Googe's Matt Cutts participated in a keynote discussion at SMX Advanced, and as you might have guess, the topics of Google's Penguin and Panda updates came up more than once.
Matt McGee liveblogged the event for the SMX-affiliated Search Engine Land, and quoted Cutts throughout. Cutts also answered a bunch of questions on Twitter, so some of those tweets will be sprinkled throughout this article.
The first question was about Penguin. According to this liveblogged account, Cutts said, "We look at it something designed to tackle low-quality content. It started out with Panda, and then we noticed that there was still a lot of spam and Penguin was designed to tackle that. It’s an algorithmic change, but when we use a word like 'penalty,' we’re talking about a manual action taken by the web spam team — it wasn’t that."
@dyksta algo changes can result in abrupt drops, b/c an algo can be launched quickly. To differentiate, check for manual action in console.
When asked if Google just did another Penguin update, Cutts said, "No."
@damienpetitjean no Panda or Penguin updates going out recently, no.
Cutts does say both Penguin and Panda will happen on nearly a monthly basis:
@GaryLHenderson and that's a ballpark estimate, but it's held pretty true for Panda data updates for example.
Cutts also confirmed that WPMU.org recovered because of the Penguin update, and the site's cleaning up. He says there's no white list with Penguin (or Panda).
@RossHudgens and the more general statement is that there is no whitelist for Penguin, just as there is no whitelist for Panda.
He also said, "WPMU had a pretty good number of links from lower quality sites."
Some comments Cutts made in the past about starting over with your site if you were hit by Penguin, scared some, but this was brought up again during the keynote. "Sometimes you should. It’s possible to recover, but if you’re a fly-by-night spammer, it might be better to start over," he's quoted as saying.
@thompsonpaul I take care of the penguin and he takes care of lots of search results 🙂