Here, we'll discuss exactly what Penguin 2.0 is, and why keywords are becoming less important in writing search engine-optimized content.
What Is Penguin 2.0 and How Does It Affect SEO Writers?
This update focuses primarily on anchor text, backlink patterns and suspect link building practices (eg, paid links). As explained in the article Penguin 2.0: What Likely Changed and How to Recover, on the HuffingtonPost:
According to Matt Cutts, the new version of Penguin is primarily designed to penalize websites that utilize black hat SEO techniques and reward websites that offer genuine value. . . . The ultimate goal is to cut back on link spamming and hacking, while providing webmasters with the tools to fix hacked sites.So, what does this have to do with keywords and writing SEO content?
The Beginning of the End for a Major Focus on Keywords
Well, it actually all started back with the first Panda update back in 2011. One of the things this update targeted was sites that had pages where content was "over optimized" for a certain keyword phrase (eg, using keyword stuffed copy). It was reinforced in another Panda update in 2012.
As explained in the article, Survive Any Google Panda Update – Conduct SEO Based Upon Relevance on SiteFinity.com:
Panda is considering your Keyword Density … No one can tell you the magic ratio for this. There are Keyword Density Analyzer tools available that will tell you the magic number is 2-3%. But don't rely strictly on a Keyword Density Analyzer to decide whether or not you have satisfied Google Panda's measurement of this. …
You must use keyword density in a strategic manner that is natural to the flow and readability of an article. The minute you try to dump in keywords into every other sentence to rank high in the search engines – watch out for the big Panda slap!What Is the Correct Keyword Density Nowadays
FYI, a generally accepted keyword density these days is between 1-2 percent. A rule of thumb we use at my SEO writing company when writing web content is NOT to use a keyword phrase more than once every 100 to 150 words.
Now, back to In Penguin 2.0 -- one of things it aims to "correct" when it comes to keyword usage is anchor text. In the past, webmasters were told to avoid using phrases like "click here" as anchor text and to use keyword phrases instead. Now Google seems to be drilling down even further.
3 Rules for Using Keywords as Anchor Text Post-Penguin 2.0
Well, it wants SEO writers to do three specific things, ie:
(i) Stop using (over using) exact match keywords as anchor text: The reason Google gave for making this change is that after analyzing a lot of data, it found a correlation between exact match anchor text and spam. So be careful of this when writing SEO content.
What Is Exact Match Anchor Text?
It's just like what it sounds like it would be – an EXACT match of a keyword phrase used as anchor text (even if the phrase isn't grammatically correct).
Just remember, Google wants well written (ie, grammatically correct), informative content. So intentionally using an exact keyword phrase as anchor text that gets lots of searches, but is not proper grammar, will no longer be rewarded like it was before. In fact, your site could be penalized for this.
(ii) Vary anchor text: In the past, a webmaster could target a certain keyword phrase to rank for by writing a lot of content using that phrase as anchor text and eventually rise in SERP rankings.
Well, no longer. Google doesn't want to see a lot of pages on a site with the same anchor text used over and over again. They want to see a variety of keyword phrases used as anchor text.
(iii) Use branded anchor text: This is probably one of the most under-utilized keyword anchor text techniques. And ironically, it is one of the easiest ways for Google to detect an unnatural link profile. In case you don't know what brand-based anchor text is, following are some examples.
- Your Company Name
- Your Company's Website
The overall lesson that Google seems to be sending to webmasters with the Penguin 2.0 update is not to rely on just one metric, eg, keywords, to rank well. The key is variety – in your keyword usage, in your anchor text, in your link building strategy, etc.
While keywords will always play an important part in writing SEO content, it's only a part. Other things like on- and off-page SEO factors; the trust and authority of the domain; the link popularity of the specific page; and site traffic and navigation are all taken into account.
Yuwanda Black has been a freelance writer since 1993. She heads New Media Words, an SEO writing company she founded in 2008. In 2007, she started earning $100-250+/day writing SEO content -- in less than three weeks. In 2009, she developed an SEO copywriting course that teaches aspiring freelancers the skills they need to do the same, right from the comfort of home. You can take the class online -- or in person in Jamaica!