Google revealed this week that it is close to deploying “the next generation of Penguin.” The original round of Penguin algorithm updates last year ruined some spammy web businesses but apparently jacked up search-related traffic to the web sites of many legacy publishers.
“We expect it to go a little bit deeper and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin,” said Google executive Matt Cutts. “We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space . . . and trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly,” he said in a video released Monday.
He made no specific reference to legacy publishers. But with Google’s continuing bias toward bylined articles that are written by subject-matter experts, “Penguin 2.0” sounds like good news for magazine publishers that are active on the web (and who isn’t these days?).
Cutts’ advice to those preparing for Penguin 2.0 certainly shouldn’t scare traditional publishers, who for the most part have never really learned to write for bots because writing for real people is in our DNA: “Try to make sure you make a great site that users love, that they’ll want to tell their friends about, bookmark, come back to, visit over and over again, all the things that make a site compelling,” he said. “As long as you’re working hard for users, we’re working hard to try to show your high quality content to users as well.”
Upended by Penguin and Panda
In the past year or so, Google’s Penguin and Panda updates have already upended best practices for search-engine optimization (SEO), putting the kibosh on sleazy tactics like keyword stuffing and questionable links.
“It’s 2013 – nobody wants to read SEO content, not even the search engines,” says a recent infographic created by ContentVerve called SEO Copywriting:10 Tips for Writing Content That Ranks in 2013”. “Everything points to the fact that Google prefers natural content to obvious SEO stuff.”
ContentVerve’s tip #5 should warm the hearts of magazine publishers and other organizations with high standards for their web content: “Write LONG, in-depth, quality content. The average web page ranking on the first page of Google has over 2,000 words. Moreover, evidence points to the fact that in-depth articles get more shares and links than short, superficial ones.”
18 million experts
It’s no wonder that so many publishers have been celebrating record traffic to their web sites lately. And it’s no wonder that non-publishing companies are spending more and more dollars on content marketing that mimics the look, feel, and articles of traditional publishers’ web sites.
(Unfortunately, this trend means that the 18,134,377 self-appointed SEO experts in the U.S. who morphed into 18,134,377 self-appointed social-media experts are busy transforming/rebranding themselves into 18,134,377 self-appointed content-marketing experts.)
Cutts also warned that Penguin 2.0 will address native advertising (a term open to much debate and interpretation), especially for paid promotions made to look like editorial content.
“Now there’s nothing wrong inherently," he said, "with advertorials or native advertising, but there should . . . be clear and conspicuous disclosure so that users realize that something is paid, not organic or editorial.”
For further reading:
- Cheesy porn: For a truly amazing look at how sleazy web sites can still game the search engines, be sure to check out Digiday’s recent expose of non-porn sites using sex-related searches to drive traffic to their sites: . Don’t miss the image of Velveeta sponsoring gang rape videos, a classic fail that belongs in the Marketing Hall of Shame. (Yes, it’s possible Kraft is trying to turn Velveeta into more of an “adult” product, but the porn experts I checked with were not aware of any pasteurized prepared cheese products being used in porn videos. One of them with an overly active imagination did, however, manage to dream up a plot for a proposed video to be called “Velveeta Spread.”)
- Craze-y: Dead Tree Edition recently examined why content marketing has become so popular among non-publishing brands in Publishing Without Profits: What's Behind the Content Marketing Craze? Content marketing could become a real threat to traditional publishers, except right now most of it sucks.
- Thank you, oh large Chinese marsupial: Google’s first Panda algorithm update, in 2011, had an immediate favorable impact on the number of visits to Dead Tree Edition: The Google Panda Update Is a Change I Can Bear. Since then, this site’s search-related traffic continues to grow despite its criticism of Google’s greenwashing.
- Wait for it: Later this month, Publishing Executive will publish an article I wrote about how the non-magazine ventures of many magazine publishers are thriving. I also shamelessly rip off Charles Dickens.