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Google says no more Penguin releases–what does it mean?

Google announced in September that their most recent Penguin release will be their last. For the uninitiated, Penguin is a four-year-old initiative that Google introduced to directly reduce spammy websites in the search results. Penguin targets over-optimized websites that use techniques such as keyword stuffing (dumping dozens of keywords into pages just to get higher rankings) and cloaking (sending a different page to the search engine than to the user). So, does this final release mean that there is no more for Google to do to curb spamming?

Far from it.

In fact, the reason this is the final release of Penguin is because from now on the updates will be constant. Google explained that the newest algorithm will respond to updated data on a continuous basis. Where in the past, a site caught red-handed might wait months for it to be re-evaluated, now the site might regain its former rankings as soon as it changes what it is doing. This has implications far beyond Penguin.

What is likely going on here is that Google has ratcheted up its commitment to machine learning. Google’s Panda updates have been based on machine learning from the beginning, with its use of feature analysis to identify low quality sites. And Google has always tried to use data to improve its ranking algorithm, starting in the beginning with its PageRank link analysis approach.

This last release of Penguin makes spam detection responsive to the same real-time data as most of the rest of Google’s algorithm, but it also cements Google’s commitment to continual machine learning and data-driven ranking. Google has, the last few years, sped up every part of data collection, from continuous crawling to constant data updates. This last Penguin release is just the latest example of the always-on ranking algorithm update.

So if you are still listening to people describing how you fool Google with tricks and other chicanery, that’s so 2009. Now, the data changes every second, so there aren’t even any algorithm changes to stay ahead of, even if you want to foolishly chase those changes. Maybe it’s time to break down and create the content your audience wants.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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