Everything You Need To Know About Penguin 2.0 & The Changing SEO Playbook

By Samuel Frost
Everything You Need To Know About Penguin 2.0 & The Changing SEO Playbook


Google just loves throwing us humble affiliate marketers a curve ball (or two). I'm only young, but since I've been affiliate marketing there have been both the dreaded Panda and Penguin updates, which had a devastating effect on many affiliates. However, here at Affilorama we have been teaching great strategies for overcoming Google updates and actually increasing your bottom line while others might be losing their traffic, rankings, and profits.

Keeping up with tradition Google released Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013. According to Matt Cutts, Penguin 2.0 is not just a minor data refresh but actually a full algorithm update. This meant that around 2.3% of English search queries were impacted to a noticeable level, and this is figure is likely to increase over time. Penguin 2.0 heralds the release of a new generation of Google algorithms. Having a quick browse around webmaster forums and SEO blogs reveals that many webmasters, bloggers, and affiliates have been pounded by this new iteration of Penguin.

But enough with the news; you're here because you want to know how Penguin 2.0 affects your affiliate marketing, and what you can do to actually profit from it. In this article I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about Penguin 2.0, and the state of play of SEO going-forward. You will learn some exciting new tactics for boosting your search ranking and traffic, as well as other cutting-edge methods for ensuring that you profit from Google updates.

To understand how to dominate SEO in the current environment, you need to understand the ethos behind Google's algorithm updates. Although it can be tempting to "cop out" and just say that Google hates affiliates, this is not a satisfying conclusion. Instead we need to dig deeper and examine the evidence, which tells us Google's aim is to reduce the presence of "spam" results in the search engines.

Now you might think of spam as being sleazy pharma websites or dodgy insurance sales letters, but to the boffins at Google HQ (like Matt Cutts) spam sites are also those that have unnatural link profiles. Therefore, if you are using unnatural or questionable methods to build links to your site, then you are at risk of being penalized by Google. At some stage the algorithm will find your site, and you will probably be penalized

The Most Crucial SEO Factors

So what's the deal with Penguin 2.0? What factors are Google stressing as being important for SEO and affiliates? Let's take a brief look, and then drill-down on each concept to ensure that you have a complete understanding of what you need to do to fight back against Penguin 2.0 and Google algorithm updates.

  • Build a brand. According to Adam de Jong of Hubspot (and other top SEO commentators) branding is becoming a big factor for Google, especially after Penguin 2.0. If you want to rank well in Google and drive masses of organic search traffic, then you need to stop stressing so much about building loads of links, and instead focus on creating a solid brand. Branded websites are less likely to be seens as thin affiliate or spam sites, because brands tend to focus more on building a great holistic customer experience. When registering a domain name and building a website you need to think whether it would work well as a brand, and not just a keyword designed to generate search rankings. 
  • Create quality content. As always, the importance of quality content remains absolutely paramount. All leading SEO experts will tell you that adding more content to your site is a good thing. If you're pressed for time, then you should even consider outsourcing your content creation. Read this Affilorama blog post I wrote last year for more information about why quality content is important for good SEO, and how to create it. 
  • Have impeccable on-page SEO. Although you have probably come to fear "over optimization" and the potentially catastrophic consequences that it could have on your website and livelihood, you should strive for accurate and effective on-page SEO. This means ensuring that your tags and titles are all set up correctly, that you have anchor text optimized internal linking, and that you've got a rapid page load speed and no glaring site errors. Use AffiloTools to help you optimize your on-page SEO to deliver higher search rankings and more traffic.
  • Build effective links. Link building isn't "dead" (that is one of those statements that really hacks me off!) but it is changing. Gone are the days of focusing on link quantity over quality. You need to be balancing your anchor text, and avoid rubbishy site wide links and other nasties that Google doesn't like any more. You should concentrate your efforts on building astoundingly high quality links that demonstrate your authority and presence in any given niche. In a minute I'll show you how to use the new AffiloTools Link Finder to help with post-Penguin link building. 
  • Ramp up social media. By now you're probably sick of hearing about the importance of social media. However, the reason you keep hearing about it is because social media is becoming increasingly crucial for identifying and strengthening your online brand. Not only should you have a branded Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ account for all your affiliate sites, but you should also seek to increase the number of times your content is being shared on social networks. This means incorporating share buttons on to your site, and actively encouraging your visitors to share your content. If you have an image-intensive site, or produce things like infographics, then you should be sharing them on branded Pinterest and Tumblr channels as well.

Supercharging Your Inbound Marketing in a Post-Penguin 2.0 World

Now you know what Penguin 2.0 is, and what sort of factors are important for effective SEO going-forward (bearing in mind that there will be further roll outs of Penguin 2.0 in the future) it's time to look at some strategies you can pursue to really boost your inbound marketing and attain higher rankings with more traffic, leads, and sales. 

Find Great Links with AffiloTools

Penguin 2.0 hasn't killed link building. In fact, if you're willing to do link building the right way, then you will still see great benefit from your efforts in terms of more traffic and higher search rankings. The secret with links these days is to sniff out and build quality links that are highly relevant. White hat link building is in, and black hat link building is out. Once upon a time this was a difficult task, but thanks to the power of AffiloTools it's now really easy. Click here to get AffiloTools access if you haven't already.

Just load up the Link Finder, select the link type(s) you want to create, and then enter your keyword:

Now let AffiloTools work its magic. The uber brains here at Affilorama have configured the Link Finder to scour the web for the absolute best links for your keyword and match types. Once the tool has finished you will have a list of potential link locations. I like to order the results by Page Authority (PA) to ensure that I'm getting the most bang for my link building buck (click on the image to see it full-sized)

You can then use the results returned by the AffiloTools Link Finder to build high quality, white hat links to your site (I'm a big fan of guest posting and blog commenting). You don't need to build hundreds of links every day; focus on creating one or two targeted deep links to relevant content pages, and watch your site climb the Google rankings. AffiloTools makes it so easy!

Vary Your Anchor Text

Another crucial strategy for beating Penguin 2.0, and making your link building campaign look natural, is to ensure that you vary your anchor text. If the keyword you are targeting is "how to stop procrastinating", then you don't want to have all your links using that as anchor text. In fact, your main keyword should only constitute around 15% of your anchor text for any given page you are linking. According to a MOZ case study, you hardly need any anchor text targeted keywords. You should reserve exact anchor text for your highest quality links. 

Try to use the following types of anchor text alongside your main keyword:

  • Generic terms ('click here' etc)
  • Naked URL  (www.yoursite.com)
  • Brand name  (remember that Penguin 2.0 has put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of building a brand!)
  • Alternative long-tail keywords (keyword variations, such as "how can i stop procrastinating")

One of the easiest ways to find great keyword variations is to use Ubersuggest.org. Simply enter your long-tail keyword in the search box, and then let Ubersuggest do the rest for you. Use the generated results to provide massive anchor text diversity for safe link building, especially if you do tiered link building:

Incorporate Social Share Buttons & Encourage Sharing

One final thing I want to mention in greater detail is the importance of incorporating social share buttons on your site, as well as encouraging your visitors to share content with their friends, family, and colleagues. Boosting your social presence is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your brand, search rankings, and traffic in the post-Penguin climate.

Make sure that you've made it easy for other people to share your content, like this page has (prominent share buttons are more likely to attract "impulse clicks").

You should also actively encourage your readers to share your content. Get them excited for plastering your message and brand across the globe. Warm them up with quality content, and then provide a solid call-to-action that makes it clear what they should do:

Distribute Your Content Through Branded Channels & Multiple Formats 

One last thing you should start doing to fight back against the dreaded Google Penguin (2.0) is set up branded content distribution channels. Okay, that's a bit of a mouthful, but it's really much easier than you would think:

  1. Make sure your social media accounts are branded for your site (including Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn where relevant)
  2. Create a YouTube channel, Slideshare & Scribd accounts, and search for any niche specific social or Web 2.0 platforms. 
  3. Whenever you publish a new blog post/article, drop a link through all your social media channels.
  4. Summarize your blog post into key points using Powerpoint or Keynote - upload the slides to Slideshare, and a PDF version to Scribd.
  5. Record an audio narration to go with those same slides, and then upload the video to your YouTube channel.

It might take you a whole week to research, write, and distribute a fresh content piece for your site, especially if you're pressed for time. Don't worry - it's probably going to be far more effective for your SEO purposes to put big effort in with a weekly piece that is distributed through branded channels and formats than it is writing a new article every single day.

Remember: Build your brand!

Checklist For Success

If you're the kind of person who just skim reads a blog post to try and pick up the good stuff, then you'll love this quick check list that I've put together to help you KO Penguin 2.0. Have a read through and start implementing these strategies immediately for the best results possible:

  1. Focus on building a brand - you should be branding everything you do, including social media channels, branded PDF documents to distribute through doc sharing sites, videos, and more. Take cues from bricks and mortar businesses as to how they do their branding.
  2. Implement Google Authorship to help improve your click through rates, build trust, and cement your brand
  3. Add fresh and exciting content on a regular basis. Aim for at least one content piece per week. Follow the AffiloBlueprint content creation lessons (AffiloBlueprint has just been updated, so read the bottom of this post for more). 
  4. Vary your methods of content delivery - keep visitors guessing (and coming back for my) by utilizing the power of blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more.
  5. Tweak your on-page SEO with AffiloTools. 
  6. Stack up social media updates in advance with AffiloTools - sit down for a few hours and write out 6 months' worth of regular status updates and Tweets that link back to your on site content. Distribute your content through branded channels.
  7. Encourage your visitors to share your content through their own social circles
  8. Find and build quality white hat links using the AffiloTools link finder.
  9. Explore alternative traffic generation methods, such as YouTube video marketing and Kindle.
  10. Start building a list. Most super affiliates will tell you that the money's in the list. As you grow your traffic by implementing the other strategies in this blog post you should always be thinking of ways to become less Google dependent. By building a list of targeted leads from your traffic, you can create your own buffer of on-tap traffic and sales that will help you weather any search engine storm. Focus on building the biggest and most targeted list possible, and then enjoy the benefits of not having to worry so much about whether your traffic will dry up overnight!

How Can You Keep Ahead Of The Game?

If there is one thing that is truly draining about affiliate marketing, it's trying to keep ahead of the game. SEO, PPC, website design, content creation; you name it, there is a lot to learn. That's why following a step-by-step training system is so crucial for success - when you never have to second guess what you are doing you'll be light years ahead of the competition. Here is where AffiloBlueprint, our flagship affiliate marketing training course, comes in. It is your complete companion to building profitable affiliate sites following Mark Ling's own time tested methods.

It is a complete "over the shoulder" course that shows you exactly how to build fantastic affiliate websites, from the earliest stages of niche research through to tweaking for increased profits and search rankings. You get to see a real life (and profitable) affiliate site built before your very eyes, with no stone left unturned.

AffiloBlueprint has been revamped to ensure that all the included training and resources give you the edge for successful affiliate marketing. Mark and the rest of the Affilorama staff have gone through the course with a fine toothed comb to weed out anything that was dated or needed changing. In particular you will love the refreshed SEO training that teaches you exactly how to build a Penguin-proofed affiliate site (you wont find any shady linking strategies here!).

If you're worried about waking up one day to decimated Google rankings and traffic, then you will love the AffiloBlueprint SEO training. Of course everything else has been refreshed and improved where needed too, including PPC training, content creation lessons, homework and the resources.

You also get fantastic bonuses, including our exclusive easy-to-use site building theme, free hosting for your first site, impeccable customer support, and access to our lively members' forum where you can network with other top affiliates. Click here to learn more about AffiloBlueprint

Thanks so much for reading, and if you've got any questions or comments about Penguin 2.0, SEO, or affiliate marketing then I would love to hear from you. 

Dirk de Bruin 11 years ago
Hey there,
nice comprehensive post about SEO strategies for 2013 in this post-Penguin2 world.

At the moment SEO isn't that hard to master if you're following all the rules. The main thing to keep in mind now is to build a quality brand, with quality SEO, so that it will withstand future updates that are inevitably coming.

Good job!
Rainer Ruff 11 years ago
Good article, good Information for SEO beginners.
Charlotte 11 years ago
Hi Samuel,

Thanks for your great article. Speaking of social share buttons, can you tell me which WP plugin you used for yours in this post?
Mark Ling 11 years ago
This is not Wordpress, it is our own custom made website, cms and blog. There are plenty of great plugins for Wordpress though that can do a great job of offering social media sharing buttons.
Filip Kliba 11 years ago

I'm an AB3 member and the thing that is interesting here is when you say "sit down for a few hours and write out 6 months' worth of regular status updates and Tweets that link back to your on site content." WOW

I never thought of it in that way. Such an focused time saver really. Do you have some tips of how to do it. It would be really helpful to me and a lot of people.. ;P
Dan 11 years ago
Very interesting article, thank you very much for the given guidance. On a personal level if at all possible please be kind enough to assist with mbwallpapers.com

I have literally tried everything and am not able to get my page rank to move up. Am I missing something?
Coleta 11 years ago
This is a lot of information to take, but all excellent points nonetheless. I'm already doing some of them. I do have a question for you... regarding this sentence: " should you have a branded Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ account for all your affiliate sites." What I'm understanding for this is that I need to have separate accounts at these sites, but is that allowed? Can I have more than one Facebook and G+ account or Pinterest, Tumblr accounts? I know I can have multiple Twitter accounts.

Thanks for the solid information.
Reanna 11 years ago
Great article. I gave up on SEO a while ago because of school and all these Google updates which hit me hard but I am considering starting back again and the Scribd and SlideShare ideas you gave were genius! Thanks!
Rick 11 years ago
Well written article! Google is hard at work and you guys stay on top of all the changes. Many thanks for relaying the information to us.
Penny 11 years ago
For the small webmaster, trying to rank new websites is not worth the time and effort. Here is what Google ranks fast, YouTube Videos, Facebook Pages, and other social media sites such as Storify articles. Use these free sources as your webpage.
Dress up Right 11 years ago
I believe no mater what technique is used, one always has to dress up right in terms of content. No one wants to go to a side full of dubious marketish content.
Richard J. D'Angelo 11 years ago
Really, really awesome article. Extremely helpful and useful. I now have months worth of ideas to help my SEO efforts. I'm a home improvement contractor by day and a home improvement / housing market news blogger by night/weekend/every other "free" minute I have. This article has helped me a great deal. There are so many articles out there claiming to know something about Penguin 2.0 - but this one is the best I've come across so far. Keep 'em coming!
Tony Brooks 11 years ago
Penguin 2.0 and any other algorithm update was implemented to improve the relevance of search results. You have given lots of good tips on how to improve rankings for sites generating regular active content, which is the key to all this. However you talk of 'fighting back' against The 'dreaded Penguin' as if you are trying to circumnavigate the effects of the algorithm so affiliate marketers can continue to get good rankings for sites that don't deserve them.
david stevens 11 years ago
I think what you pointed about social media is a bit over overestimated...not many will agree with this ...but if you sit back and look at the internet from an outsiders view then may be social media is a tool yes but it is also different from that in the way that it doesn't have to be milked like people aim to do ..what you get out of social media is what matters and if you overdo it then may be you will be crossing the limits to what social media can do and what it can not do....sorry could n't really express what I wanted to say but it was something like this only
Arwin Adriano 11 years ago
I love the checklist for success portion and I think it helps me out on how I view my strategy to be on the top as well establishing my own brand.
Rajneesh Thapa 11 years ago
I think the small time afiliates are fighting a loosing battle against Google.
geoff lord 11 years ago
Really interesting article. I have recently put a new site up and used most of the points you mention in your articles. I can confirm that spending the time to get your on site SEO right is well worth the time spent. I have been rewarded with a first page generic listing in an extremely difficult niche as a result.
Jeff Gilden 11 years ago
Last year we were hit with the Google slap and never bounced back. We had to create a whole new domain name and start from scratch because no one else could tell us what to do. Thanks for the great tips!
Julia McCoy 11 years ago
Wow, great post, very indepth with a lot of research and time put in. Kudos. And definitely yes -- quality content is a huge key to ranking in these new Google algorithm rules.
11 years ago
Gone are the days where it is about quantity, the most links win but today it is about quality. Building a brand online is never easy. Just like the saying goes, it takes 20 years to build reputation but 5 seconds to ruin it. Fellow affiliate marketers, never give up on what you are doing right now, you never know one day you will hit jackpot and the money just come in like that. Work hard and smart be consistent never slack and you will succeed. Always have a heart to learn and apply.
Jim Madonia 11 years ago
i purchased AB3 and the pre-written article last july but because of my busy schedule i did not really start working on a website, (www.the-weightloss-gateway.com), until Dec. i am only about half way through the lessons at this point. Shortly after my purchase there was panda, and then penguin and now penguin 2. it seems like a beginner like myself does not have a chance to even get started. the Google search results for my keywords are mostly major news outlets, TV shows or magazines. How can a beginner compete with those companies. As i read these blogs there are so any differing opinions on using SEO or not, social media or not. Have i wasted my time so far? should i start over? Anyone who wants to view my site and give an opinion it would be greatly appreciated. www.the-weightloss-gateway.com

José Muñoz 11 years ago
Great tips and advice, google is always making affiliates life worst...
Samuel Frost 11 years ago
Thanks for all the positive comments guys! Just so you know I think Google are rolling out another update as I write this comment, so don't be surprised if you see your rankings jump around a bit!
Ethan Poltrack 11 years ago
It was too simple there for a little bit. Thanks for the warning. Seemed like before with their latest that things were a little easier as you didn't need as many but more like the quality of your links. Great article
Russ Turner 11 years ago
It is getting all too much for an old timer like me, things were so much simpler even 3 years ago.

So I think it is time to put out the mouse to grass and tend to my veg garden instead of doing constsnt battle with G.

Best wishes to you all.
moto kurye 11 years ago
If I buy backlink if it is not going to work?
kenn mags 10 years ago
Great post. Staying ahead of this algorithm is the key for success.Penguin is a Google algorithm update meant to get rid of black hat SEO methods web developers typically used to gain high rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs).