Red Cherry Web Designs a Calgary Canada based Web Design and SEO agency discusses Panda 4.1 -- Google's 27th Panda Update and Penguin 3.0 which rolled out on Late Friday night 17.10.2014 giving a shock to website owners all over the world during the weekend.
Calgary, AB -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/21/2014 -- Google has confirmed to Search Engine Land that it updated its Penguin filter on Friday. Penguin targets sites deemed to be spammy, especially those found in violation of Google’s guidelines about linking.
Some noticed major changes in Google search results beginning late Friday night US time and speculated that this was due to the long-awaited Penguin Update that Google had said to expect this month.
Google verified to us today that this has happened, when we asked about it. Google hasn’t yet given more details on the percentage of search results the latest version of Penguin has impacted or if there were any major changes made to it since the last release. We’ll update if we get these details.
Penguin Releases Over Time
This is the sixth release of Penguin. Google itself hasn’t given it a number, but we’re calling it Penguin 3.0 because it’s been so long since the last release of Penguin that it’s worth counting as a major release.
Here are dates of all Penguin releases:
Penguin 1.0 on April 24, 2012 (impacting ~3.1% of queries)
Penguin 1.1 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
Penguin 1.2 on October 5, 2012 (impacting ~0.3% of queries)
Penguin 2.0 on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
Penguin 2.1 on Oct. 4, 2013 (impacting around 1% of queries)
Penguin 3.0 on October 17, 2014 (impact not yet released
Note that Penguin 1.1 and Penguin 1.2 were previously reported by us as Penguin 2 and Penguin 3, because Google itself hadn’t given them numbers, so we did. But when the fourth release happened, Google declared that to be Penguin 2.0. We’ve renumbered to fit in with Google’s belated numbering sequence.
The latest Penguin release is one of the most anticipated algorithm updates in Google’s history. Some publishers have been desperately waiting for the refresh that arrives just over a year since the last.
Getting Caught & Freed By Penguin
The publishers have been anxious because of the way Penguin works. If they’re hit by it, even if they make changes, they have to wait until the next release to see if their changes have done what Google wanted.
Publishers hit by the last version of Penguin — back in October 2013 — have been waiting until now to see if actions they’re tried such as removing spammy links have worked. If so, they’re likely seeing some improvement in traffic this weekend. If not, they have to try making more changes and then waiting until however long it takes for Google to release Penguin again.
By the way, for those who tried disavowing bad links, if they did that within the last three weeks, that was too late for this Penguin update. Our article from a talk Google gave at our SMX conference earlier this month explains more.
Do keep in mind that some people may see ranking drops but not actually be hit by Penguin. That’s because if Penguin causes a wide range of links to be discounted, those links will no longer pass along the credit or act as “votes” as they once might have.
Sites that gained from these fake votes — as Google would consider them — lose that credit and thus potentially visibility, even though they weren’t penalized by Google directly.
Google has suggested that with the latest version of Penguin, it also would have a new system allowing for refreshes to happen more frequently. Time will tell on that — the count starts now.
Postscript: Google has confirmed that the Penguin roll out is complete as of Monday morning, October 20th.
Google has announced that the latest version of its Panda Update — a filter designed to penalize “thin” or poor content from ranking well — has been released.
Google said in a post on Google+ that a “slow rollout” began earlier this week and will continue into next week, before being complete. Google said that depending on location, about 3%-to-5% of search queries will be affected.
Anything different about this latest release? Google says it’s supposed to be more precise and will allow more high-quality small and medium-sized sites to rank better. From the post:
Based on user (and webmaster!) feedback, we’ve been able to discover a few more signals to help Panda identify low-quality content more precisely. This results in a greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher, which is nice.
New Chance For Some; New Penalty For Others
The rollout means anyone who was penalized by Panda in the last update has a chance to emerge, if they made the right changes. So if they were hit by Panda, made alterations to their site, they’ll know by the end of next week if those were good enough, if they see an increase in traffic.
The rollout also means that new sites not previously hit by Panda might get impacted. If they’ve seen a sudden traffic drop from Google this week, or note one in the coming days, then this latest Panda Update is likely to blame.
About That Number
Why are we calling it Panda 4.1? Well, Google itself called the last one Panda 4.0 and deemed it a major update. This isn’t as big of a change, so we’re going with Panda 4.1.
We actually prefer to number these updates in the order that they’ve happened, because trying to determine if something is a “major” or “minor” Panda Update is imprecise and lead to numbering absurdities like having a Panda 3.92 Update.
But since Google called the last one Panda 4.0, we went with that name — and we’ll continue on with the old-fashioned numbering system unless it gets absurd again.
For the record, here’s the list of confirmed Panda Updates, with some of the major changes called out with their AKA (also known as) names:
Panda Update 1, AKA
Panda 1.0, Feb. 24, 2011 (11.8% of queries; announced; English in US only)
Panda Update 2, AKA
Panda 2.0, 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 AKA
Panda 3.0, 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 Update 26 AKA
Panda 4.0, May 20, 2014 (7.5% of English queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
Panda Update 27 AKA
Panda 4.1, Sept. 25, 2014 (3-5% of queries were affected; confirmed, announced)
The latest update comes four months after the last, which suggests that this might be a new quarterly cycle that we’re on. Panda had been updated on a roughly monthly basis during 2012. In 2013, most of the year saw no update at all.
Of course, there could have been unannounced releases of Panda that have happened. The list above is only for those that have been confirmed by Google.
Struggling to know what to do in the wake of Google’s Penguin Update? Judging from all the comments and forum discussions we’ve seen, plenty are. We’ve got a little initial advice from Google on the topic, mixed with our own.
What Was Penguin?
The Penguin Update launched on April 24. It was a change to Google’s search results that was designed to punish pages that have been spamming Google. If they’re not familiar with spam, it’s when people do things like “keyword stuffing” or “cloaking” that violate Google’s guidelines. To learn more, see these pages:
Google Webmaster Guidelines
SEL’s SEO Guide: Violations & Search Engine Spam Penalties
Is Penguin Fully Live?
Sometimes it can take a few days for an update to fully rollout across all Google’s various data centers, which in turn means impacting all its search results. In this case, the rollout is complete. Google confirms that Penguin is fully live.
Was One Hit?
It’s easy to run some search, see that their site has gone and assume the worst. While Google does report some spamming offenses through Google Webmaster Central, it tells me there’s no way currently to log-in and know if the Penguin Update hit them.
My advice to people worried has been this. The update launched on April 24. Look at their search-related traffic from Google immediately after that date. Do they see a major drop compared with a day or two before? If so, they were probably hit by Penguin. See a rise in traffic? They probably benefited from Penguin. See no change? Then it really had no impact on them.
I ran this advice past Google; I was told it was good advice. It’s also exactly the same advice we and others have given people trying to understand if they were hit by the various Panda Updates over time.
How Do I Recover?
Since this was targeting spam, they need to remove any spam they might have. In some cases, Google may have sent messages to them about spam activity in the past. Messages may even be waiting for them in Google Webmaster Central, if they’ve never verified their account.
Obviously, correct anything that Google has flagged as spam with their site. If nothing’s been flagged — and they’re sure it was Penguin that hit them — then correct whatever they can think of that might be spam-like.
Within Google Webmaster Central, there’s the ability to file a reconsideration request. However, Google says this is an algorithmic change — IE, it’s a penalty that’s applied automatically, rather than a human at Google spotting some spam and applying what’s called a manual penality.
Because of that, Google said that reconsideration requests won’t help with Penguin. I was told:
Because this is an algorithmic change, Google has no plans to make manual exceptions. Webmasters cannot ask for reconsideration of their site, but we’re happy to hear feedback about the change on our webmaster forum.
There is, however, a new form that they can use to report errors, if they think they were caught by mistake. See our separate story, Penguin Update Peck Their Site By Mistake? Google’s Got A Form For That, for more details about using this.
What If Google’s Wrong!
Feel like Penguin has nabbed their for spamming incorrectly? As explained above, they can use the new Penguin Feedback form. As Google’s statement above also explains, they can post feedback through Google’s webmaster forum.
If they do this, my advice is not to go in with the attitude that Google has wronged their site. Maybe it did, but Google’s more interested in whether its search results that are doing wrong by searchers.
Give an example of a search where maybe they were previously listed. Explain the quality of their site. Explain what remains, especially if what remains seems to be benefiting from spam or is of low quality.
Of course, giving examples like this is also seen by some as “outing,” and there’s a belief among some SEOs that it should never be done. Others disagree. If this bothers them, then at least explain the quality behind their site and what’s being missed by searchers, not an emphasis on things like how much traffic or business they’re losing.
What About The Over-Optimization Penalty?
Google had initially warned that an “over-optimization” penalty was coming. This is the penalty it was talking about, but it has clarified that it’s not meant to target some hard-to-pin down “over-optimization” but rather outright spam.
What About Panda 3.5?
Yesterday, Google confirmed that it also released an update to its Panda algorithm, Panda 3.5, on April 19. Unlike Penguin, which is meant to target spam, Panda is designed to target pages that aren’t spam but aren’t great quality.
The date is important. If their traffic dropped on April 19 and never recovered, then they were probably hit by Panda rather than Penguin, and they need to follow advice for recovering from Panda, such as these:
Their Site’s Traffic Has Plummeted Since Google’s Panda Update. Now What?
Hit By Panda Update? Google Has 23 Questions To Ask themselves To Improve
5 New Tactics For SEO Post-Panda
Can You Dig Out Of Your Google Panda Hole By Offloading To Subdomains?
Yet More Tips For Diagnosing & Fixing Panda Problems
Google: Low PageRank & Bad Spelling May Go Hand-In-Hand; Panda, Too?
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