Big Brand SEO & Penguin 2.0
In discussing multinational SEO, I frequently refer to larger brand sites — FTSE 250 or Fortune 500 companies — while outlining tips, techniques or new strategies.
But, multinational SEO isn’t exclusive to big brands. Much of my advice is also intended for smaller businesses looking to get a leg up globally by taking advantage of the new tools rolled out by Google in 2012 and updated through 2013.
Taking a broader look at Multinational SEO does brings up particular issues for the big brand sites out there, though; and, in light of the recently launched Penguin 2.0 update, I thought it would be useful to look at particular areas of concern for big site SEO.
What Are The Characteristics Of Penguin 2.0 & Why Should I Care?
If you’re a big brand owner, then you’ve likely dealt with the impact from Penguin 1.0 and its updates in the past. In particular, you may have discovered that your legacy backlink profile was causing serious ranking issues. If so, you’ve no doubt struggled to replace your old link building strategies with more effective, ethical and content-led ones.
Penguin 2.0 is a “more comprehensive” and “deeper targeting” (Matt Cutts) update that was aimed at explicitly black-hat techniques — so, if you’re still struggling from Penguin 1.0, your woes have just gotten worse.
Many big brand websites have been around for quite some time and have built up a hugely varied backlink profile over the years. This often includes links that, if built today, would be seen as black hat. These don’t technically fall afoul of Penguin 2.0, as Google has gone on record to state that they don’t retroactively apply spam penalties to sites for links that become black hat after a guideline change. (However, your rankings can still drop significantly due to these low-quality inbound links being given less weight.)
This makes auditing a big-brand backlink profile extremely difficult. You need to match up the date when a backlink was first detected to a record of what Google (and Bing, Yahoo!, Naver, Yandex and Baidu) stated was allowable at the time. That backlink “event calendar” can then be used for a more sophisticated bulk audit to identify offending backlinks where a penalty has been levied.
So, if you’ve been building links that are in contravention of Google Webmaster Guidelines, then you now have even more reason to stop. You also have a reason to start auditing anything that’s been built in the past that was unethical and disavow it.
For big brands, this also puts management of your SEO more closely in your control. It’s a lot easier for a single person to effect change through a Google account than for a group of internal content teams or development agencies to implement technical and on-page changes or develop stand-alone “content” sites that serve no purpose (other than to provide external links that would be more useful within the main site domain).
Sophisticated Backlink Analysis Started, What’s The Competitive Advantage?
Well, digging into Matt’s comments a bit further, there are a few standout items that will allow for optimisation. In particular:
- “Authorities” in niches will see their visibility increased in the next update round.
This impacts authority optimisation: the use of content strategies that leverage authoritative voices in your market are now much more valuable. This is an extension of Google’s doubling-down on gathering more social signals and incorporating them into Google’s main algorithm — beyond simply surfacing the benefits to logged-in searchers.
For big brands, this means that outsourcing your content creation entirely to PRs or SEM agencies will now be less effective. Instead, they will have to implement more integrated campaigns, centered around authoritative content that is set up to deliver SEO benefit to the site.
Project management will be more highly valued in agencies, as that’s the key to delivering this type of integrated content strategy. It bodes well for the health of the SEO industry as a whole that the authenticity of a voice is given further weight, as it incentivises the right behaviour for the benefit of the searcher (and therefore, the consumer).
To wrap up on the prevailing trend for big brand SEO: get control of your existing SEO efforts; and, if you haven’t already, get your team working to a coherent content strategy that uses your thought leaders’ own voices to get the good word out about your brand.
Then, follow that up with marketing and social promotion that serves a dual purpose for SEO and brand awareness.
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