Google’s Next Penguin Update & the Future of SEO

Company News, SEO

As you know, Google frequently revisits the algorithm responsible for determining your website’s positioning on its search engine. One of the next updates rolling out has to do with Penguin, which is the name the industry gave to Google’s backlink-focused update. The original update essentially combats attempts to manipulate rankings by building a profile of fake links to your site.

Since Penguin was first introduced in 2012, it has been updated a number of times. These updates usually entail refinements to the algorithm and just a general refreshing of websites’ standing with Google. Penguin is soon to be updated again — Penguin 4.0, as it’s referred to as by the SEO community —, and with the news comes: (a) a reminder that your link profile should be cleaned up now; (b) a lot of speculation.

In anticipation of Penguin 4.0, I was asked to participate in a large “roundup” of expert opinion. The results of the survey have been published by Nikolay Stoyanov. He asked participants:

Which 3 SEO factors will play the biggest role in the Penguin 4.0 era?

What I said:

I suspect that SEO will stay on the path it’s been on. This includes well-[re]searched and well-targeted content with concrete, strategic purpose. A strong natural backlink profile, with both a diverse set of root domains and link-depth with particularly strong domains, will be important as well.

But, this comes back to content and the goals that you want each piece of content to accomplish — I know that for a lot of small businesses link worthy content is not the same as the bread and butter content, so you need to plan your content distribution around the website’s different needs. Finally, it is and will continue to be important to optimize the website for user experience, including responsiveness, speed, and content accessibility.

What does that mean? Your website should be linked to by a wide set of other relevant websites, and you want the best sites to link to you multiple times. In order to get these links, you have to create content that’s link worthy. But, your website is primarily designed to convert potential patients/customers into actual patients/customers, and this may require completely different content than what’s link worthy. You need a content strategy that tackles these different business goals.

Our dental implant InfoSites, for example, are built to bring patients with missing teeth to your practice. Much of the content on each site is geared towards converting visitors into patients by addressing their questions and pain points: what are dental implants and their benefits, what’s the process like, is it painful, et cetera. While this content is extremely valuable as far as converting visitors goes, it’s not necessarily link worthy. To build organic backlink profiles we use each website’s blog to publish the kind of content that earns links, such as reviews of local events and mom-and-pop storefronts. The “content portfolio” for each InfoSite is diversified in order to accomplish various goals, including selling the product and building the foundations for a strong organic search presence.

Similarly, much of the content on an attorney’s website is not necessarily link-worthy. The people who link to lawyers’ sites aren’t usually the same people who are looking to hire a lawyer. Whereas most of the content explains practice areas in a way that addresses the needs of the attorney’s local clients, it’s not the kind of in-depth legal content that’s going to get links. And you don’t want it to be, either; the content is meant to convert visitors into clients, not earn links. But links are still important, because they’re crucial for a strong search presence. So, you need to complement that kind of content with link worthy legal content, such as an e-book or blogs geared towards providing expert opinion on interesting legal events.

Takeaways From the Penguin 4.0 Roundup

There were a lot of interesting answers to Nikolay’s question. According to the SEO experts asked, some of the factors that will rise to prominence include:

  • Brand marketing: how often has your brand been mentioned by the press, or even on Facebook and other social media platforms?
  • Link click-through rates: moving forward, what’ll matter more than the link back to your website is the traffic that the link is producing for you. This underscores the importance of a natural backlink profile, because natural backlinks are more likely to deliver you actual value in the shape of relevant traffic.
  • Semantically related links: Google can tell what a page of content is about, and a link to a law site from another law site will be worth more than a link to a law site from a pet grooming site.
  • Real-time updates: SEOs speculate that the next Penguin update will be constantly refreshed, meaning you won’t have to wait for the next update (typically a year or more in wait) for Google to refresh their scoring of your site’s backlink profile.

More to the point, if you want to compete in organic search you want to build a website that addresses the needs of the visitors you’re looking to attract. This means good user experience, which requires quality content, fast loading times, and a layout conducive to finding the relevant information without struggling.

See if your website meets these guidelines with a free, no strings attached SEO audit.

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