Since the beginning of 2013, the search engine optimisation industry has been preparing itself for a new update to Google’s Penguin algorithm. Like all updates, it’s difficult to know what to expect, but Matt Cutts at Google has hinted at a few likely changes. Here are the four danger zones to watch out for.

Advertorial Content

Earlier this year, Google raised a penalty on Interflora, a global florist network. The brand had been completely blocked from search for almost two weeks prior.

Google is always fairly cagey about its decisions, but it appears that it blocked Interflora for running big adverts containing links – ‘paid links’, according to the search engine. Google also suspected Interflora of bribing people with freebies in return for links, which counts as the same thing.

In Penguin 2.0, expect heavy penalties for any site seen to be exchanging money for links, particularly if they’re seeking to disguise ads amongst editorial content. Any communications or press officer should be aware of this already.

Spam Controls

Some topics are prime targets for black hat SEO techniques. The most well-known at the moment is the payday loans industry. Payday loans companies distribute short term loans that attract very high interest rates.

One individual was found to be controlling three of the top spots for ‘payday loans’ in Google, with one company – JimLoans – sitting pretty at number 1. The domain had more than four thousand backlinks pointing at it, according to Barrie Smith at Receptional, and had managed to evade detection. Google is likely to be less forgiving as the year goes on.

Link Directories

Google is dead against anything that could be seen as manipulation, and link directories are likely to be a target this time around. Many website owners have used directories to generate back links, but when Penguin 2.0 hits, you’ll be better off out of the directory altogether.

This will solve the manipulation issue, and it will also prevent people from hacking HTML code and inserting links en masse into hidden parts of the page. Anchor text is also a talking point: simply linking keywords over and over will now be a negative, rather than a positive point.

Genuine, worthwhile directories are unlikely to be affected too badly. But stay away from any site with a high pagerank and a massive amount of existing links; you’ll only get caught up in the fuss when it’s penalised.

Authority Recognition

With Google+, Google brought in Google Authorship, a way for content writers to link their work and claim credit for it in search results. Even if you’re not convinced about Google+ yet, you really need to be on board with Authorship if you’re not already.

Authorship involves linking content to the Google+ page of the person who wrote it, thus giving it authenticity and building authority. Across the web, Google will tie together social signals and Google+ Author data in order to promote content written by recognised authorities.

Taking Action

There’s still time to take action before Penguin 2.0 hits. If you’re been using any underhand tactics, or you know you’ve been bending the rules, now’s the time to put your mistakes right before it costs you dear.

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