The fifth confirmed release of Google’s “Penguin” spam fighting algorithm is live. That makes it Penguin 5 by our count. But since this Penguin update is using a slightly improved version of Google’s “Penguin 2″ second-generation technology, Google itself is calling it “Penguin 2.1.” Don’t worry. We’ll explain the numbering nonsense below, as well as what this all means for publishers.
The head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, shared the news on Twitter, saying the latest release would impact about 1 percent of all searches:
Penguin 2.1 launching today. Affects ~1% of searches to a noticeable degree. More info on Penguin: http://t.co/4YSh4sfZQj
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) October 4, 2013
The link that Cutts points at, by the way, explains what Penguin was when it was first launched. It doesn’t cover anything new or changed with the latest release.
Here are all the confirmed releases of Penguin to date:
If us talking about Penguin 5 in reference to something Google is calling Penguin 2.1 hurts your head, believe us, it hurts ours, too. But you can pin that blame back on Google. Here’s why.
When Google started releasing its “Panda” algorithm designed to fight low-quality content, it called the first one simply “Panda.” So when the second came out, people referred to that as “Panda 2.” When the third came out, people called that Panda 3 — causing Google to say that the third release, because it was relatively minor, really only should be called Panda 2.1 — the “point” being used to indicate how much a minor change it was.
Google eventually — and belatedly — indicated that a Panda 3 release happened, causing the numbering to move into Panda 3.0, Panda 3.1 and so on until there had been so many “minor” updates that we having to resort to going further out in decimal places to things like Panda 3.92.
That caused us here at Search Engine Land to decide it would be easier all around if we just numbered any confirmed update sequentially, in order of when they came. No matter how “big” or “small” an update might be, we’d just give it the next number on the list: Penguin 1, Penguin 2, Penguin 3 and so on.
That worked out fine until Penguin 4, because Google typically didn’t give these updates numbers itself. It just said there was an update, and left it to us or others to attach a number to it.
But when Penguin 4 arrived, Google really wanted to stress that it was using what it deemed to be a major, next-generation change in how Penguin works. So, Google called it Penguin 2, despite all the references to a Penguin 2 already being out there, despite the fact it hadn’t really numbered many of these various updates before.
Today’s update, as can be seen above, has been dubbed Penguin 2.1 — so supposedly, it’s a relatively minor change to the previous Penguin filter that was being used. However, if it’s impacting around 1 percent of queries as Google says, that means it is more significant than what Google might have considered to be similar “minor” updates of Penguin 1.1 and Penguin 1.2.
For those new to the whole “Penguin” concept, Penguin is a part of Google’s overall search algorithm that periodically looks for sites that are deemed to be spamming Google’s search results but somehow still ranking well. In particular, it goes after sites that may have purchased paid links.
If you were hit by Penguin, you’ll likely know if you see a marked drop in traffic that begins today or tomorrow. To recover, you’ll need to do things like disavow bad links or manually have those removed. Filing a reconsideration request doesn’t help, because Penguin is an automated process. Until it sees that what it considers to be bad has been removed, you don’t recover.
If you were previously hit by Penguin and have taken actions hopefully meant to fix that, today and tomorrow are the days to watch. If you see an improvement in traffic, that’s a sign that you’ve escaped Penguin.
Here are previous articles with more on Penguin recovery and how it and other filters work as part of the ranking system
If you’re wondering about how Penguin fits into that new Google Hummingbird algorithm you may have heard about, think of Penguin as a part of Hummingbird, not as a replacement for it.
Hummingbird is like Google’s entire ranking engine, whereas Penguin is like a small part of that engine, a filter that is removed and periodically replaced with what Google considers to be a better filter to help keep out bad stuff.
To understand more about that relationship and Hummingbird in general, see our post below: