The Oban Blog

The march of the Penguin 2.0

The international digital marketing landscape has seen a dramatic change over the last 18 months. Google’s algorithm update dubbed ‘Penguin’ challenged unethical link building practises, encouraging quality led content to be the focus of SEO strategy worldwide. Several updates later, Penguin 2.0 landed leaving professionals questioning what the recent change means for their website. With this in mind, this white paper aims to uncover the differences, helping you make informative decisions for your international search strategy.

What is Penguin 2.0 and how is it different to Penguin 1.0?
Penguin is a code name used for an algorithmic update to the Google search engine.  Penguin updates focus on off-page and back link signals to websites, evaluating how it influences SERPs.

Introduced in April 2012, Penguin initially decreased search engine rankings for websites which do not adhere to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Targeting onsite keyword stuffing, link schemes and cloaking, penalising sites that manipulate search engine signals for higher search ranking.

Google’s Head of Search Spam Matt Cutts, revealed the latest update – Penguin 2.0 – goes deeper, looking at a number of pages on a single domain1. Thus indicating Penguin 1.0 relates to the investigation of backlinks to the domain homepage while Penguin 2.0 considers a greater number of pages per domain.

Penguin 2.0 analyses:
•    Links from poor quality sites
•    Low relevancy links  specifically with sites not related to your industry or topic
•    Paid links (Advertorials)
•    Keyword rich phrases in linking root domains
•    Keyword rich phrases as linking anchor text
•    Links where anchor text is overly optimised

Cutts highlighted paid advertorials (publishing content in exchange for payment and a link) will be investigated, stating a stronger enforcement worldwide.  While there is nothing wrong with advertorials, they should never influence page rank. Prevent your site from getting penalised by using a clear label denoting ‘paid advertising’, accompanied with a ‘no-follow’ backlink to ensure transparency.

Global Search facts
•    3% of Arabic, Chinese and German queries saw changes in rankings post Penguin 1.02
•    Google’s Penguin 2.0 affected 2.3% of English-US website queries3
•    Penguin 2.0 significantly affected regions such as Turkey, due to a high volume of low quality links
•    Specific industries such as Pay Day Loans, Gaming/Gambling and Adult sites are likely to see a greater impact; due to thin content websites, poor affiliate networks and heavy keyword anchor text links

How do I know if I have been affected and what should I do?
If you have seen a reduction in organic search traffic through Google Analytics or noticed a drop in rankings around April 2012 or May 2013 you may have been impacted.   Ensure your Webmaster Tools account is active as notifications are sent if Google identifies your site as having a suspicious backlink profile.

If you have not received a notification you could still be affected. Using tools such as Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO can identify what backlinks are untrustworthy. When checking a website’s profile review:

•    The quality, relevance and speed of link acquisition to your site
•    Analyse the types of anchor text links and frequency of keywords / key phrases in proportion to brand terms5  

If low quality links are discovered contact the webmaster and request to be removed. Sites featuring paid advertorials should also change links to ‘no-follow’ or remove it altogether. As a last resort, poor quality links can be removed by submitting a ‘disavow request’ using Google’s Disavow Tool within Google Webmaster Tools.

When conducting a link building campaign, make sure you do so in a considered way. Grow your profile naturally and don’t go for quick wins, high volume and low value links. Remember quality not quantity is key to a successful global search strategy.

Produce great content of genuine value to your audience and publish it on your site, as well as, relevant sites to help attract links naturally.  Build relationships online with like-minded groups, key influencers and individuals. In time such efforts will pay off as Google acknowledges your site as an authority, rewarding you with higher rankings and traffic.


1. Google Web Master Help YouTube
2. Search Engine Land
3. The Moz Blog
4. Search Engine Land
5. Search Engine Watch