For The Holidays, Google Breaks Its No Updates Rules, Gives Out Fresh Penguin Updates

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Since Google’s “Florida” Update of November 2003, the search engine has kept to an unofficial promise not to mess with its ranking algorithm during the holiday season. That’s changed this year with a flurry of Penguin Updates.

Penguin is Google’s filter to fight spam that gets past its regular spam fighting defenses. It is used periodically, and when sites are hit by it, they retain a massive penalty until they clean up their spam problems. Then they have to wait until the next time the Penguin filter is run. If Google’s filter likes what it sees, the sites have their penalties lifted.

Publishers put in the Penguin penalty box by the Penguin 2 update in 2013 had to wait a full year until Penguin 3 was released last October, for a chance at escaping. But since then, there have been at least three further Penguin updates by the way Search Engine Land counts. And most important, these have happened from Thanksgiving onward — violating the “no updates during the holiday shopping season” rule.

Again, on multiple occasions, Google has said it tries to avoid updates during holidays, such as in 2011 and 2013.

But there’s no question that many people who were hit by Penguin 3.0 saw changes on Thanksgiving Day. Since then, there have been three other major (in our opinion) changes, this Saturday, then last Friday and last Tuesday.

Google called the Thanksgiving Update part of the Penguin 3.0 rollout, suggesting that this was part of the process that was still continuing. However, updates rarely take so long — in this case six weeks — to launch. And they rarely cause fluctuations toward the end of a rollout. That’s usually the hallmark of a change to the filter, of a new update happening.

That’s why we’re giving all of these point numbers. We’re also trying to get Google to confirm the last two and will update, if we hear. Meanwhile, here’s the current Penguin Update schedule:

  • 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 (impacting around 1% of queries)
  • Penguin 3.1 on November 27, 2014 (confirmed by Google, no impact given, Google considers part of Penguin 3.0)
  • Penguin 3.2 on December 2, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)
  • Penguin 3.3 on December 5, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)
  • Penguin 3.4 on December 6, 2014 (not confirmed by Google but based on publisher reports)

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