A few days ago, Matt Cutts - head of Google's webspam team - answered some questions in his newest video about what webmasters and search engine optimizers (SEOs) should expect in the next few months and what his team is working on right now. We put together the 4 most important issues he addressed to give you a short overview of what to expect from the webspam departement this summer.
Penguin Update 2.0
After the first Penguin update in April 2012, Cutts had announced the «the next generation of Penguin.» This update - internally called Penguin 2.0 - can be expected to be launched within the next few weeks. It will dive even deeper, trying to find specific black-hat webspam methods designed primarily to boost Google rankings. It should be interesting to see which websites will profit and which will lose from the announced algorithm update. This as the last Penguin release already had a large impact, especially on database-driven websites. Cutts explained further, that Google is in the early days of working on a more ambitious system of link analysis, which will allow them to better understand links in general.
Google will increase their effort in fighting websites that use advertorials to artificially inflate their own link profile by passing on PageRank, as this violates Google's webmaster guidelines. As a consequence, selling links on sites that pass PageRank can lead to a penalty by Google. As Cutts wrote earlier: «Please be wary if someone approaches you and wants to pay you for links or “advertorial” pages on your site that pass PageRank. Selling links (or entire advertorial pages with embedded links) that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines, and Google does take action on such violations.»
Google is further improving their help for webmasters in various ways, especially for hacked sites. First of all, they are aiming to detect hacked sites more efficiently with the rollout of a new version of hacked sites detection. Furthermore, Google wants to improve their communication with the affected webmasters with a one stop shop, a single spot where webmasters can get all the information they need to clean up their infected sites.
Domain Clusters in SERPs
Google is also working on clustered results of the same domain in their search engine result pages (SERPs). The number of clusters of the same domain should decrease for first page search results, but probably increase for second page results. This should actually bring more diversity on first page search results.
Bottom line: Quality will matter even more!
Matt Cutts' own conclusion says it all regarding these expected changes: «If you're doing high quality content, whenever you do SEO, this shouldn't be a big surprise, you shouldn't have to worry about a lot of different changes. If you've been hanging out on a lot of black-hat forums and trading different types of spamming-package-tips, then it might be a more eventful summer for you.»
It will definitely be interesting to observe, if the announced updates also will have a bigger impact on non .com properties. There is still an on-going discussion about how and even if the first Penguin Update affected websites in Switzerland, Germany and Austria at all or if these changes merely focused on .com URLs. One way or the other, even if these changes didn't affect Swiss websites much, they clearly show the direction in which Google is heading - and sooner or later they will definitely have a global impact. This week’s announcement just exemplifies how Google will continue to work against black-hat SEO tactics and is shortening the time between their quality updates. As this happens, focusing on high-quality content will matter even more and we need to increasingly view SEO as an inherent part of a broad approach to online marketing in general, not just a technical task.