SMX East Liveblog: At Meet the Search Engines Session, Google Says Penguin May Come Next Week

BREAKING NEWS: Google says Penguin Update could come next week.

When Danny Sullivan and an audience of search marketers have a public forum to ask questions of Bing and Google reps and search marketing industry veterans, you can learn something. Here’s a snippet from the session that just happened at SMX East:

Danny Sullivan: “When can we expect that overdue Penguin update, Gary?”

Gary Illyes (Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google): “Soon.  Very soon. Maybe next week.”

Read the rest of this frank, PowerPoint-free Q&A session to learn why Gary Illyes called the next Penguin a “delightful update.” Moderated by Danny Sullivan, this highly-engaged discussion, fielded a range of questions, from SMX first-timers to seasoned search veterans.

danny sullivan, vincent wehren, janet driscoll miller, bruce clay, ellen white, gary illyes
Danny Sullivan, Vincent Wehren, Janet Driscoll Miller, Bruce Clay, Ellen White, Gary Illyes (left to right)


  • Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay, Inc. (@bruceclayinc)
  • Janet Driscoll Miller, President and CEO, Marketing Mojo (@janetdmiller)
  • Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google (@methode)
  • Vincent Wehren, Lead Program Manager, Bing Webmaster Tools, Microsoft (@vincentwehren)
  • Ellen White, Director, Organic Search (SEO), Team Detroit / Ford Motor Company (@ellenreathwhite)

Moderator: Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor, Search Engine Land (@dannysullivan)

Introduction and Words from Danny Sullivan

In true form, and in fully  integrated fashion, the session opens with the announcement that this is the first session ever at SMX that paired SEOs with Search Engines together in the same session. Although in previous years sessions like this have been conducted, the SEO panelists and search engine reps were separated. Danny jokingly points out that the two search engine representatives, Wehren (Bing) and Illyes (Google), were seated at each end of the panel, separated by the three SEOs.

Negative SEO? Fact or Fiction?

From the opening bell, we immediately hit the ground running.  The first question from the audience was posed to the entire panel:

Q: We’ve had two negative backlink attacks and a ton of negative links aimed at our site. Do you (the panel) recommend using a disavow tool or something else?

Bruce Clay fielded the question by quickly explaining to the audience a top-level view of his thoughts on negative SEO. He made it clear that if a company’s portfolio is indeed filled with negative links and they are five years old already, they may be of your own doing, and not as a result of an attack.

New Algorithm Update: Coming Next Week?

With the gloves off, Danny cut right to the chase and posed the next question directly to Gary Illyes:

Q: When can we expect that overdue Penguin update, Gary?

Illyes replied quickly, “Soon.  Very soon. Maybe next week,” and explained that the next update will be a “delightful update.” He adds that Google has probably made updates every single week or every single month since the last update, attacking sites on all sides, however, the new “maybe out next week” penalty is aimed to make both users and webmaster’s lives easier. “We want webmasters and users to be happy,” concluded Illyes, to a cheer of claps and laughs.

Note: One of the most talked about points after the session was Illyes statement that it may already be too late to disavow for the upcoming Penguin update.

On the Importance of User Experience (UX)

An audience question on the state of 404 errors quickly evolved into the importance of user experience.  Some highlights of the panelist comments on the immediate future of UX:

  • For Google, UX will become more and more important in the near future, “Maybe even by next week,” Illyes joked.
  • It’s not a bad thing to let your site trigger 404 errors, especially from a user experience.
  • Don’t neglect mobile. Mobile UX will become incredibly important to everyone, especially soon.

On the Proper Use of Structured Data

Shifting from the topic of penalties, the panel discussion got lively, addressing this question on structured data:

Q: If we add structured data to an event that occurs yearly, do we update the data or create a whole new page?

In the case of an event like SMX, where people might be interested in the history of the event, creating a new page will improve the benefits for the user. In addition, adding new structured data to the pre-existing page may not make much of a difference in search. However, when that event is over, that year’s agenda will be archived to its own page and the next year’s event agenda will maintain the link equity on the same canonical agenda page, illustrating the concept of “evergreen”.

Lightning Round

The final five minutes of the session including a lightning round of quick, short-answer questions. The questions came in fast, and the responses came in even faster. Here’s a short recap of the lightning fast Q&A.

Q: Is it possible for Google to give some progress reports on the status of disavows?

A: Yes. – Gary Illyes

Q: Can we expect that to happen?

A: I will examine that internally. – Gary Illyes

Q: Do mobile-deep links allow searches to crawl deeper into native mobile apps?

A: Yes, to Android apps. No, to iPhone apps. – Gary Illyes

Q: Hey Bing, how do you feel about what Google’s doing with https? Are you going to give boosts as well?

A: Having secure sites is a good idea, we love the idea. But we index what the user is looking for, so the answer is no. – Vincent Wehren

Q: What exactly was new in Panda 4.1?

A: I did not know. – Gary Illyes

A: I haven’t seen a difference. – Bruce Clay

Q: Has mobile search volume passed desktop?

A: I cannot recall, I can’t access my deep memory. – Gary Illyes

Q: Do the Search Engines prefer absolute linking over relative linking?

A: It doesn’t matter. – Gary Illyes

A: We don’t see a difference. – Vincent Wehren

I’m Evan Auerbach from DragonSearch. I became a Dragon in 2012 as a community manager and redefined my role to lead digital strategist. I always bring an enthusiastic approach in developing brand strategies with a strong core in social media marketing. I have a strong passion for writing creative content and community building based around popular cultural trends. When I’m not plugged in to everything digital marketing related, I channel my deep appreciation for music into a popular Hip-Hop history blog, plus I bet I can make you laugh. See my author page for links to my blog and social profiles.

See Evan's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (4)
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4 Replies to “SMX East Liveblog: At Meet the Search Engines Session, Google Says Penguin May Come Next Week”

I am sure Gary’s “Delightful” definition will be much more scary for SEOs and i am keeping my fingers crossed.

Evan Auerbach

Interesting choice of word by Gary. I should’ve asked him what his definition of delightful actually is.

Virginia Nussey

Oh but Gary said it was going to be “delightful”! Wait, that just makes it more scary!


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