Google is pushing out repeated ‘refreshes’ of its Penguin algorithm over the holiday period, theorises Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz.

Schwartz has tracked Google ranking fluctuations, discovering unusual activity on Tuesday 2 December, Friday 5 December and Saturday 6 December – as well as on Thanksgiving Day.

Google dismissed the Thanksgiving ‘update’ as being part of the Penguin 3.0 rollout, which began on October 17.

However, Schwartz argues that these fluctuations could be indicative of something bigger, describing them as “major (in our opinion) changes”.

Schwartz points out that it is unusual for updates to take this long to roll out – it has been more than seven weeks since Penguin 3.0 launched. What’s more, he argues, it’s unusual for ranking fluctuations to happen towards the tail end of a rollout.

“That’s usually the hallmark of a change to the filter, of a new update happening,” he wrote.

Accordingly, Search Engine Land has begun numbering each of these fluctuations as a separate update, beginning with ‘Penguin 3.1’ on Thanksgiving, and ending with ‘Penguin 3.4’ on Saturday.

If Schwartz’s theory turns out to be correct, it means Google has violated its own ‘unwritten rule’ of not rolling out updates during the holidays.

In 2013, Matt Cutts tweeted: “Actually, we try to minimise major updates right before the holidays.”

And a tweet from Google’s official account, published on 14 December 2011, read: “Search weather report: no major Panda updates until the new year.”

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