Google Penalties, Hummingbirds and SEO

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    While it’s great to see more people testing and more people aware of the importance of optimization, it appears businesses still play with fire. If you’re still burned from Google’s last Hummingbird torching, you’d better recover soon.

    At a press event on September 8, 2013, Google announced a completely rewritten search engine algorithm code named Hummingbird. This update is, by far, the most expansive rewrite of their algorithm since 2001, and is almost a complete replacement of it unlike the previous Panda and Penguin updates before it. The Hummingbird update does still use bits and pieces of the old algorithm, but it has completely streamlined the search engine results for internet users.

    The problem, Google officials said, was that the previous algorithm was not providing specific enough results to match a user’s query. Instead of understanding the true meaning behind the words typed, the old algorithm simply took a literal translation of the various keywords and brought up what it deemed as relevant results.

    For example, the previous algorithm would not have understood that the answer for the query ‘nearest location to buy basset hound puppies’ should be based on the location nearest the user, not just a general plethora of various ‘Puppies for Sale’ sites. If a user shared their location with Google then, in theory, the new update should be able to understand that and bring out more specific and relevant results based on the users request.

    Hummingbird’s Plight on SEO

    Despite the announcement of the update just over a year ago, Google representatives stated that they’re definitely not done straightening out the many duplicitous marketing juggernauts in existence. If you have not seen any dramatic changes in your rankings then you are fortunate and have come through the update unscathed.  If not, scan the internet to learn how to recover sooner from Google penalties.

    According to many credible SEO companies, there have been no significant changes in their client’s rankings for particular keywords. Unfortunately, the chatter amongst website owners who are managing their own SEO clearly points out that there has been some drastic rank changes due to these new updates. An intelligent angle to analytical updates by Google was offered by Brad Anderson, President of Fruition a Denver, Colorado based SEO Firm: “Analyzing the impact that every Google algorithm update has on your business is the cornerstone of a successful SEO strategy.”

    Google claims that there have been no changes to the ranking portion of the algorithm, just the tailoring of the search results. So what does this mean for your site? Well, analyzing the keywords and bringing more tailored results means that if your site was lost rankings, then it was likely because it was not an authority on the keyword you were ranking on. Most short keyword rankings will not be affected by this update; it is actually just the long tailed keywords that are being targeted.

    Enter now split testing.

    A/B Testing has quickly become one of the most important skills for marketers to master in order to improve performance of their marketing campaigns. But, like anything else that grows quickly on the web, it’s easy to jump head first into optimization and A/B testing without first taking a step back to really think through how you’re going to get the most out of it.

    Negative SEO and the Hummingbird Update

    If you have been keeping up good SEO practices and still noticed a drop in your ranks around the time that Google rolled out the Hummingbird update, then it is likely due to the fact that you were getting a lot of traffic from long tailed keywords that you now lost rankings for. There are no massive changes in the algorithm other than that, however Google claims that there are always new tweaks and minor updates it is applying.

    Moreover, mobile website access is dominating modern day culture, yet most businessmen are unaware of how to properly optimize their mobile sites for both desktop searches and mobile browsing.  Not that this is causing negative SEO; it’s just not helping your business.

    For further consideration

    So far it seems that your sites should not be in any more danger than they were in previous updates from negative SEO. Rank drops due to loss of authority in long tailed keywords can cause massive headaches for webmasters and the age of “quick SEO” is now a distant memory as high quality content on authoritative sites is now becoming the norm.

    Of course, if you ask Blackhat marketers, the jury is still deliberating on that one.


    I'm Dave. A no-frills, high quality cut-to-the-chase news writer that loves breaking news, political brouhaha and all the theatrics that come with living on Earth. I love Chinese food, paranormal activity and random road trips. Einsturzende Neubaten is great music for relaxing the soul.


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