Google: Further Penguin Update “Jolts” To Come; Panda Is Smoother & Monthly

Fasten your seat belt, if you’ve been spamming Google. The anti-spam “Penguin Update” will have more jolts in the coming months, as Google continues to adjust it. In contrast, updates to the Panda algorithm aimed at low-quality pages are now so minor as not to be noticed, when they roll out monthly.

Speaking yesterday at the SES San Francisco conference, the head of Google’s spam fighting team Matt Cutts talked about how Google is still adjusting the Penguin Update algorithm that’s designed to penalize sites that spam Google.

Technically, Google’s saying that Penguin isn’t a penalty but rather an “adjustment” that simply doesn’t let sites get rewarded for spam as much as in the past. In particular, some linking activities that generated credit in the past seem to have been taken out.

Updatequakes & Aftershocks

Last year, Google rolled out its Panda Update designed to penalize (or adjust) pages that had poor quality content. Each further update produced changes in the search results, creating “winners and losers” that were felt across a wide-range of publishers.

But kind of like an major earthquake, each Panda update was more like an aftershock to the main quake, where the effects were less dramatic. Now Panda’s updated on a roughly monthly basis, Cutts said, and the changes are so subtle that few notice.

Indeed, Google itself hasn’t announced any major changes to get us from Panda 3.0 to Panda 4.0 and beyond. The latest, in late July, we dubbed Panda 3.9. It seems likely we’re going to have Panda 3.91 follow, rather than going to Panda 4.0.

Penguin Is Still Shaking Out

Penguin is different. Cutts said that because the Penguin algorithm is newer, it will face bigger adjustments and thus be more “jolting” for people it hits, until it smooths out over time similar to Panda. He also just added more to his statement yesterday in a comment at Search Engine Roundtable:

I was giving context on the fact that lots of people were asking me when the next Penguin update would happen, as if they expected Penguin updates to happen on a monthly basis and as if Penguin would only involve data refreshes.

If you remember, in the early days of Panda, it took several months for us to iterate on the algorithm, and the Panda impact tended to be somewhat larger (e.g. the April 2011 update incorporated new signals like sites that users block). Later on, the Panda updates had less impact over time as we stabilized the signals/algorithm and Panda moved closer to near-monthly updates.

Likewise, we’re still in the early stages of Penguin where the engineers are incorporating new signals and iterating to improve the algorithm. Because of that, expect that the next few Penguin updates will take longer, incorporate additional signals, and as a result will have more noticeable impact. It’s not the case that people should just expect data refreshes for Penguin quite yet.

So far, Google’s only announced one further change to Penguin, which we dubbed Penguin 1.1. That came last May, about a month after the initial Penguin Update. We made it Penguin 1.1 rather than Penguin 2.0 because, as Google said it impacted less than 0.1% of all search results, it seemed a minor change.

Will the next update be Penguin 1.2 or Penguin 2.0, and will it be soon? Certainly, it feels overdue, and given what Cutts said, it seems likely to be a major revision. Keep in mind, however, that for all the “losers” in any update that will scream, there will be winners — perhaps even some of the sites that lost initially.

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: Penguin Update | Panda Update Must-Reads | Panda Update News | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Gareth A. Boyd

    It’s hard to say. But I totally agree. Whenever Google needs to please shareholders, it seems they will go to any length and if that means killing small businesses, then so be it.

  • Nelson D

     Stop dropping your spammy url with bogus comments. Nothing exciting, Google is engaging in illegal, immoral and deceptive tactics to force site owners to advertise by cutting their traffic off. Call your senators or MPs, what Google is doing is illegal. Users are trained to expect unbiased results, not the most profitable ones for Google. After each updates Google’s earnings skyrocket and clicks on ads after Penguin rose by 42%! .

    Danny Sullivan and others are nothing but Google poodles, pushing Google’s official line as Google drives us out of business. Read the first paragraph; it seems like Google PR Department wrote. (probably they did)

  • findurlaptop

    How long these updates will jolt the SEO community.Either the SEO work will not require or New SEO methods will evolve.

  • David Smith

    Google are training its searchers to click on ads when it comes to commercial searches by making the organics less relevant and further down the page.  The perfect example of this is making Google Shopping a pay-to-play model.  It’s no longer about relevancy but how much you pay.  A big brand is (according to E Schmidt) already a relevant and quality result by dint of being a big brand.  THEREFORE, in Google’s eyes – might as well just make commercial searches a pay-to-play model – it acts like a filter to big brands. 

    Of course, it makes Google more money too.

    And of course, to anyone with any kind of common sense, absolutely trashes Google’s value in the long run.

    I mean – if Google want to court the big brands on commercial searches, it would be easy to copy their business model and just index the top 10,000 brands websites and create similar (or better!) results than Google.  Google’s unique selling point (depth and breadth of their index on commercial searches) is fast disappearing.

  • Todd Foster

    I always get nervous when I hear penguin because it hits some of my sites where I am not even spamming. I really find it hard to grasp the updates sometimes…

  • Durant Imboden

    Hold on a sec: You’re saying that Danny has “sold his soul to Google for a few silver coins” just because he suggests that spammers should expect more iterations of  Penguin? Would you prefer that he keep his mouth shut and let his readers be unpleasantly surprised?

  • Blue-eyed Gal

    Considering that Danny Sullivan has been loudly and repeatedly calling Google on the carpet for recent pay-to-play shenanigans, and considering that Danny Sullivan has been publicly calling on the FCC crack down on Google for breaking paid disclosure laws, you’ve picked the wrong target to accuse of shilling for Google.

  • MichelleRobbins

    happy to see they are continuing to clean up the serps.

  • Mhester

    I wonder when the new update will release and expecting better adjustment :)

  • SantaClaus

    What’s quality??

  • Reg Charie

    DUDE! What if the off page signals were pushing a low quality page into the top?

  • Reg Charie

    Alan, Do you not realize that Google stopped using off page factors when they redid the PageRank algos to be based on relevance in 2010?
    They have been telling us that they count for less since ’08.

    The reason they did this is that the “SEO” dudes pushing building links totally screwed the system.

    Social is being manipulated now.
    I can buy any number of Likes, Retweets, and G+1 votes that I want.

    The focus is now on page content and it’s presentation.

  • Reg Charie

    It is not “quality” that I look for when evaluating a page, but RELEVANCE.
    Quality is a subjective term. The same page can be quality for a thesis researcher but total gibberish for a high school drop out.

    Authority is now based on relevance rather than quantity and quality alone.

    Google is giving onpage factors almost all of the weight now.

  • Reg Charie

    ->”The challenge for Google is to separate the legitimate links from the
    friendship links, the courtesy links, and the purchased spam links.”

    Not if they base the links on relevance. (As they are now doing.)
    If the link, be they any one of the above mentioned, is relevant and increases the information silo value, then it is a good link.

    It would not matter if it was a paid link or not.
    It also would not matter if the link was nofollow or dofollow.

    Google is discounting non-relevant links now for PageRank.
    PageRank is not a factor in SERPs.
    I would assume that “quality” will be judged by CTR and bounce rates.

  • Norm Deplume

    It’s still easy to rank garbage with anchor text and bulk links. They don’t survive penguin refreshes, but the blackhat crowd is fine with earn, burn, churn. Search the big money phrases and do some research. SERPS in that space have -0- to do with relevance.

  • Jared Guyde

    Panda updates are weird, I have websites with zero links, literally not a single link, and they have an affiliate template on them, no KW domain and I rank number one on page one. Then I have websites that I build directory links to, article links to, etc… and put real effort into, and they disappeared from the index. I mean I can always just pay for adwords I guess, but I was pretty surprised at the websites they selected to have affected.

  • MobileMojo

    Don’t think people care anymore. Our site was affected by Panda and Penguin in April. We put in a reconsideration request that was approved just last week.
    It took us a lot of time and energy to go through the process and if the same thing happens again with this new update, quite honestly we wont be bothering with the effort again.
    Here is the full story –

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