Google’s Matt Cutts: Next Generation Of The Penguin Update “Few Weeks” Away

penguinIn March, Google’s chief web spam fighter Matt Cutts promised that the Penguin Update designed to fight spam would get a big refresh later this year. Today, Cutts gave an update — keep waiting. It’s still a few weeks off. Along the way, there’s some confusion about whether the next Penguin Update will be Penguin 2 or Penguin 4. It’ll be Penguin 4, in how we reckon things. Let’s dive in.

This Week Wasn’t Penguin

Publishers have already been wondering if a change in rankings that many have noticed this week was some type of Google update. Google won’t say what, if anything happened.

However, Cutts has ruled out that it was the significant Penguin Update he warned in March would be coming. He tweeted:

He went on to say that the next Penguin Update is a few weeks out:

Counting The Pandas & Penguins

Note that Cutts refers “Penguin 2.0″ as the coming rollout. How can that be, when we’ve had three confirmed Penguin updates already, with Penguin 3 happening in October?

This all goes back to a different update, the Panda Update, which first launched in February 2011. That was Panda Update 1. Of course, we didn’t call it Panda 1 then, because as the first Panda Update, it was just called “The Panda Update.”

Two months later, Google made a huge change to Panda, so the next version was called Panda 2. But when the third release happened, and people started calling that Panda 3, Google said that because the changes to the filter weren’t so dramatic, it would better be called Panda 2.1.

That left it to Google to call the shots on whether a Panda Update was big enough to go through a full point change or not. And that became ridiculous when we got to something like Panda 3.92, last September. As we explained then, when the updates started going to two decimal places, we felt maybe just a straight Panda 1, 2, 3 and so on number order made sense, no decimals involved.

Renumbering The Pandas

When what would have been Panda Update 3.93 came around, we decided enough was enough. We renumbered all the Panda Updates that had happened, regardless of how big they were, believing that was a clearer way forward.

The number no longer reflects whether there’s been a major “generational” change or not. The number is just a common reference point for everyone to use, not some type of magnitude.

For the record, here’s where we are with Panda. The impact each update had on queries is shown, when provided by Google, after the number:

  1. Panda Update 1, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
  2. Panda Update 2, April 11, 2011 (2% of queries; announced; rolled out in English internationally)
  3. Panda Update 3, May 10, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  4. Panda Update 4, June 16, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  5. Panda Update 5, July 23, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  6. Panda Update 6, Aug. 12, 2011 (6-9% of queries in many non-English languages; announced)
  7. Panda Update 7, Sept. 28, 2011 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  8. Panda Update 8, Oct. 19, 2011 (about 2% of queries; belatedly confirmed)
  9. Panda Update 9, Nov. 18, 2011: (less than 1% of queries; announced)
  10. Panda Update 10, Jan. 18, 2012 (no change given; confirmed, not announced)
  11. Panda Update 11, Feb. 27, 2012 (no change given; announced)
  12. Panda Update 12, March 23, 2012 (about 1.6% of queries impacted; announced)
  13. Panda Update 13, April 19, 2012 (no change given; belatedly revealed)
  14. Panda Update 14, April 27, 2012: (no change given; confirmed; first update within days of another)
  15. Panda Update 15, June 9, 2012: (1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  16. Panda Update 16, June 25, 2012: (about 1% of queries; announced)
  17. Panda Update 17, July 24, 2012:(about 1% of queries; announced)
  18. Panda Update 18, Aug. 20, 2012: (about 1% of queries; belatedly announced)
  19. Panda Update 19, Sept. 18, 2012: (less than 0.7% of queries; announced)
  20. Panda Update 20 , Sept. 27, 2012 (2.4% English queries, impacted, belatedly announced
  21. Panda Update 21, Nov. 5, 2012 (1.1% of English-language queries in US; 0.4% worldwide; confirmed, not announced)
  22. Panda Update 22, Nov. 21, 2012 (0.8% of English queries were affected; confirmed, not announced)
  23. Panda Update 23, Dec. 21, 2012 (1.3% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  24. Panda Update 24, Jan. 22, 2013 (1.2% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
  25. Panda Update 25, March 15, 2013 (confirmed as coming; not confirmed as having happened)

Panda 25 was the first time Google itself didn’t confirm whether a Panda Update had happened, part of its policy that it wasn’t likely to confirm these going forward, since they rollout over the course of days now. Instead, it was left to third-parties to decide if one had hit.

Did Panda 26 Just Happen?

This also means that the update that’s caused chatter this week might be Panda 26. It might be something else. We don’t feel confident enough to declare it Panda 26 ourselves, which is why our list stops at Panda 25. But with Penguin ruled out, it does suggest that maybe Panda 26 had happened this week.

Or maybe not. Isn’t reading Google tea leaves fun?

Penguin 2.0 Or Penguin 4?

That leads to Penguin. This is how those have gone, so far:

In our numbering system, regardless of how “big” the next Penguin Update is, we’ll still call it Penguin 4.

It will be big. We know that already from what Cutts has said in the past. In fact, it’s so big that internally, Matt said today that Google refers to it as Penguin 2.0.

From what Cutts tweeted to me:

Oh dear, but if this next one is the “true” Penguin 2, are we going to make a mistake calling it Penguin 4? I’ll argue not as big a mistake as if we called it Penguin 2.

Why We’ll Call It Penguin 4

See, let’s go back to Panda. In October 2011, we wrote that Panda 2.5 was live. Google hadn’t said it was a massive new change, so that seemed the right number. But the following month, Google said that Panda 2.5 would have been better described as Panda 3.0. We corrected that after the fact — but it would have been easier if Google had called it that way from the start.

We can’t depend on Google to consistently tell us how massive a particular update is, or even if an update happens at all. Because of this, linking magnitude to some decimal-based numbering system seems a mistake.

We have to use something that isn’t going to change months later on. The new numbering system has worked well with Panda, and we’ll stick with it for Penguin.

Ideally, I’d love to see Google itself simply list any significant change with the date it happens and some common reference name. I think that’s useful for publishers — not spammers, but any publisher — trying to understand if they’ve been impacted by something that they should correct. You can’t fix what’s wrong if you don’t have a good sense of what it was.

Postscript By Barry Schwartz: On Monday, May 13, 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts published a video about the future SEO changes to expect with Google in the next few months. The first point Matt Cutts makes is about this Penguin update and how it will go deeper and impact more SEOs and webmasters than the first generation version. Here is that video:

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Penguin Update | 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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  • Stuart Atkinson

    Google wouldn’t need a head of spam if they hadn’t caused this problem themselves. The web is full of crap because of their algorithms – which clearly have failed to pick out the most relevant content in response to an enquiry.

  • Law @ Drumtrip

    Relying on somebody elses business model is suicidal anyway. We can only play by Google’s rules as its their playground.
    Good luck with your new marketing strategy! The irony of it is, if its a success, your Google ranking will no doubt improve as a side-effect.

  • Matt McGee

    Well, I got online in 1994 and Google was still a few years away from existence. There was PLENTY of spam on the web before Google.

  • Stuart Atkinson

    I’m not sure I remember :-) You’re probably right. I’m probably just reflecting on the fact that I was sent some content for my blog which had the sole purpose of promoting a link. The post made barely any sense at all – like a lot of content :-)

  • Anca Bradley

    I wish they’d give us a little more room to wiggle and not be so strict about it. Many of the updates affected great sites that didn’t deserve to bit hit. There is a free tool that you can use to see how the Google updates affected you over time There’s probably things you didn’t even realized hit you.

  • Mrsat Sat


  • KaTyA – Nova Media

    Ce matt, il n’arrête donc jamais…dans l’intérêt des internautes ou de GG ?

  • Travis LeSaffre

    I am much more concerned with the data than the number of release. Just look at how many comments on this are arguments over the release number!

  • Adam Boulton

    There are more ways to get traffic and backlinks to your site than simply being on the first page for a variety of search queries – especially when starting a new site. In fact, I’d say that Google only makes up about 30-40% of my traffic across all my sites. This is a good thing in my book.

  • Adam Boulton

    Obviously this is splitting hairs at this point, but if Google calls it Penguin 2.0 – chances are that’s eventually what everyone else will be calling it. Sticking to 4 is just going to confuse your readers. Just my opinion.

  • Adam Boulton

    Your first mistake was relying on Google for your traffic. Sure, it’s good quality traffic – but any time you rely on a single source for most of your income you’re standing on a sandy foundation.


    Hilarious Rando because I have been saying that to others since all this Panda, Penguin stuff over the last year and half. You will be singing a different tune when your site gets hit (no matter how wonderful you think it is). We thought we were immune to any update too because we never take part in buying links, selling links, or any other link swapping. All posts 1500 words or more by experts in their field.

    My 9th we got hit HARD.

    Your turn will come.

  • Swaran Jit

    How much take time for penguin.update… lol :P

  • Wade Harman

    Yeah something did change in Google this week, I noticed it. I’m hoping that this Penguin won’t be too much of a hit. Not that I’m out spamming links or anything, but it still makes me nervous.

  • James seo

    Really we all are seeing some negative effects on our SERPs and I really wanted to know what are unnatural ways that we should stop working on it.

    Digital Marketing Expert

  • Scott Thomas

    Hey, Please give me 1 the change Penguin?

  • Harald Tschuggnall

    Hi Danny – thx

    I just published
    a new Case Study about why got hit by Panda 2.0.

    Check it out:


  • Dev Mohan

    is he going to downsize the internet…

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