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How Google’s Penguin update is changing publishing… for the better

Both updates to Google’s algorithm in the recent past (Panda and Penguin) are going to have a profound effect on not only SEO but also the publishing industry, although the heavy emphasis on content and quality copywriting mean that the two are rapidly becoming one and the same. So how are the updates going to shake it all up?

Let’s look back a few months before these updates were released into the world. The content that was being churned out as a result of SEO efforts was at best “lackluster”. Website visitors would have to sit through content that read as though it was written for robots by robots with content like the following:

The telephones at Terry’s Telephones are the best telephones that you can use to telephone a friend. That is because these telephone and telephone related products were made with the highest of telephone standards in mind. No telephone can compete with a Terry Telephone.

In case you missed it, the magic word was “telephone”.

When content reached this low point, Google stepped in with its two different updates; Penguin and Panda. What these two updates did to the Google algorithm was essentially make SEO — old SEO that is — very worried. No longer could SEO gurus (don’t you just love that phrase?) focus on keywords and ensuring continuity between the title, heading and content. SEO types now have to be able to write, and write well.

Quick lesson: SEO; in the eyes of search engines at least; is a bit of a dark art. Search engines are all about indexing the internet to the benefit of the user’s experience. The better the user experience the better a site should theoretically do. Search engines generally feel that SEOs are gaming the system. They are manipulating websites to try to get them to outrank another website that might be of more value.

So how are search engines determining whether or not content is quality? The answer lies in “social signals”. Social signals are the number of likes, comments, forwards, +1’s; tweets and so on a particular piece of copy receives. In the eyes of the search engine, this is essentially a third-party validation that says, “I like this content enough to share it with my peers”.

Content has always been king; the difference now is that quality content is king! Quality content is going to mean the difference between a great ranking and a really average one.

So this is how the publishing industry is being affected. Online news sites are able to outrank their competitors based on the quality of their content derived from the social signals that search engines are monitoring on their pages. The sites consistently receiving higher shares are the ones who will receive a higher ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

This same theory applies unilaterally to B2B and B2C websites; the better the quality of your content, the better the chances of you reaching your SERP objectives.

This does not mean that traditional SEO theory goes out the window completely, but rather that it needs to be augmented to fit within a new paradigm where the emphasis is placed on the quality of the content that a site is delivering rather than the sole alignment of keywords within specific sections of the content.

Image: Ben Tubby, Wikimedia Commons.

Author | Jonathan Houston

Jonathan Houston
Jonathan Houston is passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan is the Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. Jonathan's work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital... More
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    Um, if someone *were to* write a radical piece of political writing that people found offensive (this is a THOUGHT EXPERIMENT) … people would share that person’s ranting, and Google would deem that “quality content”. Surely that seems wrong?

  • Well said Jonathan – “SEO; in the eyes of search engines at least; is a bit of a dark art. Search engines are all about indexing the internet to the benefit of the user’s experience.”

    SEO is a science, and so it should be treated as such. Depending on what you want to achieve, every single SEO strategy should be unique.

  • No, you are assuming that people would share “offensive” material. What you are forgetting is that the “social signals” are only 1 marker in the google ranking algorithm; there are other natural linguistic markers which determine the sentiment of the comments to a post – these markers would then in turn assist in determining whether a piece of content is “quality” or not.

  • This now opens the door for fake twitter followers to ‘fakely’ retweet and share links. It’s moved the dark art to social networks.

  • Good perception on how social completes content marketing in this article :)

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  • Xavier Viguer

    Hi Justin its true, i personally bought fans in facebook and in a short period of time i had a boost on my rankings, these techniques are the same of old tecnics such as autogenerated content (with bots) now there are bots to generate profiles and links in social networks. But Google is aware of it. I also experimented with google plus autogenerated profiles, and they are very efective but also are penalties for the wrong use of the google plus botton. Experimenting with Facebook is less risky and also efective :)

  • Qulsum Naaz

    oooh… this spammy “SEO Company” sure liked your article:
    rank-world(dot)com/googlepenguin.html — plagarism

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