When Matt Cutts speaks, the world listens. We reach out our hands to catch even the tiniest morsels that make up the bread that fills the basket that is Google. We hush in anticipation, as we know that we are about to be revealed another piece of the puzzle that is Google's search algorithms. We want to know these dark, esoteric, technological secrets because a) as humans we are genetically coded to abhor secrets and shadow-talk, and b) as SEOs we are competing in a business where only the first place is rewarded. And now Matt Cutts has spoken a glorious 7 minutes, 24 seconds on Penguin 2.0, the next version of Google's spam-blasting incarnation.
Before you pack your survival kit and head for the fox hole you dug out in the back yard, don't fret. If you've been doing things by the book, you should be OK. Well, you never know with Google, but that's what we've been promised. Remember, Google only wants you to do a quality website. There's no magic to it, you just have to create good content for people who might be genuinely interested in reading it. Doing things all clean like this, your site's link profile should have accumulated organically, without you taking part in any dirty link-scavenging schemes (black hat SEO, as the industry calls it).
However, if you've been buying links, or if you've accumulated links from directories or services which exist in the periphery of good taste, you might be in trouble. You should always try to aim for links which come from domains that relate to your business. Getting links from authority sites that have direct relevance to your own is a win-win situation in SEO. You get the important link you need, and you increase the authority of the hub that linked to you, thus increasing the power of your connection.
If your links come from disreputable sites, or sites with low authority, you might be considered a prime candidate to target with spam-based demotion in Penguin 2.0.
Penguin 2.0 speculation
Remember that this is all still speculative. Matt Cutts can't and won't go into detail, because that's just how things roll in the Googleplex. They want us to find out for ourselves, and thus keep the search engine industry blooming. However, he does have a pretty good idea on how things might turn up in Penguin 2.0, and here's its current status:
1. Advertorials Google are looking to punish advertorials whose sole reason is to pass PageRank. Advertorials are basically legitimate looking texts or articles, but they contain paid links back to the website where the commission originated from. Google wants to target these page links, as they do not want to permit PageRank flowing from articles whose link value is bought, and not earned through authority and relevance. In Penguin 2.0, advertorials need to be conspicuous. The readers must be aware that the text is an advert, or otherwise penalties might kick in.
2. Spammy queries Another thing Penguin 2.0 will target are queries that are traditionally contested by spammers. Google wants to clean these queries up and provide results that are actually relevant. This is, of course, good news to porn hunters, as the adult industry is possibly one of the most spammed niches of the web. All in all, the new update will take a strong stand against link spamming and link spammers.
3. Webmaster tools Google wants to help webmasters with better tools. One of these new tools will have to do with hacked site detection and with remedies to battle hacking. If a webmaster finds out that their site has been hacked, Google provides the tools to report this and fix the situation.
4. Authority counts! Now's the time to look at your link profile and start hounding for links coming from authorities in your field of business. Google is looking to increase the visibility and PageRank of authority sites. What this means is that if you are recognized (by Google's algorithms, of course) to be an authority in your field of business or information, your site will gain momentum in the organic ranking of pages. Naturally, all sites who benefit from your generous links will enjoy this change as well.
5. Cluster-proofing Penguin 2.0 will make changes to how we see clustered results in search queries. Have you ever noticed that when you go past page 3 or 4 in Google's search results, you'll find a bunch of results coming from the same host domain? This is host clustering, and it basically means that a single domain is over-represented in search results when going deeper in. The planned algorithm change will activate so that if you've already seen results from a domain, it will be less likely that you'll see more hits from that domain further on down the chain.
What goes around, comes around
Even though this is all just speculation, and nothing is official yet, we know that Matt Cutts doesn't waste his breath on trivialities. So my advice is this:
Look at your link profile and clean it up if necessary. Get those suspicious looking, low-authority domains away from there, and start looking for authority websites that might spread you with link honey.
Keep creating quality content. Nothing is more effective than doing what you should be doing. Stop looking for ways to manipulate the search engines, and start looking for ways to coexist with them. Penguin 2.0 might sound like a fluffy toy or something to do with Linux, but it will surely cause some mayhem, especially with sites boasting vast link diversity.