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.

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

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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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  • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.wagner.web.video.consultant Patrick Wagner

    Exciting times ahead for anyone tracking these changes to ensure top SEO performance.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    It would be nice if Google would focus on ranking quality websites regardless of off-page signals.  People want to see quality results and do not care about off-page signals.  As a searcher myself, I just want to see good quality websites regardless of what they’ve done to try and rank.  Off-page signals have zero correlation to on-page quality of content.

  • http://twitter.com/Tomasz_Stopka Tomasz Stopka

    I feel some fear, becouse I don’t know on which factor Google will focus. I am aware, that some factors may course minuses to website and then I can see drop in SERP.
    In other hand, I am hopefully that my link building methods are better thet LB of my competitors and I won’t feel Pingwin update strongly.

  • smichaelgriffin

    I disagree. While there are notable exceptions, positive off-page signals overwhelmingly correlate with on-page quality.  When is the last time you tweeted, liked or linked to a poor quality page? 

  • http://twitter.com/pvused Pacific Vacuum

     Yikes. Glad you aren’t my SEO guy.

  • https://plus.google.com/101820649114000230035 Kaushal Shah

    OMG… Webmasters are still fighting with Panda, Penguin and they are coming with newer one. Lets see, Any idea how much percentage of search query get affected by it ? 

  • http://mobilephones.pk/ DrRoot

    Nothing of what he said indicates it would be happening anytime sooner. Nice to know that they are using data from users who block sites in panda updates!

  • smichaelgriffin

    (EDIT: ..oops, the below was in response to Pacific Vacuum’s now-edited comment, which I’d previously misunderstood)

    Note that I’m just stating the easily-observable *correlation* and am not offering prescriptive advice.  

    I stand by my statement: the general trend is that positive off-page signals correlate with the quality of on-page content. This correlation holds true to anecdotal experience (Zappos has a better link profile and more positive social signals than a shoe retailer like cheapfreeonsale .com) and it’s easy to infer the mechanism by which it would occur (influential people and reputable sites tend to link to and share sites with valuable, relevant content).

  • http://www.tylerherrick.com Tyler Herrick

    @twitter-64917025:disqus says the guy with the spammy twitter links to a blog, lol. 
    I agree with @smichaelgriffin:disqus about how off-page signals can correlate greatly with on-page content/quality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.landers Ben Landers

    Hopefully they’ll wait until AFTER labor day! ;-)

  • http://www.authoritybuzz.com/ Authority Buzz

    Good times ahead. Very exciting!

  • http://twitter.com/dr_pete Dr. Peter J. Meyers

    Frankly, the data I’m seeing doesn’t show Panda smoothing out. Every update is different – some data only, some data+algo. Panda 3.7 was huge, on part with Penguin 1.0, and probably should’ve been dubbed Panda 4.0. We’re starting to develop a false sense of complacency and treat every iteration as equal. They’re anything but equal.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/sanket Sanket Patel

    I think it will affect more to that site which has still low quality content.Let’s see, what will happen to our websites after penguin updates.
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/victoriousqueeen Fiza Malik

    Will these jolts horrible?  I am excited and frighted for the new updates. Lets see! Penguin I am waiting

  • Gary Bisha

    Panda and Penguin never hurt minifreelance. Never will – Because, though it was mis used by its users, it itself never spammed.

  • Vivek Sehgal

    Will these jolts horrible? Lets see! Penguin I am waiting

  • Amelia Smith

    it gona be a very horrible for the seo

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    …and positive off-page signals often point to crappy content too – thanks to the SEO industry.  Whatever Google say about their ability to detect paid links, the cat and mouse game will continue forever while off-page signals count.  So off-page signals are not an indicator of quality of content.

    Personally as a searcher, I’d just love to see quality content, products and services rank highly.  I don’t care if this is too difficult for Google to work out, that’s what I’d love to see.  So far, we’re not even close to getting there.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    So basically you’re endorsing the entire SEO industry – keep building links people, forget about actually building a quality product or service – because the links themselves indicate quality content, as you seem to think.

    Personally I’d rather see rankings based on their ACTUAL quality of content, products and services.  Tough problem to solve, but we might as well have high standards and try to achieve them.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    Well, allow me to be sarcastic and say thanks for contributing to the discussion here (particularly the ad hominem comment).

  • http://www.isthatbaloney.com/ IsThatBaloney.com

    Google has a lot of work to do and it makes me think that their algo is complete BS when I see some not-so-long-tail search results that are littered with spam. They are literally a spamfest. And then we have about dot com that is at the top of many, many searches when they are nothing more than a display site for Mostly Google ads. Honestly, Google could take an Altavista like fall just like any other has been search engine did. I am using them less and less every week.

  • rmonitor

    The big one should hit just before the big shopping season more or less. You will definitely have a fair chance to recover by Jan 2013 though. Meanwhile run to PPC Adwords while you can.

  • hupseymedia

    There is a way that detect low quality content, and that is machine reading.
    The se Yandex is using this for their algo..

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    I’ve been waiting for a Panda refresh to hit. It had too powerful of an impact the first time around to be a one time thing. I’m sure there are lots of site owners that are hoping the refresh will help them this time around, provided they made the right changes. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F2QHX54F67Z4WRQ3IYOFOSDY4Q Genda Dunmatta

     Agreed. As if we need an example of spammy long tail searches try “eml to pdf” where 1 company has 60-40% of the first page with their multiple sites for this term. There are other good or better pages for this search. Is the searcher really best served by showing them the same result 6 times? This happens throughout the long tail, and panda/penguin seem to have have made it worse.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F2QHX54F67Z4WRQ3IYOFOSDY4Q Genda Dunmatta

    Instead of beating my head against the wall, I decided to build a door. I gave up on some sites and built new ones that are now near or have exceeded the previous site ranks. It was just too frustrating to try and figure out why Google didn’t like the sites. Companies should rebrand from time to time anyway.

  • Peter Kern

    It seems the best solution at the moment. Build a new website and rank it even better than the old one. It is a shame that Google penalized good decent aged websites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/makemoneyforfree Webdesign Dev

    Next month they’ll announce that Panda will remove all websites form the internet, because they’re all spam. Only paid ads and Google owned results on the first page.

  • w3origin

    Excellent job……

  • http://www.seo.com/ Dustin Heap

    Going to be interesting to see the next round as I still don’t think many SEOs have adjusted completely to the type of link building that Google ultimately wants to rank. i.e. build an audience and create good content that gets shared naturally rather than try to manipulate the link graph in any way, shape or form.

  • http://www.facebook.com/drew.pokoj Drew Pokoj

    David, don’t be naive.. im sure users don’t read reviews on yelp or
    angies list to help decide if they want to use a product/service or not, because off-page factors have zero correlation, right? [/sarcasm] – Try “building links” where USERS would click on them… you must be confused with building SPAM links

    Those darn SEOs… why would you make off-site profiles to let people
    post reviews and what not, or write Press Releases to let people know
    know what your doing… why wouldnt you want to try and
    FIND them to TELL them your message?

    But thankfully off-page signals alone cannot get you ranked, for long at least… as you have obviously experienced first hand.

    SEOs are not YOUR problem here sir… and yes, I would like fries with that; thanks

  • ebizuniverse

    This shows that SEO companies better be on top of their game if they want to get their sites to be ranked. But the sad thing is that many of the good sites that were legitimately doing it has gotten hit. They would need multiple tweaks of this algorithm to get it right. I’ve seen many spam sites still rank on top for several highly competitive keywords. So I hope their tweaks and data refreshes straighten those out. They have a lot of work to do! 

  • http://twitter.com/kingjafee King Jafee

    Google is going to continue to shake up the results huh?

    Unless you consider the Pharm industry….

    Its the Wild Wild Web of cloaking, hijacking & redirects that Google doesn’t talk about.

    Like Detroit, Michigan.

    You know it’s exists you just either take a AAA detour route or don’t make eye contact with locals.

    Blah blah blah Panda, Penguin, and animals galore.

    I like turtles.

  • Peter Kern

    So far the changes they did made the search results worse. Hopefully other search engines will get this better and they will stop google monopoly. 

  • http://www.kwik-web.com/ Jason C

    I find it hard as an online marketer to always keep up with these changes on such a regular basis. I appreciate the reasons that they are making this changes and it always strives towards enforcing quality content but I find it frustrating always trying to keep up and modify my marketing strategies to make sure that Google will consider it quality.

  • Peter Kern

    Why my post was removed? Because I said that black hat SEO is still possible? :)

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

    Drew, not disagreeing with you about reviews and genuine off-page signals.  But did you read the bit where I said it’s easy to FAKE these kinds of off-page signals? Therefore, off-page signals have zero correlation to on-page quality content/product/service – it could signal quality, but then again, it could very well be faked. I’d love to know the ratio of genuine links compared to “proactive” link-built links on the net (not that you could ever measure or easily distinguish between the two kinds). If you were correct that off-page signals point to quality content each and every time, then wow – I don’t need to create quality content, I just need to build quality links via my credit card.  Oh wait, I’ve just described much of what the SEO industry is about.

  • http://twitter.com/ChristiaraST Christiara Sex Toys

    I have found that the updates have actually pushed up spammy websites on some searches. Several times i have clicked on a website and found information completely irrelevant to what im looking for. No faith in penguin or panda at all

  • http://twitter.com/DerekMaak Derek Maak

    Well, it’s been awfully quiet since Penguin.  I keep waiting for the next one and getting this eerie feeling that the relative silence means Google is working on something big.  Sounds like that may just be the case.  Perhaps this is the calm before the storm.  The “Killer Whale” is coming…

  • Alan

    Exactly right, The only reason Google uses off page signals is because it can’t really determine good quality content! They are basically saying we fail at working out content so we will crowd source the answer by counting links, etc. 

    Google’s admission of failure is glaring. No one wants to go back to the bad old days of altavista where the person with keyword spammed the most in title tag wins. However I believe the search engine that can truly give a proper evaluation of on page content will win in the future. The SEO industry has caused a lot of this with the focus on links, however the true culprit is Google itself. It made us love links and now it is trying to make us not love links as much!

    I don’t think that Social will be the answer either. Initially it will work but eventually, us SEO’s will manipulate that into oblivion also.

  • Alan

    Wow the discussion here is a lot more tame than on seroundtable.com !

  • Alan

    Because he doesn’t want the discussion to degenerate like it has on another SEO blog

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Disqus, the system that we use for comments, nabbed it as spam along with a number of comments for other people that clearly were not spam. I don’t know why it did this, but we’ll check on it. I’ve freed it and those other comments up. Sorry about that.

  • http://twitter.com/TMCARDS TMCARDS

    This time let’s hope for the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Codex-Meridian/100002285341528 Codex Meridian

     Come on guys, do you really understand what this is all about? See the logic below:

    Good decent aged websites == Solid SEO == High levels of Organic Traffic == Low PPC income for Google.

    The higher the number of good and decent aged websites on the Internet, the higher their potential to steal PPC traffic from Google.

    Matt Cutts and his team are so “working hard” (24/7 probably) to kill these “good decent aged websites” through their sadistic updates. This will force everyone to use PPC, obviously more money to Google. Have you read the news of  their recent earnings report?

    Google is now making mega-tons of money while killing all the small businesses on the Internet. Thanks to Penguin and Panda updates. I really don’t believe these are spam fighting algorithms as what Google says. Looks like money-making algorithms to me.

  • http://twitter.com/todayztrendz David Smith

     Hi Danny, I noticed a long post I made (30 mins worth) has gone too – would love if you could publish that (response to Durant Imboden)

  • philbutler

    Hey Danny. Am I allowed a loud gufaw laugh here. Aftershocks and gadzooks, SEO just hit the whirlpool when Google geniuses pulled the chain on these initiatives. Between people contacting me to remove links because of their idiocy, to reading how Google has shut down content farms – is anyone really minding the store here? 

    I can link you to 50 content farms that rank higher and get more traffic still from Google Com than authority sites of the past. Quality of what? Big spenders over little spenders I say. 

    Sorry to be negative Danny, but this stinks of more than some geek SPAM knighthood and SEO geology. 

    Phil

  • http://layer7host.com/ Layer7

    Fascinating and insightful discussion. What does it mean for small businesses? Should we be link building or content creating or both or something else?

  • http://twitter.com/nelsond25 Nelson D

    >> ” 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.”

    Danny Sullivan, the Google spokesperson, using Google’s talking points and all. Tell us Mr Sullivan, how much are you being paid for this?

    Fasten your seatbelt if you haven’t been paying Google, is the accurate headline Danny should have written. But he’s too busy selling tickets to his conferences and being a “Google insider” is a major selling point. What are going to do when Google does it almost all PPC? Write about Adwords?

    Ignore Danny, he has sold his soul to Google for a few silver coins. Google increased clicks on ads by 30% or more with Panda and another 42% on top of that with Penguin. That’s where your traffic is going, Danny is trying to fool you by repeating Google’s talking points.

  • Peter Kern

    100/100
    When I hear that Google will target low quality websites again :) I’m on the floor laughing :) Next update will target small decent, aged websites with good quality content which somehow still survived previous updates. Yet again big players will get top results because they are paying $$$$mln for adwords.But there is a good thing too, maybe other search engines will get more users.

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