Since launching real-time updates in September 2016 with the release of Penguin 4.0, Google has been quiet regarding updates to the algorithm in the future.
It seems they’ve finally broken their silence on the issue, however, with confirmation from Gary Illyes that Google intends to be transparent about future changes to the Penguin algorithm, assuming they’re noteworthy enough to mention. In response to a Twitter question regarding numbered updates, Illyes, part of the Google Search Ranking Team and Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, tweeted that he would work hard to ensure the company’s transparency of “big substantial” changes to Penguin.
Though it’s hard to discern what a substantial change is compared to a minor change, it seems to be similar to how the company has handled the release schedule of Google Panda. Since last updating Panda back in July 2015, Google has not made an announcement of any changes, though it’s presumed it has seen some fine tuning in the interim. If this is true, it could also mean that Penguin 4.0 has had minor revisions since its initial release date, unbeknownst to most. This isn’t far-fetched considering the last known update was so different than previous versions. Minor changes, in this case, could make it harder for spammers to reverse engineer it, though, of course, anyone caught manipulating links can still be hit with one of Google’s Manual Action Penalties, which result in the demoting or complete removal of web pages or websites.
Before his statement about transparency, Illyes also tweeted at the same Twitter user regarding the future of numbered updates, stating simply that Google was not planning more numbered updates after Penguin 4.0. This, too, falls in line with how Google has handled Panda since its last update a year and a half ago.
In any case, it’s reassuring to site owners to learn they’ll be alerted of any sort of significant or substantial changes in the future, especially those who’s sites would be most affected by the new updates. In the meanwhile, Google may be working on minor revisions and changes that will be updated with little to no fanfare.