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Google’s Penguin 2.0 Update: What We Can Expect

It’s been just over a year since the first Penguin update and many websites are still shaking at the sound of the word. The Penguin update affected a huge number of websites, including some high-profile brands that were engaging in all sorts of spammy link building techniques. Matt Cutts has now confirmed on Twitter that Penguin 2.0 will hit the search engines within the next two weeks:


What Will The Penguin 2.0 Update Target

There’s been a lot of speculation around what the new update will actually target, but to quote Matt Cutts:

“Penguin is a web-spam change that is dedicated to try and find black-hat web-spam and try to target and address that. This one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0 and we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version [of Penguin].”

In a nutshell, it’s going to bigger and better than the original update, whilst targeting a similar criteria as Penguin 1.0. The original Penguin update focused primarily on spammy links, as opposed to the likes of Panda which focused more on page content. Here’s a brief overview of the major focuses that we can expect from this latest algorithm update:

Irrelevant Anchor Links

Websites that have a load of links from websites that aren’t related to their site, using completely irrelevant anchor text are a prime target for the latest instalment of the Penguin update. An example of this could be that there are links with the anchor ‘cheap laptops’ bedded into an article that is talking about ‘the best ways to improve you fitness’.

Irrelevant Anchor Text Linksimage source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Ct8q_RAxrFY/T5bafaCjA4I/AAAAAAAAAOc/ehd5krRkUks/s1600/link-spam.png

Link Profiles With High Concentration of Commercial Keywords

As Google’s web-spam team are regularly stating – they want to see natural looking link profiles. If the links pointing to your website are comprised primarily of commercial keyword anchor text then you could be in danger. For example, if you have small amount of links that contain your brand name within the link anchor text and then the rest are just your target keywords.

Link Networks

A link network is essentially a group of websites that cross-link between each other on a mass scale in order to manipulate the search engine results. Link networks took a huge hit during the first Penguin update and I would expect to see even more improvements here.

Dofollow Links From Advertorials

Interflora were huge news earlier this year when they had a Google penalty imposed on them for using advertorials in a way that violates Google’s guidelines. Matt Cutts commented on the use of advertorials, stating:

“Clear disclosure of sponsorship is critical, and that includes disclosure for search engines. If link in a paid post would affect search engines, that link should not pass PageRank (e.g. by using the nofollow attribute).”

In short, Google aren’t against the use of advertorials as long as the links within them do not pass link equity, and also that there is clear disclosure within the article to let readers know that it is a paid-for editorial. I would envisage that we will see a few casualties from these types of links over the next update.

Spammy Site-wide Links

This was an old technique that I, sadly, still see used today. Links bedded into ‘blog rolls’ and within footer areas that are completely irrelevant to the site itself. These are another big target for the Penguin 2.0 update so be sure to analyse the number of links coming from your site and take action before this next update hits.

Site wide linksExample of a link profile from a new client we took on.

What Else Can We Expect From Google


In the next few months there are going to be further changes that we will start to see from Google related to SEO. Matt Cutts talks briefly about them in the video above but here’s a brief overview of the key things he mentions:

Identifying Authority Figures

Google are going to be looking at ways to identify authority figures, i.e. through authorship, and reward content written by influential authors with higher SERP rankings. Google Authorship has been a huge topic over the past 12 months and it looks like AuthorRank is going to be playing a big part in near future.

Hacked Websites

There will be more advanced ways to find hacked websites and an increased level of support offered to webmasters that have been affected by the activities of hackers.

The Next Instalment of the Panda Update

Google have confirmed that a further Panda update will be coming over the next couple of months that will focus on “softening the effects” on websites that fall within the ‘grey areas’ of the Panda update.

Reduced SERP Clustering

Matt Cutts has made a vow to reduce the number of clustered search results appearing within Google, i.e. one website appearing multiple times in the same SERP for a given keyword. This is something that I’m pretty happy about because it isn’t the best search experience when you have ten results all pointing to Yell.com.

More Information for Webmasters

Any SEO should be happy about this. Google are trying to give webmasters more support and metrics to work with which can only improve online visibility and search. There were some recent additions to Google Analytics that were great and I would expect more to follow.

Share Your Thoughts With Me

I’m always keen to hear the opinions of others when it comes to new search algorithm updates, so leave your comments below and I’ll give you my thoughts!

Socially Awkward Penguin 2.0

Qasim Majid About the author
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11 years ago

Matt, great rundown. I was discussing Matt Cutts video with our SEO team yesterday and we are all a little excited about Pengiun 2.0…Only because we, thankfully, didn’t practice any of the black-hat spammy techniques, as tempting as they are. We expect to see a boost in our clients rankings and our continued quality link building efforts to have more of an impact.

Thanks for sharing, stay awesome!

11 years ago
Reply to  Matt Morgan

Likewise, I’m hoping that it will clear up some of those spammy results that are sitting in front (unfairly) of some of my clients.

I’m not sure that it will have as big an effect as the first Penguin update but it should at least make some big improvements.


11 years ago

Matt, very nice review and post. I’ll be interest to see the Google+ Ripple this piece should trigger. Not sure how or why it showed up in my G+ Red alert box but that’s OK

11 years ago
Reply to  Neil Ferree

Hi Neil, thanks for your comments. I have you in my ‘SEO’ related circles in G+ so thought it may be relevant to yourself (seeing as it’s related and quite topical), so i dropped it over to you. Hope you don’t mind!


11 years ago

For the type of SEO that I do for my clients, which can best be described as clean or white hat SEO this new Panda 2.0 update should further help to solidify the accounts I have at Number #1, and for those I do not yet have there it should also help. I am excited about it coming out. But as with every new update the proof is in the pudding, so check with me after it is out and see if I am this excited then.

TJ Niehaus
11 years ago

Matt, are “Link Networks” considered the same thing as renting links from a “link exchange” (free or paid)? Great article it was very informative. Thank you.


11 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Barby

Quite topical indeed + lucky me you decided to Circle me in “SEO Related” which is quite apropos 😉 I was bragging about how smart I was for finding this Panda piece in advance of its roll-out next week to my NYC Immigration Attorney client and told him I would “dark social” share the link to your article so her ya go Tamir 😉

11 years ago
Reply to  TJ Niehaus

Hi T.J,

If the links that you are ‘renting’ are dofollow links then yes, this could be described as a link network. I would strongly recommend avoiding these types of links.


11 years ago

I’m assuming that you meant to write Penguin 2.0! However, there is another Panda refresh on its way (I doubt it will be as big as this coming Penguin iteration though).

If you’re ensuring that all your link building methods are white hat and in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines then I’m sure you’ll be fine. Algorithm updates like these can always be a great opportunity to gain an advantage over your competitors.


11 years ago

Matt, I think you are attributing more link factors to Penguin than it has.
AFAIK, Penguin was a recalculation of PageRank which removed any SERPs influence generated by links on non-relevant pages.

When MC says that Penguin 2.0 will have a little bit more of an impact than the original version. I would imagine he means that the non-relevant trigger will be set off by fewer links.

11 years ago

Great summation of Cutt’s video. Looking forward to seeing how this all plays out!

11 years ago
Reply to  Reg Charie

Hi Reg, if you take a look at the original post on the Google Webmaster blog from Penguin you will see a breakdown of what the update targets. Over-optimisation of anchor text was a big one and I’ve worked on a lot of search engine recovery projects since then that have shown there to be a lot of factors other than just non-relevant pages.

I think you may be right in your second point though, a ‘tightening’ of the algorithm is probably what we can expect, similar to the next upcoming Panda iteration.


11 years ago
Reply to  Steven Sweat

Thanks Steven, glad you found it useful.

2 years ago

They still are the worst in the business, at least some lawyers give them what they deserve.

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