Analysis of Penguin 2.0 for SEO Agencies; Changes in SEO Strategy

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About Milind Mody

Milind is the founder - CEO of eBrandz, a professional SEO company in New York & India. Milind has been featured in various IT related magazines like Digit (Nov 2005) and BenefIT (Sep 2007). Milind also writes articles on Search Marketing in Popular Magazines like "Search Marketing Standard".

Memorial day weekend turned out to be quite significant for most of us in SEO industry. Penguin 2.0 was released on 22 May. Since we have a database of 55,000 keywords, it was helpful for us to slice and dice the results pre and post Penguin 2.0. We did analysis of top 10 results for approximately 21,000 local keywords, and below are our observations –

  • In our analysis of first page SERPS we found 29.5 % of the domains are either partial match domains (PMD-29.12%) or exact match domains (EMD-0.37%). A lot of experts are not talking about return of Partial Match and Exact Match Domains in SERPS.
  • Sites like Yellowpages, Yelp, Findlaw, Angieslist and Superpages have increased their presence even more. These sites are now dominating top 10 results. Below is the list of top 20 domains which account for 23.36 % of total top 10 results. So if experts are saying that Google is rewarding Authority, these numbers validate that. And an increase in clusters means that these sites might occupy many positions on first page.
  • Top 20 websites % Increase in %
    www.yellowpages.com 4.10% 0.45%
    plus.google.com 3.66% 0.12%
    www.yelp.com 2.51% 0.36%
    lawyers.findlaw.com 1.57% 0.15%
    www.angieslist.com 1.19% 0.15%
    www.superpages.com 1.18% 0.16%
    www.youtube.com 1.10% 0.20%
    www.bbb.org 1.09% 0.12%
    Google Images / News 1.06% 0.15%
    www.lawyers.com 1.04% 0.16%
    www.homeadvisor.com 1.02% 0.13%
    local.yahoo.com 0.93% 0.10%
    www.avvo.com 0.50% 0.10%
    www.facebook.com 0.45% 0.07%
    yellowpages.aol.com 0.35% 0.04%
    www.indeed.com 0.32% 0.05%
    www.dexknows.com 0.30% -0.02%
    www.yellowbook.com 0.27% 0.04%
    www.healthgrades.com 0.26% 0.03%
    www.manta.com 0.24% 0.24%
    agents.allstate.com 0.22% -0.01%
  • As can be seen from above nearly 53 % (52.85%) of first page real estate is dominated by EMD+PMD+Top 20 authority domains.
  • A further analysis of the backlinks of sites ranking in top 10 reveal, that the backlinks are built from industry specific sites.
  • These industry specific sites are combination of free sites, paid sites or a private network created and owned by SEO agencies.
  • One unique observation we have seen is that the backlinks do not have keyword anchor texts, but instead urls or business name in it. There is also anecdotal evidence where few people have posted similar observations on blogs like SEOMoz, SERoundtable, SearchEngineLand etc.
  • Another observation we have seen is that Youtube video links of clients have sometimes displaced the client’s website from first page.
  • In previous penguin update, if a website was hit, then the ranking would drop and the website would not be visible in top 100, 500 or 1000. However in this update, many sites are still seen in top 50.
  • We are still seeing a lot of sites ranking #1 using spammy backlinks from international non English language blog comments or links built using automated softwares.
  • Social links are visible in top 10 results more prominently than before.

So how does this affect SEO Strategy?

  • The first and most important change has to be related to anchor text. We would advise at least 80 % of your anchor texts should be Brand Name, website url, Combination of Business name and location etc. Of the remaining 20 % anchor text, avoid exact match keywords as much as possible.
  • The second most important change is in building industry specific links. Even if you are building local citations, industry specific links are recommended.
  • While building links from guest blogs, ensure that the anchor text is not an exact match. Instead try and include the keyword in content title and within the content. Also avoid links from author bio. Prefer links from content.
  • Stop over optimization. Stop including keywords in headers, footers, navigation.
  • Bundle in at least some aspects of Social within your SEO Plans.

How to future proof your business?

  • One of the things you have got to realize is Google will keep making these updates. The cost of paid clicks has gone up for many years. Expect these updates to increase the cost of SEO and decrease ROI compared to few years ago.
  • You have to stop keeping all your eggs in SEO basket. Start offering Pay Per Click Service, Social Media Service, Website Design and Development Service to your clients. Make sure you increase your revenues from these services.