How Google Penguin 2.0 Will Affect Website Content, & How To Recover From It

It’s big, scary, and it’s HERE: Google Penguin 2.0.

Officially launched on May 22 and termed the “Webspam” update, this Google algorithm beast is dedicated to targeting anything considered “blackhat” in terms of SEO, and is supposed to dig deeper than its predecessor in the know-how of what website content to rank (and what not to rank).

“Digging deeper:” this means Penguin is getting into the nitty-gritty of how your backlinks work, where they are from, your indexing patterns and more.

Biggest Change in the Algorithm for Ranking Website Content is…

How Google figures out PageRank. Here’s what Google wants to use for its search factors to rank you or not rank you in its Penguin 2.0: gauging you on a social engagement level. Consider it a gauge of how your visitors enjoy (or don’t enjoy) your site. This includes the amount of times your site gets bookmarked; the amount of times it gets socially shared; and the amount of times it’s re-visited. The best part? Google Penguin 2.0 knows when you BUY engagement…and when it’s natural.

However, take it with a grain (or two) of salt. In months ahead, the algorithm is set to constantly update. If Penguin 1.0 affected the web, think of Penguin 2.0 as the destroyer or influencer of the web.

“As long as you’re working hard for your users, we’re working hard to show your high quality content to users as well,” said Matt Cutts, in his video on the matter published this May. “If you’re doing high quality content with SEO, you won’t have to worry.  If you’ve been hanging out on the blackhat forums, it will be a more eventful summer for you.”

Important updates that will be a core of the Google Penguin 2.0 include:

The Biggest One: No more spammy links. PageRank influencing factors are totally different. Advertising will not influence PageRank anymore (or at least most of it won’t). Link spamming will be heavily knocked down in the update. Sophisticated link analysis is in its “early days” in the Penguin 2.0 update, according to Cutts. This is huge for many sites. What does this mean?  The new Penguin will be hitting down on:

  • Comment spam (paying for low quality blog comments)
  • Low quality guest blogging
  • Article marketing/duplicating
  • Links from sites that are dangerous to users
  • Paid backlinks using exact match anchor text (in English: a paid backlink!)

If you relied on backlinks, you are more than likely going to be drowning by the end of Penguin 2.0 smackdown. Case studies available at:

How to Recover: Experienced a drop in rankings from the new Penguin 2.0 beast, and need to get rid of spammy links pointing back to your site? Google’s Link Disavow Tool is for you. It’s a machete if you need to get rid of bad links—with Google, it’s mostly all or nothing with very little success allotted to cliffhangers. Time to cut off all those bad links? Learn more about the Link Disavow Tool. Go directly to the Link Disavow Tool.

How To Avoid: To avoid your website content getting hit on PageRank influencing factors, if you are advertising to achieve PageRank, Google says they’ll hit you less if you actually tell your users that. Learn more about how to disclose your paid advertising so you don’t get Google-hit from WebProNews.

Want to avoid getting stuck in this mess altogether? Organically raise your PageRank. This means blogging; social engagement; and overall being a lot more engaged to try to get your website visitors active. Articles posted regularly on your website, social engagement every time you blog—that sort of thing is what Google is looking for in ranking factors.

Here’s 7 MORE IMPORTANT updates to the algorithm, both the good and the bad:

1. Pornographic links won’t give you much juice. Google doesn’t want to get in too much detail, but they will certainly be knocking down on anything spammy, including pornographic links. If you have any adult related content backlinks, they could push you down after Google Penguin 2.0 combs your links.

2. Hackers get revealed. “Hack” sites will be detected with a “next-generation” hack site update (this will roll out in June). Webmaster tools from Google will report the hacker more extensively to help with cleanup.

3. Niche authorities get better ranking. If you’re a site with authority in your niche, you’ll rank in that niche, according to Google.

4. No more cliffhanging. Sites in the border of being good or bad will be clearly defined in the update.  No more hanging on the shelf for you.  Doing quality content? No worries.  Blackhat? You might want to worry.

5. No more clustering and getting multiple pages from your domain on one page of results. A bunch of content from one domain will be spread out over more pages instead of all on the first page. Once you’ve seen a cluster of results from one site, Google will bar the site from reappearing and cluttering your search feed again.

6. The algorithm will affect multiple languages. According to multiple sources, the updated Google Penguin 2.0 will affect websites in multiple languages.

7. Guest blogging will not be as effective as it used to be.  Why? Well, Google found out that it’s super-easy for lazy webmasters to find a bunch of free guest blogging websites where you can stick your URL in an author profile, and then blast out a ton of content just to get that backlink. When you blog, don’t duplicate bios; try to create an original bio for each blog. Focus less on your keywords, and more on your anchor text. Authentic guest blogs are identified by these measures now.

Who Lost Out?

So, who lost in the algorithm changes? and Educational Testing Service were some of the big names actually using bad SEO for their websites who got penalized. The biggest industry to get affected were Retailers and Real Estate, with a 33% affected rate, according to SEOMoz. Other than that, big websites with untrusted links and small business who hadn’t taken SEO seriously were at the ends of the spectrum, both getting the most affected by Penguin 2.0. SearchMetrics analyzed a whole slew, the list can be found here. Interestingly, it ranges from the Salvation Army to over five different porn websites.

Contrast of Gains & Losses Across Websites

Also from SEOMoz, here’s a brief contrast to see what went backwards and what gained traction and went forwards from the Google updates:

  • Amazon lost out from the rankings; Wikipedia gained.
  • Pinterest gained from the rankings; lost.
  • lost out from the rankings; Ebay gained.

Yelp was the biggest loser, at over -8%: Twitter gained the largest growth, at 4%.

What’s the Biggest Things Website Owners Can Take Away from the Penguin Update?

1. Don’t panic. Google Zebra might be tomorrow. Since Google updates all the time, putting a big name on it and labeling the changes is just identifying the changes. It’s not going to stop your world by any means, and for most of the world, it won’t affect in a major way. In short, don’t be terror-stricken.

2. Realize you can’t maintain excellent SEO presence without original, excellent content. Google SERP rankings are now heavily dependent on the amount of content you publish, the value of that content and the originality of that content. Big players like SearchEngineJournal are saying that the quality of your content is the SINGLE, most important factor in maintaining a successful website.

3. Get social. This means Google +, folks. Google likes their own, and adding people in your circles and posting your blogs on their social network is only going to get you favor. Use tools like Hootsuite to sign up on one account and schedule a bunch of posts to go out at optimal times across all your networks.

4. Gain reputable inbound links. Even if it costs money, invest the money necessary to get only the highest quality backlinks for your website. Some are saying content marketing is the new link building. Publishing a blog on a network with your website backlink on it is probably the best backlink you can build (whether that network is your blog domain or a guest blog domain).

5. Consider investing in press releases. This is also linked to the hard-hitting by Google on link spam. An SEO Press Release is one of the best ways to get a backlink, besides blogging and organic article writing and posting on your website. A PR can offer more link juice than a regular blog because one Press Release can hit thousands of locations. And since it’s “news,” it’s not considered duplicate—while you get all those links out of it! Things to consider in creating an effective PR: it must be written well, and it must be newsworthy. PRs can bring in real human eyes, and conversions, if written well enough and attracting the audience directly.



Google Penguin 2.0 is going to be picking up keywords that include these variations:

  • Primary
  • Derivatives
  • Synonyms

So, instead of one keyword stuck throughout your content, think of as many phrases as you can (up to 5-10 per 500 words).

There’s lots more we could say, but that’s about the gist of what you need to know for your website content–in a nicely 1,500+ condensed words.   Did you lose from Google Penguin 2.0?  We’d love to hear in the comments!
Bonus — Links we liked that are very helpful:

34 replies
  1. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    Your comments about G+ gave me this “Aha!” kind of moment where I realized the genius behind Google’s much-ridiculed attempts at overtaking Facebook in social media. I personally think G+ is set to become THE new social networking giant, which is why I’m so active there, but I have actually had more luck with getting people to click through to links on Twitter. Because of this, I post mainly photos without emphasizing links as much, using it as a sort of mini blog. It had not occurred to me that just having the links on Google, even though there are fewer clickthroughs, would be a way to get on Google’s good side. No matter what your stance on the G+ vs Facebook showdown might be, you have to admit that giving better search engine rankings is a pretty genius way to get people to use your social network. Am I the only one that just realized this today?

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      That “AHA” moment has been realized by quite a few Internet marketers–you’re correct: Google wants their Plus baby to be the new Facebook, by all means! People are already forecasting G+ to replace Facebook by the end of this year. G+ = better search rankings: this is a factor Facebook really can’t compete against. Good points!

  2. kevincarlton
    kevincarlton says:

    Julia, I like your tip about writing and distributing a press release online.

    So now I’ve just got to pick out a good story from within my own business or make some telling comment on a burning industry issue.

    Some of the things I love about what’s happening with Google right now are co-citations (see, for example, and the fact that the keywords around a link are becoming as important as the keywords within it.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kevin! I checked out your writing services website and you’ve got a nice company going. You’re right about press release writing; that’s the gist!

  3. lutza09
    lutza09 says:

    Thanks for the informative information about the new Google update. I heard about it but didn’t get any information about it until I read your post. I wonder how hard this update is going to hit for some people. I think the points you listed are very wise and will help everyone stay afloat the new updates. I like the pyramid of keywords this is definitely helpful to see what types of keywords are going to have more value on them.

  4. SEO Professional (@SEO__Company)
    SEO Professional (@SEO__Company) says:

    Google Penguin 2.0 Scary? not at all, if you had your hat on right in the first place you shouldn’t have lost any rankings at all. SEO is 80% on page and 20% off page optimization. What the Google penguin 2.o update did was dropped their keyword density acceptance rate to maximum of 2%. Yes this included the meta-tags and image alt-tags.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      I agree, it’s not going to be scary if you had your hat on right in the first place! 😉 We bumped up 10-12 spaces in a day or two with the update.

      I wouldn’t say the Penguin 2.0 update was ONLY about dropping keyword density rate to 2%, and that the 2% is a strict rule that throws every contrary piece out the window. Example: By Googling “payday loans,” I found site in 4th position. Guess what? Their KW density is probably 10%. Google, what the heck??

      So, 2% density is the BEST way to go to rank new content that you publish (I agree), but that’s not a new rule. It’s a hardcore rule. No debate there. (However, SEO has other factors. The payday loan site has a lot of other factors like domain age, etc. that’s keeping them strong)

    • Simo
      Simo says:

      It effect on all those site who has bad back links whatever their site on 1 page. I am very happy from this update and it might stop spammers.

  5. Edward
    Edward says:

    Julia you’re one of a kind writer here! It is true Google needs to set some rules and get rid of the crap out there. People think that they can just post anything on their blog and get away with it just to make a buck. Well that is ending really soon.

  6. Brina
    Brina says:

    Haha! First off, I like the picture of that Penguin! It looks like it means business, but it’s soooo cute!

    I’m glad Google’s put its foot down harder (or should I say webbed feet?!) It’ll just make for a better experience all-round and force those who weren’t towing the line to either do so or sink.

    Guest blogging is all the rage these days. And with it comes those who will try and have tried to compromise on quality. So it’s good to see Google attempting to get a handle on that.

    Google Zebra? Really? Or am I being gullible? 🙂

    Thanks for the press release tip.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Press releases are great for SEO, as long as your efforts aren’t just to obtain backlinks. Google has a certain take on how they see links. The first time you get a link, great. The second time, also great. The third time, the fourth time, and all the times following aren’t as powerful as the first few links from the linking website. This is the same with a press release. I’d recommend varying your distribution networks.

      Here’s a Moz post that explains more about what I just said.

      Additionally, SEO Roundtable quotes Matt Cutts on PRs:

      Now, when you do press releases, it might get your web site in front of the eyes of bloggers, reporters and others, where what they write or link to may have an impact on your rankings. But the links within the releases themselves, Google says – they won’t benefit your rankings.

      Last year, here is what Matt Cutts stated in a Google Product Forum:

      Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      He said in a post on a Google products forum that the links from press releases don’t affect search engine rankings, to be very specific. Researching this statement online you’ll find it’s actually been proved false, as discussed in our blog.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi Ashish, If you are just experience loss of ranking on one keyword, you can look into several ways to get ranking back. Getting blog content on your site or a whole new, 100% fresh and original website page around that keyword with the keyword as the page name, is a great start to get some rankings again. Remember, content is king now! If you had bad backlinks pointing to that keywords you can use Google’s disavow tool to get rid of those bad links.

        • Julia McCoy
          Julia McCoy says:

          Put an evaluation request in via Google Webmaster tools. You can also check your backlink profile to see what was ranking to that keyword, look for quality and relevancy in backlinks. In the meantime, you could start putting out original content around that keyword.

  7. Cris
    Cris says:

    Hi Julia,

    I really like this post. Unlike the other posts I’ve seen about the Penguin 2.0, this is more in “English” which a lot of people and top executives would understand. About the Press Release, our company is doing this for quite some time now and what we usually do is publish the exact content on our site just as it’s published in the distribution site (2-4 hours time difference). We only place a canonical tag to the actual press release distribution link as though it’s ours, technically it’s first published there.

    Is there anything wrong on the process? Should we instead have a different content published on our site? Should we add rel=nofollow? Any advice is welcomed.

    Thank you again for this wonderful post.

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi Cris, Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on our post! I try to make them readable just as I would want it to be, if I was reading it, when I write these. 🙂

      Press releases are an example of “syndicated” content, which is why Google won’t penalize it if you “copy and paste” to your site if you already distributed it.

      But, what we do for our clients though is write a blog around the Press Release when we create a PR for them. They get an original blog to link back to the PR and get indexed as fresh content, and they get the PR as well. It is better for rankings than syndicating the same PR to your blog or somewhere on your site. So while syndicating PR to your site isn’t bad, it’s better quality overall to get a blog written around the PR and then publish that on your site.

      Does that advice help, or do you have any more questions? You can also email me directly at

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Look for a set of SEO tools for this. One is SEO Profiler. You can analyze the quality of your link profile, and then take necessary action to clean it up.

      Put an evaluation request in via Google Webmaster tools. You can also check your backlink profile to see what was ranking to that keyword, look for quality and relevancy in backlinks. In the meantime, you could start putting out original content around that keyword.

      Does that advice help, or do you have any more questions? You can also email me directly at

  8. Seo keywords ranking has down
    Seo keywords ranking has down says:


    My client’s website keywords rank has down, all keywords are ranked in top 10 till March 2013 . I checked everything content and links.I have unique content no duplicay in my content.

    Can you Please help me, its very urgent.


    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi Raj, One thing about content is that although 100% of your pages may be unique, if they are 3+ years old, they will do no good for your rankings. Besides just making sure your content is unique, you must also update it regularly. We put out one blog a day to maintain rankings and would suggest the same for any serious website owner.

  9. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Wow Julia, that is a fantastic article. Got to learn so much from it. Frankly speaking, I have read enough on the Penguin 2.0 but by far yours was the most simplest. Keyword variation is something that I too follow for my websites. There is a question in my mind though regarding unique content which is how can someone make sure that they are writing something unique. I mean even if we discuss a topic there surely be someone else doing the same. Even if I wrote the whole thing in my own words and experience, still there will be somebody who might have written the same thing. What are your views on this?

    • Julia McCoy
      Julia McCoy says:

      Hi Jennifer, Thanks so much for stopping by and the complimentary comment!

      When you write something that is on a perhaps not-so-obscure industry or topic, and you’re worried that someone else might have already covered it, here’s the answer: simply run it through Copyscape. If your writing is 100% unique, it will stand as a quality article…no matter how many variations are out there. Unique content is the key. We wrote 200 pages on dog breeds and types before, that had all probably been written before, for one client. However, we made sure each of them were original, and the client is definitely benefiting today!

  10. Thomas Edgerton
    Thomas Edgerton says:

    Julia, speaking of google preferences and backlinks, I noticed a higher number of backlinks even though my number of,, and tinyurl are equal. Does google prefer backlinks over other short URLs? And, does adding backlinks help, not make a difference or hurt your page with consideration for penguin?


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