What This Summer’s Google Penguin 2.0 Update Means For The Market


Marketers have a lot to worry about these days. Building quality content is difficult enough, but sometimes the big problem in an increasingly crowded marketplace is guiding potential customers to that great content. Social media promotion, cross posting to big blogs, and clever advertising campaigns are great ways to get your material out there. But in our modern era of hyper-creative publicity efforts and marketing campaigns, good ole’ fashioned organic search is sometimes overlooked.

In the world of search, Google is undoubtedly king. The tech monolith controls 66.5% of the overall search market, and is the number one choice for virtually every demographic. Given the dominance of Google, it is critical to optimize your site for their unique algorithms if you want a fighting chance of being discovered organically through search. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-evolving field, and recent changes to the way that Google prioritizes sites in their search results presents enormous opportunities for the savvy content marketer.

Google Changes Ranking Advice

google seo

On May 27th, Google made a fairly unpublicized change to their “Rankings” article within Google Webmaster Help. This is the document which suggests to webmasters the best ways to optimize their site for Google search, and lets the general public know how to go about building a quality site that Google will notice. Using The Wayback Machine we can see that the page used to read like this:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.

Now it reads like this:

In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.

It may seem small, but this is actually a big change in the way that Google views quality and content.

In the past, there was a somewhat excessive emphasis on mass-producing back links to websites in order to improve their SEO. This led to an approach by some SEO professionals of quantity over quality, and unfairly penalized well designed sites that refused to subject people to spam. These updates suggest that Google was well aware of these issues, and changed their policies to prioritize quality content.

Now that the focus is on “high-quality sites that users will want to use and share,” the entire emphasis of SEO has moved away from empty links to building great sites with quality content. This presents a lot of opportunity for content creators and content marketers, as sites are now increasingly incentivized to offer more value to their viewership than ever before.

What are webmasters misunderstanding about Google’s quality first approach?

Unfortunately, some webmasters are misunderstanding this new approach. Quality content is usually understood to mean great writing and great topics; ideas that really engage your particular audience and motivate them to share. This is undoubtedly true, but it misses a piece of the puzzle. Google doesn’t tell us to just create “high-quality content,” it emphasizes “high-quality sites.”

According to Matt Cutts, head of the Google Webspam team and a key member of their Search Quality team, many of the top ranking problems are caused by poor design. Adding interesting and engaging content is one of the ways to improve the overall quality of your website, but just as important are a wealth of other, design based considerations. Some of these are: 

·    Have a Browsable Site

        This may seem somewhat obvious, but it’s a surprisingly common problem. Make sure that your site is viewable by search engines, and opened up in a way where information is easily reachable. Convenience is critical, so place your great content out in the open first and foremost, or make sure that you have a clear and easily reachable search function within the site. Have content that is extractable into plain text if possible, as this makes the site much easier to access.

·    Include Commonly Searched Words and Phrase

         Think about the kinds of words that people are going to be searching for when looking for your site, and include those on the page. Really describe what it is that you do. For example, if you’re running a site that focuses on content marketing it may not be enough to just have the phrase “content marketing.” Include topic titles like:

oWhat is content marketing?

oHow do I make great content?

oHow can I promote my business online?

·    Make it Pretty

        Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but consumers are becoming increasingly unforgiving of visually unappealing designs. A professionally put together, well-laid out site is the hallmark of a credible operation, and research has shown that not having one will absolutely negatively impact your business. It’s almost always best to invest the money in a great site now and reap the rewards later. By working with a professional web contractor you’ll get a quality product at a reasonable cost.


Remember- Even a monster can look good. It just depends how you paint it.

How can a webmaster improve the quality of their website?

Once you’ve improved the overall design of your site, the next step is to look at more specific technical areas that could potentially be cleaned up to improve the overall user experience. Here are a few places to start with:

        Color Contrast: There’s a reason that the default setting in word is black text on a white background. Readers need a certain degree of context in order to browse a site effectively. Developing a color palette for your website that is distinctive, inviting, and easily readable is extremely important. Creative use of color to draw the readers eye to different sections of the page is a great way to highlight your important content.

        Avoid Pop-Ups: Pop-ups are the bane of many a web user’s existence, and should be avoided whenever possible. They’re incredibly disruptive to the overall experience of going to your website, and also tend to annoy users.

        Fast Load Times: In addition to being plain convenient, load times are actually a metric that Google uses to determine search ranking. Sites with fast load times convert clicks to real readership at a dramatically faster rate, and differences of as little as half a second in load time can have huge impacts.

        Format Your Text: Nothing puts a brick wall in front of reader comprehension like a big block of unformatted text. If there are no visual cues for the reader, even the best content in the world simply won’t be read. Bring in formatting, and get to the point as quickly as you reasonably can. Assume that you have just a few seconds to capture the reader’s attention!

        Don’t Autopilot: There’s nothing more disruptive to my web browsing experience than opening up a site and having a video suddenly start blasting sound at me. Video and audio content is an important part of any content collection, but your browsers are much more likely to appreciate it if they’ve made the choice to interact with it rather than having it forced on them.

Content is King

After fixing these various technical issues, we can move on to the fun stuff: building interesting, engaging content for your following to enjoy and interact with. Remember, Google is now prioritizing high-quality sites that users will want to use and share. When it comes to delivering value and promoting the share-ability of your site, nothing beats great content.


When it comes down to it, they’re still just coming for words on the page

We’ve posted a number of blogs in the past on how to create top-quality content, but here are a few additional ways to make your content particularly SEO-friendly:

        Use Keywords: In addition to using commonly searched words and phrases in the headings and titles of your site, it’s important to work them in to the actual written content that you post. Think about the different ways someone could phrase a question that your content is the answer to, and try to include the critical words in those phrases in your actual content. When brainstorming a piece, build a list of the 20 most important words in that content area and see how many of them you can include. A tagging function for your various pieces works wonders here as well, and makes your site much more searchable.

        Offer Related Content: Different sites are of course different, and there are certainly sites where you’ve done your job excellently if the user is only there for a couple of minutes. Some Q&A sites have unusually high “bounce” rates, simply because they are succeeding in solving their users’ problems quickly.But most sites want their users to stick around for a while, and one of the best ways to do this is by offering a rabbit warren of related content on the site. At the end of each post, consider having some links to related articles the user can take a look at next. Group related content together on your site, and use tagging functions when possible to link associations to different content in your readers’ minds.

 Split Up Long Posts: This idea dovetails nicely with offering related content. With the thousands of demands on our time and incredibly crowded entertainment marketplace, attention spans are shorter than ever before. Long posts simply don’t get read as often as short posts do, and readers are less likely to remember the content and associate it with your site. Consider breaking up some of your longer posts into shorter pieces you can offer as a series. This also lets you build a library of related content ripe for boosting your page views.

Google’s emphasis on quality, shareable content makes a well-thought out content marketing strategy more important to the visibility and success of your business than ever before. Sometimes it’s possible to get a bit too clever with the work that we do as marketers. Optimizing your site for search is a great, back to basics approach that will yield immediate dividends!

How does Google’s update affect you? Will you be making any changes to your site? Share your thoughts.

More advice on how your content writer can keep up with the latest content trends from Joe Pulizzi, CEO, entrepreneur, speaker, blogger, and author.



About Bill Momary

Bill is the CEO/Co-Founder of Ebyline