What Is SEO Writing in a Post-Penguin 2.0 World? What Online Writers Need to Know to Stay on the Right Side of Google


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Google’s latest big algorithmic update — Penguin 2.0 has finally arrived. It’s been highly anticipated as Matt Cutts, the search giant’s SEO guru, has been talking about it for months. And once again, it changes how SEO writers must approach their work. Here we’ll detail exactly what Penguin 2.0 is, and what SEO content writers in particular need to know to stay on the right side of Google.

What Is Penguin 2.0?

This update focuses mainly on anchor text, backlink patterns and undesirable link building practices (eg, paid links). As explained in the post, Penguin 2.0: What Likely Changed and How to Recover, on the HuffingtonPost:

According to Matt Cutts, the new version of Penguin is primarily designed to penalize websites that utilize black hat SEO techniques and reward websites that offer genuine value. . . . The ultimate goal is to cut back on link spamming and hacking, while providing webmasters with the tools to fix hacked sites.

Before we get to some specific areas that SEO copywriters should pay attention to post-Penguin, following are a few facts about this update.

Penguin 2.0 Facts and Figures

Arrival Date: The update was announced by Matt Cutts on his blog on May 22, 2013.

Follow Up Update: It is the fourth Penguin-related launch Google has done, but because this is an updated algorithm (not just a data refresh), we’ve been referring to this change as Penguin 2.0 internally.

Purpose: To crack down on web spam.

Number of Sites Affected: Less than 5 percent of U.S. English sites. Again, this is according to Cutts’ blog, where he states that approximately 2.3% of these types of queries will be affected. He goes on to point out that the scope of Penguin varies by language.

SEO Writing Tips Post-Penguin 2.0

Following are some specific areas to pay attention to as an SEO writer in Google’s post-Penguin 2.0 world.

What SEO writers need to be worried about post-Penguin 2.0.

I. GUEST POSTING RULES POST-PENGUIN 2.0

This has to do with link building .To explain, after the first Penguin update (Penguin 1.0), many webmasters sought to get link juice by writing guest posts (usually for high-traffic blogs). This is just good SEO practice, right? Normally yes.

The Problem Google Has with Guest Posting That’s Addressed in This Update

Many webmasters are so strapped for time that they will accept any and all guest posts. And, you the guest poster gets link juice because they add a link and anchor text to the bio section of their posts. As more and more companies moved to guest posting and started receiving a lot of links because of it, Google stood up and took notice.

While guest posting is a great way to build backlinks, Google wants you to do it with your niche in mind. If your site is about SEO writing, you should have posts on it about fashion.

As a webmaster, I can’t believe how many non-relevant “guest posts” are submitted to me for my blogs. I get AT LEAST 1-3 per day and you know what, 99% of them have nothing to do with my niches (eg, freelance writing, SEO writing, self-publishing, etc.).

5 Do’s and Don’ts of Guest Posting Post-Penguin 2.0

i) Relevancy: So yes, still use guest posting as a method of building backlinks, but submit your content to RELEVANT blogs.

ii) High-Quality Blogs: Also, even if the blog you submit your guest post to is relevant, if you see that they seem to accept posts from any and every body, then don’t submit to them.

How do you find high-quality blogs and websites to submit guest posts to? One way to do it is the check the page rank. Those with a PR of 4 or higher are usually good candidates.

iii) Keywords: You should worry less about using keywords and more on using branded anchor text. FYI, when you do use keywords, make sure you vary them — no more submitting tons of guest posts with the same keyword targeted. Google wants variety.

iv) Authorship: Google authorship is really, really important to the search giant. They want to know who you are. Hence, make sure you have created your Google author profile and use it in the bio section of your guest post so the search giant can verify – and give credit to – you/your brand.

How does this help? Think of it as creating your web footprint. For example, if you see an article written by Joe Schmoe at The New York Times, you know that he’s a reputable writer, right? You probably don’t question his credentials and you can find stuff written by him all over the web.

Same thing with your profile. If you create great content regularly in your niche that gets shared a lot, Google wants to give credit to you. They’ll ostensibly reward your content appropriately in search results when it shows up because you’re (and your blog are) a “verified”, reputable content producer.

v) Quality Content: This hasn’t changed; the one thing that Google repeatedly says that it wants is great content. So create content that is well-written, well-researched and relevant to your target audience.

Google has a quality search team that seeks to weed out “bad content.” If you publish generic, poorly written content that doesn’t add value to the end user, you just might find yourself on Page 200 of SERPs.

Much has been written about the death of guest posting and how Google hates it. The same thing was said about article marketing after the Panda update in 2011 and it’s simply not true. Guest posting is a wonderful way to build backlinks – if you follow some guidelines (like the ones outlined here).

FYI, here are some SEO writing guidelines to follow to avoid writing low-quality content. They are based on some questions that Google said that webmasters should ask themselves before publishing content. These were as a result of the 2011 Panda update.

II. THE RULES OF ANCHOR TEXT POST-PENGUIN 2.0

What Google is cracking down on here is exact match anchor text. What is this?

What Is Exact Match Anchor Text?

It’s just like what it sounds like it would be – an EXACT match of a keyword phrase used as anchor text.

Some good keyword phrases are awkward, eg, “seo articles writing.” It gets 3,600 searches per month, but you’d have to stretch to use this EXACT keyword phrase correctly. You could use “writing SEO articles” (which counts as the same keyword phrase), but the first version is not grammatically correct.

Remember, Google wants well written (eg, grammatically correct), informative content. So intentionally using an exact keyword phrase as anchor text that gets lots of searches, but is not proper grammar, will no longer be rewarded like it was before.

The reason Penguin 2.0 focuses on this is that after digging through a lot of data, Google found a correlation between exact match anchor text and spam. So just be careful of this. If you’ve done it in the past, it might be worth it to work your way back through your site and clean up as much as you can of this. While it can be time-consuming, it can pay off big over time.

Post-Penguin 2.0 Anchor Text Tip: Keep diversity in your anchor text. One way to do this is to use long-tail keyword phrases.

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III. GETTING BACKLINKS POST-PENGUIN 2.0

The thing you want to check out here is who you’re linking to and who’s linking to you.

You want links from high-quality, relevant sites. So, don’t allow links from low-quality sites on your blog (eg, via the comments section) and don’t link out to low-quality sites.

One final thing here, keep relevancy in mind. Just because a site has a high PR rank, for example, if it’s not relevant to your niche, you’re only hurting your site in Google’s eyes. So remember, your job is two=fold on this front – make sure the sites you link to and allow links on your blog are: (i) high quality (remember, checking page rank is one way to get an idea of this); and (ii) that it is relevant to your niche.

A Little Story about Getting/Receiving Credible Backlinks

Sometimes, I get guest posts that are on-topic. BUT, the posts will have links to sites that have nothing to do with my niche. Now, it’s fine if you’re using an example in your post and link out to an authoritative site to support your example.

For example, one time I had a guest poster submit a great article, but they linked out to a major home retailing site in the post. Now if they were talking about ergonomic chairs for freelancers and wanted to link out to an example of the type of chair they were talking about, that would have been fine. But no, they linked out to a refrigerator – which had nothing to do with the post at hand.

Obviously they were working for a company who wanted to get backlinks to that page on that site. But it had nothing to do with MY niche. I published the post, but deleted the link. The writer asked me to reinstate the link, but I declined, explaining to them that it wasn’t relevant to the content on my blog.

After receiving a few posts like this, I updated my site’s guest posting guidelines to reflect this change, ie:

All links in your article/bio must be relevant to freelancing, eg, don’t submit a post about how you got a job freelancing, then link to a site about “home decor” in your bio. … We realize a lot of companies hire freelancers to get backlinks to their site from blogs with good search engine visibility. InkwellEditorial.com is a blog about freelancing and that’s why we not only seek guest posts that are on topic, but ones that will naturally create backlinks to this site that are on topic as well.

IV. LINKBUILDING POST-PENGUIN 2.0

Piggybacking on the last point, the rate at which you acquire links to your site is something that Penguin 2.0 addresses as well. Many spam sites seek to acquire a lot of links, quickly. Google works from the premise that honest, hardworking webmasters acquire links naturally – over time.

So if your site gest more than a certain number of links per day, for example, Google may disregard it. The article, Google Penguin, the Second (Major) Coming: How to Prepare, on Search Engine Watch explains it this way:

Another area of interest at present is the rate at which sites acquire links. In recent months there definitely has been a noticeable change in how new links are being treated. . . .  there are definite correlations between sites that earn links consistently and good ranking increases. Those that earn lots quickly do not get the same relative effect.

The graph on the linked-to page on Search Engine Watch shows that only up to 75 links per day are counted by Google; the excess are ignored.

Conclusion: Why Penguin 2.0 Means More Work for SEO Writers

As we said in the beginning of this post, this Google update focuses on anchor text, backlink patterns and ink building. And content marketing addresses all of this. In fact, it can be thought of as the new link building strategy. And when you think about all the changes Google is making, it makes sense.

What’s the best way to get high-quality backlinks? Write quality content and distribute it via guest posting to high-quality blogs and websites.

What’s the best way to get readers and subscribers? Write relevant, quality content regularly that solves problems for a niche audience. Readers will link to it, share it via social media, etc., which causes your site to rise in SERP results.

What is the best way to acquire links naturally, over time? Create quality content, regularly (at least once or twice per week).

Forms of Content Marketing

And don’t forget, content marketing is more than just the written word. It covers text as well as video, infographics, slides, cartoons, photos and anything else you can think of to publish on your site/blog.

Been Hit by Penguin 2.0? Can You Recover?

One final thing I want to share — as with most of Google’s updates, don’t rush out and make major changes to your blog right away, especially if your site has lost rank.

Other than doing some obvious cleanup (eg, creating diversity in your anchor text to avoid a lot of exact matches), let the dust settle a bit. Many times, sites bounce back in SERP results after a few weeks. Sometimes you may have to do a lot; other times you may not have to do anything at all.

See discussion in the video below on how popular tech site DaniWeb recovered after having their traffic cut in half by Google’s Panda update — and how it recovered.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you seen any effects of the recent Panda update? Have you heard from your clients about it (if you’re an SEO writer)? Will this change the way you write content? Did you learn anything from this post? Please share in the comments section below.

For my American friends, hope you enjoyed the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Have a great week (only 4 work days — yeah!).

Best,
Yuwanda

P.S.: FYI, did you know that the average salary of SEO writers increased by $10,000 from Sept 2012? Proof?

SEO Content Writer Average Salary, Fall 2012

Remember, learning SEO is about so much more than learning a new skill; it’s about giving yourself the tools 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 earn $50-$150/day online pretty seamlessly in the best-selling ebook, How to Make Money Placing Ads on Free Classified Ad Sites.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Niall on May 28th, 2013

    I’ve always looked at Google updates as being a good thing – even when my niche sites got penalized.

    Why?

    Because the more obvious they make it that webspam simply won’t work anymore the better – SERPS will improve and the quality of our clients should improve with that.

  2. @Niall:

    I agree. And really, most of these updates don’t affect webmasters who follow common sense when writing SEO content, eg, update regularly, write quality content, provide sources, don’t keyword stuff, don’t link to low-quality and/or off-topic sites, etc.

    Where some of us can run into trouble is when Google gets persnickety in its udpates, eg, cracking down on exact match keywords. So, we may have to fine tune and/or at the very least stop these practices immediately.

    In short, I for one, don’t give too much thought to Google’s updates. Yeah, I stay abreast because it’s my job as an SEO writer, but I follow white-hat SEO tactics as a matter of course. So, as Matt Cutts has said specifically in the past when talking about the Penguin 2.0 update, if you do this, you won’t have much to worry about.

  3. Wayne on May 30th, 2013

    Just started with seo and I thank you for more info. I definitely did need this. Thanks again.

  4. […] week’s post on Penguin 2.0 on SeoWritingJobs.com discussed this in detail. In tomorrow’s post on Seo Writing Jobs, we’re […]


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