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The New Geography of Google: Your Link Strategy Post-Penguin 2.0

Google in the News

Why branding and local factors will matter more than ever

If you’ve done any reading regarding the fine art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you’ve no doubt discovered the love-hate relationship its practitioners have with Google. With “70 percent or more of search engine market share in nearly all 50 states [based on queries performed in 2012],” Google remains the driving force in search algorithms and evolution (Gesenheus).

That’s why each major update, including the recent Penguin 2.0, is watched so closely by marketers and researchers around the world. We break down what you need to know about the new landscape of search.

The First Coming of Penguin

The original algorithm update known as Penguin launched in mid-spring of 2012, and despite its unimposing name, there was considerable trepidation in the online community about the update’s effects.

The surface goal of every update, of course, is to provide more useful search results to users based on the factors that Google determines to be most relevant. At the time of launch, Matt Cutts of Google said that the changes would “better [identify] websites using ‘aggressive web spam tactics’…for the purposes of gaming their way to top spots in Google’s rankings” (Goodwin, “New Google”).

The businesses hit hardest in their rankings were (supposed to be) those relying on questionable paid links, comment spam, and other dubious content to inflate their search rankings. Penguin 1.1 launched in May 2012, defined as a “data refresh” rather than an actual algorithm change (Miller). For sites still reeling to recover from their former strategies, the terminology itself probably wasn’t too important. A second refresh came in October.

Why Penguin 2.0?

Penguin 2.0, which arrived last month, follows in the wake of last year’s updates, but is notable for its heightened scale and impact. Matt Cutts confirmed the update on May 22nd and noted that “[about] 2.3% of English-US queries are affected to the degree that a regular user might notice” (Cutts). If this seems minimal, consider that the October 2012 update impacted just 0.3% of English queries (Goodwin, “Google Penguin”).

This is also more than a data refresh, meaning the algorithm has undergone substantial changes. What those changes are, however, aren’t specified—and don’t count on getting any more details. For businesses relying on third-party agencies to tackle the challenges of SEO, updates like these can be cause for alarm. At 3 Birds Marketing, though, we recommend facing the updates with a clear head—and considering whether you need to make some changes to your own strategies to survive and thrive in the new Google geography.

Branding is the Key

In the words of Adam de Jong of Hubspot, “In the Aftermath of Penguin 2.0, Branding Is Now a Major Ranking Factor.” Branding is something we’ve always taken seriously at 3 Birds Marketing—we even offered five ways content can help make your name a brand last year.

For automotive dealerships focused on a small region of customers, the challenges of branding can be even more intimidating than for a nationally-based company. However, you don’t have to create a YouTube video with millions of views or write the most important blog post of the year to see real benefits for your business.

The key post-Penguin 2.0 is making your brand meaningful on a local scale. How do you achieve this? A few main factors will come into play.

·  Variety of content related to your “brand”

·  Content distribution

·  Local ranking factors (NAP)

Content variety refers to all of the different pieces of content that might impact your rankings: not only the content on your main website, but also your e-newsletter, your campaign landing pages, your videos, press releases, webinars, and more. Including a healthy mix of these content types accomplishes a few things. It helps you to build authority in your segment (which in turn helps you get noticed by a wider audience) and it provides more opportunities for Google’s search engine crawlers to determine whether you’re providing valuable, quality material for searchers.

Content distribution refers to where the different pieces of content related to your dealership can be found online. With Penguin continuing to crack down on spammy link-building sites, finding reputable outlets for sharing is vital. “You want to get your videos found and shared on YouTube and Vimeo, your presentations on SlideShare, your content on relevant sites and guest blogs, etc.” (de Jong).

Local ranking factors are centered around the holy trinity of Name, Address, and Phone Number—affectionately referred to as NAP. These factors became increasingly important in 2012, and the time frame is meaningful. As Google introduces new factors that it considers meaningful to search, it starts cutting out those deemed less meaningful, which is why it’s always important to think a few steps ahead.

The NAP info on your dealership’s website is considered authoritative, and “[each] place that your NAP information appears online is considered a citation—an additional data point that search engines can use to confirm that you are who, and where, you say you are” (Burr). That’s why 3 Birds Marketing focuses on claiming and maintaining the many review-building sites associated with your dealership in order to strengthen your online rankings.

Closing Words

Every time a new Google update rolls out, it’s tempting to hope for the best and run for cover. However, you’ll find more meaningful and lasting results with an SEO strategy that’s focused on long-term impacts and takes on the challenge of positioning your business as an authority within your industry and among your customers.

Are you ready to start the discussion about your dealership’s SEO? Contact us at 3 Birds Marketing to learn what you can do to achieve real ranking results beyond your own website.


Burr, Ruth. (2013). “Local Business SEO: Take Your NAP”. Grasshopper.

Cutts, Matt. (2013).Penguin 2.0 rolled out today”. Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO.  

de Jong, Adam. (2013). “In the Aftermath of Penguin 2.0, Branding Is Now a Major Ranking Factor”. HubSpot.

Gesenheus, Amy. “Study: Delaware Least Likely State To Use Google, While Yahoo Is More Popular In Southern & Midwest States”. Search Engine Land.

Goodwin, Danny. “Google Penguin Refresh Completes Trilogy of Search Terror for SEOs”. Search Engine Watch.

Goodwin, Danny. “New Google Search Algorithm Update Targets Web Spam”. Search Engine Watch.

Miller, Miranda. “Google Penguin 1.1 Pushed Out As Some Sites Report Recovery”. Search Engine Watch.