For the past few weeks, Google and Matt Cutts (head of the webspam team at Google) have alluded to an upcoming Penguin algorithm update. Well, yesterday, during an episode of This Week in Google, Cutts announced that the update was being rolled out within "the next few hours" (his announcement begins around the 1:21:00 mark). He also wrote a post on his personal blog announcing the official arrival of Penguin 2.0. Technically, this is the 4th update to Penguin, but since this is a "brand new generation of algorithms," as described by Cutts, it has been referred to as 2.0 within Google.
For those of you who aren't ingrained in the day-to-day happenings within the SEO realm, Google makes around 500-600 changes to its search algorithm a year, which includes occasional "major" updates. In recent years, these major updates have targeted everything from thin content to exact-match domains and local search results.
The first release of the Penguin algorithm update came on April 24, 2012 with the purpose of cleaning out webspam from search results while rewarding high quality content that was in accordance with Google's quality guidelines. According to Cutts, that algorithm primarily applied to homepages, while 2.0 will go deeper.
Since Penguin 2.0 has only been rolled out for a few hours, it is still too early to determine its full impact. Presently, the most we know about this update was revealed in a Google Webmaster video featuring Cutts from last week, as shown below. In true Google/Cutts fashion, its mention is quite brief and vague.
What Lies Ahead
Like any algorithm update, and almost daily when SEOs across the world suspect an algorithm update, there was a lot of confusion and whining following the release of Penguin 1.0. Upon its initial release, Penguin 1.0 was announced to impact 3.1% of English queries, while Penguin 2.0 is supposedly poised to impact 2.3% of English queries. Despite the lower number, this update is supposed to affect more SEOs and webmasters, so expect a lot more noise and backlash this time around.
By all appearances, Penguin 2.0 will crack down on sites in violation of their quality guidelines on a new level, with improved methods of detection and action.
So, What Should I Do?
First, monitor your organic search traffic and rankings over the next couple days for signs of unusual activity. For an indication of the overall impact of Penguin 2.0 to compare to the activity you're seeing in your own analytics, you can also monitor Mozcast, which gives a "weather report" of search engine fluctuation for previous days.
If you were hit by Penguin 1.0 (or either of its subsequent updates prior to 2.0), then keep doing what you should have been doing all along: reviewing Google's quality guidelines and going through your site and link profile with a fine-tooth comb.
In fact, there is a reason I've linked to Google's quality guidelines twice in this post. Hell, make it three. While Google discloses that they may consider some practices to be low-quality without explicitly defining them in their guidelines, they do list a few basic principles that encompass the vast majority of "black hat" tactics.
If you find that you may have been hit by Penguin 2.0, and you've done your own optimization, then you should have a decent idea of why the mighty algorithm frowned upon your site. Of course, there is occasionally unintended collateral damage in major updates, and if you feel your site has been unfairly hit you can file a reconsideration request (which you can also do once you believe you have remedied the questionable techniques for which you were hit).
For those that have striven to produce quality content and build natural links, you should have nothing to worry about and this should be good news, as more spam is removed and devalued in search results.
With 2.0 billed to "go deeper" and have "a greater impact" than 1.0, the next 24 hours should be interesting. Stay tuned for further updates.
Update (5/23 - 11:47 AM): So far, very few have reported being "hit" by Penguin 2.0 and it seems to have had less of an impact as 1.0. Mozcast is reporting 81° and some "turbulence" yesterday, which is the same as it was on Tuesday.