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