that the average salary of SEO copywriters has increased by $10,000 since Sept 2012? It has! Proof?

SEO Content Writer Average Salary, Fall 2012

Remember, when you learn how to write search engine-optimized content, you learn so much more than this one skill because it gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your life.

P.P.S.: Avoid freelance writing dry spells by making extra money as an affiliate marketer: Learn how to make money online fast ($50-$150/day) in the best-selling ebook, How to Make Money Placing Ads on Free Classified Ad Sites.

Copyright © 2013: All material on this site is copyright protected and cannot be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the editor’s written consent (linking to is fine).

3 Comments so far

  1. […] week’s post on Penguin 2.0 on discussed this in detail. In tomorrow’s post on Seo Writing Jobs, we’re going to be discussing this again. I received a great guest post from a web developer who […]

  2. Karen Cioffi` on June 5th, 2013

    Thanks for the helpful details on Google’s changes. Thankfully, I’ve been focusing on creating quality content for my readers, so Google’s changes hasn’t really been troublesome.

  3. @Karen Cioffi

    You’re welcome Karen, and good for you. As quality content is the foundation of SEO, if you follow this rule and “nada mas” in SEO, you should be fine (as you’ve experienced). 🙂