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Matt Cutts Announces Yet Another Google Update: Dancing with Penguin 2.1

October 8, 2013

Back in May, Matt Cutts announced Penguin 2.0 and had this to say about the update: “So this one is a little more comprehensive than Penguin 1.0, and we expect it to go a little bit deeper, and have a little bit more of an impact than the original version of Penguin.”

This past Friday, October 4, 2013, Penguin 2.1 was announced by Cutts on Twitter.


This is the fifth installment of the Penguin updates. Although this latest version of Penguin isn’t as far reaching as its predecessor, Penguin 2.0, the 1% of affected queries is still a significant portion in comparison to past “minor” refreshes since Google answers more than one billion queries a day! For those unfamiliar with Penguin, these updates target external violations of Google’s guidelines. This latest update appears to be hitting sites with a sudden dramatic rise in referring domains and spammy anchor text. Those affected by the recent Penguin 2.1 update are most likely seeing a marked drop in traffic and keyword rankings.

Many SEO forums have been flooded with complaints from webmasters and fellow SEO-ers about the update. Some are complaining about keywords dropping a number of pages in ranking, or all together not appearing; others have already seen a dramatic drops in traffic, especially toward the homepage. Although, it is difficult to tell what the effects may be just yet as the refresh was just activated this past Friday.

In order to combat Penguin 2.1, it remains imperative to maintain a healthy backlink profile. Some key things to look at in order to determine any possible red flags is to take a look at

Over-optimized keyword anchor text

Search engines use anchor text to determine the relevance of a link in relation to the search query. But Google has become wise to overly optimized anchor text that is attempting to manipulate the search results. Exact matches to keywords should only make up a very small portion of a site’s anchor text.

Sudden rise in referring domains

Google pays attention to the rate at which backlinks are acquired. Going from 15 backlinks to 1500 in a matter of days does not look natural to Google and will definitely get you a red flag, or worse– a manual penalty. In order to avoid appearing spammy, slow and steady wins the race.

Irrelevant or misleading anchor text

As mentioned, search engines use anchor text to help determine relevancy of the link. If the backlink is a race car enthusiast site with “free car repair” as the anchor text, but is linking to a furniture store, that is not relevant– or providing a good user experience.

Not enough variation on anchor text on multiple backlinks on the same referring domain

Google does not like to see copy/paste content at all and the same applies to backlink profiles. Repeating anchor text should be avoided in excess. Looking at a backlink profile, one referring domain with 30 links going toward your site should have a variation of keywords, not “cheap couches for sale Tallahassee, FL” over and over again.


Penguin 2.1 is simply delving deeper into external malpractice and “black-hat” SEO. It is putting an emphasis on obtaining links from other reputable sites and linking in a natural way. Google sees this process as ensuring quality content presented in its SERPs.

The bottom line is that and that Google is constantly updating their search algorithm and Penguin 2.1 is just that. Likewise, SEO is a constantly evolving industry so it is important to stay up to date with the most current SEO strategy and standards.

Aaryn is one of the Account Managers at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here. Thanks for reading the SEOhaus blog!