For a month that usually finds spring in full swing, a lot of web marketers confronted the arctic chill of Google’s Penguin penalties in May. The Penguin 2.0 update was a good reminder that content marketing is the key to SEO, with advanced link detecting technology that fights harder against sites with link schemes. 

Although a whopping 2.3 percent of English queries were changed because of Penguin 2.0, sites that were using consistent content to drive search presence (and organic links) were generally spared. Here’s a closer look at Penguin and Brafton’s take on other notable content marketing insights that came to light in May.

Penguin 2.0 and the future of links for SEO

On May 22, Google rolled out Penguin 2.0, and – as Brafton reported – the new technology continued Penguin’s refinement enabling Google to better detect spam links. Brafton delivered a full Penguin infographic featuring an algorithm timeline, with some tips on avoiding a Penguin penalty now and moving forward. Just in case it wasn’t clear, the search engine means business about no-tolerance for black hat links. Matt Cutts also followed up with a Tweet request asking users to notify Google of spammy sites that Penguin 2.0 missed.

Through the update, marketers had the following insights from Cutts:

“If you’re doing high-quality content whenever you’re doing SEO, you shouldn’t have to worry about changes. If [not] … it might be more of a difficult summer for you.” – Matt Cutts, May 2013

  • “If using the disavow tool – disavow the entire domain.” 
  • “Links still have many, many good years ahead of them … “

In a related Webmaster Central video issued just before the Penguin release, Cutts also mentioned Google is trying to de-value link spammers, and the company is building even more sophisticated link analysis tools that will follow Penguin 2.0. Yet, in a follow-up video, he later suggested marketers focus less on links moving forward. He warned against getting tunnel vision when optimizing websites, favoring link building efforts over content and UX. Still, Google is starting to reconsider whether some sites were hit too hard by its content-focused algorithm, Penguin.

Panda to give passing mark (if not A) for content efforts

One of Cutts’ other SEO insights for the summer of 2013 suggests websites may get credit for trying with content. Panda will probably soften its impact on sites that are in a gray area, with content that is good even if not quite good enough to satisfy every user. (Panda aside, businesses will feel the impact in terms of on-site engagement and conversion activities if their content isn’t up to ‘snuff.) Even as its content-centric algorithm gives some slack, it seems the search engine will bring down the hammer on other editorial practices.

Advertorials: Expect to pay when you buy ‘editorial credit’

AdvertorialAdvertorials, where brands pay for coverage, are not inherently bad practice. But in his future of SEO insights, Cutts was firm that paid content should not pass page rank, and users should be notified when content is placed on websites for a fee. The company will be looking for ways to punish sites for advertorials that go against its quality guidelines. As bad advertorial practices are essentially bought links, could this be connected to the sophisticated link analysis he mentions in the same video?  

The conversation also has a similar feel to Cutts’ cautionary note on guest blogs in September of 2012. Content shared across reputable sites, or posting on behalf of your company in niche publications can have a positive SEO impact and promote brand authority, but the emphasis should go on creating valuable content worthy of cross-web publication. (And transparency is key if advertorials are an initial route toward building a presence on respected sites.)  

This makes a strong case for also focusing on the content published directly on a brand’s site, as Cutts also said last month that websites recognized by Google for niche authority have an edge in rankings compared to isolated pieces that have SEO qualifiers. Check out our Editor-in-chief Richard Pattinson’s post on the principles of interconnected content to get the most out of your on-site publications.

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Cutt the spam across the social web

“Twitter is committed to aggressively protecting its users from spam, and we use all tools at our disposal to shut down spammers.” -A Twitter spokesperson, May 2013

May’s headlines also reminded marketers that high-value content is essential for reaching audiences beyond search. An AllThingsD report covered the latest one of five lawsuits Twitter has filed against companies that spam its platform with unoriginal content. Months ago, Twitter revealed it garners 340 million Tweets each day, but its latest legal action proves it will gladly reduce that number if it means removing spam updates that saturate the site.

While sharing website headlines won’t hurt a site that has a solid content strategy, social networks are clearly developing strategies to reduce visibility of automated content that doesn’t add value. Businesses that haven’t considered a social editorial brief to produce unique platform updates or interact with fans should start now.

Let’s get visual: Infographics = better results, lower costs

Infographics more visibility than display adsTo really get in front of audiences, brands might also consider organic content over paid alternatives. May brought more evidence of the value of editorial visual content. Banner and display ads, which Brafton has noted have increasingly fallen behind other formats for exposure, are proven to drive less visibility than infographics. As Brafton reported, Submit In Me discovered that infographics have 300 percent more visibility than display ads.

Of course, well designed display ads may be a valuable component in a content marketing arsenal. But the data suggests editorially driven, well-marketed infographics are a clear approach to success. Brafton’s recent webinar – 7 steps to infographic marketing success< – covered need-to-know insights on building strategies, designing editorial graphics and marketing them across the web for maximum ROI. Email us at for a recorded version of the event!

With SMX Advanced coming up next week, and IRCE happening this week, marketers can expect June to bring a lot of industry insights that might shape their content strategies. Thanks for tuning in, and subscribe to Brafton for more content marketing updates and insights.