Search giant Google rolled out its Penguin 2.0 algorithmic update on May 22nd of this year (2013). In my opinion, this was one of the biggest shakeups for online writers in a long time. Why? Because what have we heard over and over and over again since practically the beginning of the popularity of search-engine optimized (SEO) content?
Keywords; focus on keywords.
Well now, that little online writing rule has fallen by the wayside to a large degree. Here, we’ll discuss this change, and a few others ushered in by the Penguin 2.0 update. If you’re not staying abreast of these changes as web writer, you’re doing yourself – and your clients – a grave disservice, you could even be harming your/their sites.
3 SEO Writing Guidelines to Follow Post-Penguin 2.0
1. Focus Less on Keywords: To understand this, let’s back up a minute and explain what this update was all about.
What Was the Penguin 2.0 Update All About?
This update focused primarily on anchor text, backlink patterns and fishy link-building practices (eg, paid links). It was explained succinctly in the explained in the HuffingtonPost article, Penguin 2.0: What Likely Changed and How to Recover, ie:
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.
One of the things Google did was to dig into a lot of data. And, what they found was that keywords are easy to manipulate and rank well for. They also found that a lot of spam sites used keyword-stuffed content to reach the top of search results. To combat this, they’re now giving less credence to keyworded copy (even when it’s written correctly).
Now make no mistake — keywords are still important; but, they are only one factor. The algorithm takes into account other factors like social media, backlinks, how often a site is updated, anchor text used, etc. in order to rank sites.
The gist is, you can’t just write perfectly optimized keyworded content. You need more.
2. Anchor Text: Piggybacking on the last point, another thing Google took a look at is anchor text. They want variety here.
You see, in the past, many webmasters would target a handful of high-traffic keywords for their site, then produce content that used these keywords as anchor text to drive traffic.
Now – just like keywords – they’re not giving so much weight to this. Not only does Google want you to vary your anchor text, they don’t want you using exact match anchor text all the time and they want you to start using branded anchor text.
What is exact match anchor text?
It’s just what it sounds like– an EXACT match of a keyword phrase used as anchor text (even if the phrase isn’t grammatically correct).
Again, you can thank spammers for this change. You see, a lot of exact match anchor text is grammatically incorrect. However, because these keyword phrases get a lot of searches, many spammers would make use of them anyway.
This caused Google to go, “Hmmm, this isn’t a good way to rank sites because no legitimate business wants misspelled or grammatically incorrect content on their website.”
So just remember, variety, variety, variety is the name of the game when it comes to anchor text Post-Penguin 2.0.
What is brand-based anchor text?
FYI, following are some examples of brand-based anchor text.
● Your Company Name
● Your Company’s Website
3. Backlinks: If you have a lot of low-quality and/or irrelevant backlinks coming to your site, it’s time to do some cleanup. Why? Because your “backlink profile” in Google’s eyes could be faulty. As explained in the Search Engine Land post, Big Brand SEO &Penguin
Many big brand websites have been around for quite some time and have built up a hugely varied backlink profile over the years. This often includes links that, if built today, would be seen as black hat. … Google has gone on record to state that they don’t retroactively apply spam penalties to sites for links that become black hat after a guideline change. (However, your rankings can still drop significantly due to these low-quality inbound links being given less weight.)
You should also know that paid backlinks were also a target of this update, as well as how quickly a site acquires links (ie, its link velocity). In the HuffingtonPost article reference above, it’s pointed out that if a site acquires more than 75 links a day, those extra ones are ignored by Google.
The fundamental to keep in mind here is that Google wants you to “earn” quality backlinks. How do you do that?
How to Earn Quality Backlinks
Create great content that others want to link to, discuss in forums, send out via their social media accounts, etc. All of this creates a ‘natural link pattern’ over time, which is what the Big G is looking for.
SEO Writing Post-Penguin 2.0: Why It Means More Work for Online Writers
It’s getting much harder to rank well in SERPs, which is a good thing for online writers. Why? Because the age of content marketing has been ushered in.
What Is Content Marketing?
As defined by the Content Marketing Institute, it is:
. . . a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Content marketing means that websites need more in-depth, high-quality copy than ever before, eg, SEO press releases, web articles, blog posts, social media writing, case studies, white papers, etc. And, who do they turn to produce a lot of it? Freelance writers.
Are you prepared to seize the opportunities this presents?
About the Author: Yuwanda Black heads New Media Words, an SEO writing company. She’s published over 50 ebooks and is the webmaster of InkwellEditorial, a leading portal for information on how to start a successful, home-based freelance writing career. She can be found on Twitter at @InkwellEditor.