Hi, and welcome to the 19th monthly update to AidanBooth.com!
This month is all about Hummingbirds, Penguins and Pandas…in particular, the new Google search engine algorithm.
As always, nothing is promoted on AidanBooth.com, this is an “information only” zone. I encourage your feedback, so leave a comment at the bottom of the article and share it with others who may be interested!
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Let’s dive in…
On Thursday 26th of September, Google announced the release of it’s brand new search algorithm called “Hummingbird” (according to Google, they used the codename “Hummingbird” because this algorithm update is “Precise and Fast”).
Hummingbird is quite a big deal at Google HQ, as it’s the first time they’ve completely rewritten their search engine in 12 years.
Is the previous algorithm completely gone?
No…in fact, much of Hummingbird is exactly the same as the previous search engine, it’s just that it’s been polished to provide faster and more accurate results.
Hummingbird is based on “Semantic Search”, it focuses on what users mean (user intent), not necessarily the exact words they write when searching.
Hummingbird is paying more attention to each and every word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.
What happened to Panda, Penguin etc?
Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land sums this up nicely:
“Panda, Penguin and other updates were changes to parts of the old algorithm, but not an entire replacement of the whole. Think of it again like an engine. Those things were as if the engine received a new oil filter or had an improved pump put in. Hummingbird is a brand new engine, though it continues to use some of the same parts of the old, like Penguin and Panda.”
We’ll continue to see Penguin and Panda updates in the months to come.
Is SEO Dead?
No…far from it!
There’s still a huge amount you can do to manipulate search results and make your pages rank at the top of Google.
If you’re focused on SEO, what I recommend is that you do is work on building links that drive you traffic, this benefits you in two ways:
- You become less reliant on Google’s rankings, since you’re driving traffic from non-Google sources
- Your rankings improve, since traffic generating links are normally considered “better links” by Google
Some of my favorite sources of “Non-Google” traffic include:
- Forums (even if you hate forums, they can be great sources of traffic!)
- YouTube (links in other peoples video descriptions are NOT hard to get…)
- Facebook (paid traffic on Facebook can often be VERY lucrative…that’s a big topic though and will be discussed soon!)
- Blogs (like forums, the right blogs can be excellent sources of traffic)
Driving traffic from these types of sources always includes leaving a link, and it normally improves your rankings as a by-product (a side effect).
You need to get creative sometimes in the way you approach this new type of link building, as you won’t always be able to just leave a link.
A little innovative thinking can go a long way…for example, strategically building your own “sphere of influence” on forums by infiltrating a forum with a small group of commenters…this is a tactic that’s been used to get incredible results by one forward-thinking Trinity Code member (Alex), it’s something we’ll discuss in depth another day!
The Critical Concept…
The future of top rankings in Google will be built around getting links that drive you traffic…THAT is what you should be focused on.
Side-Note: My entire SEO plan is now focused on one thing only…getting links that drive traffic. The same is true for SEO Blueprint (http://seoblueprint.org) who started moving towards “Traffic Focused” SEO months ago.
My results? What have I noticed?
To be honest, I haven’t noticed many alarming changes in my rankings…but this could also be due to the fact that I’ve been very conservative with my link building for over a year now.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been focusing on traffic driving links and also on building fewer links, but making sure they’re more relevant and higher quality. I’ve also been building my links in two tiers, ensuring that only high quality “Power Links” are coming directly to my most important webpages.
If you’ve been following my content for some time now, you’ll probably be familiar with the “two tiered” link building structure that I use:
NOTE: “10 Insane Power Links” has essentially been replaced with “10 Traffic Driving Links” (which are normally extremely powerful anyway!).
One pattern I’ve noticed in a few cases, was a drop in rankings (which coincided with the release of Hummingbird) and then a recovery a few weeks later.
Here’s an example:
The interesting thing here is that for this particular website, I haven’t done ANY link building for months…so the drop and recovery must be down to Google tweaking their algorithm, and then perhaps re-tweaking it in October.
I saw rankings on other sites recover in October as well…for example, the image below shows a website that lost it’s rankings in June, and recovered all by itself in October (again, no link building was done for this site before it recovered).
When it comes to getting and maintaining top rankings in Google, there are only a couple of things that you can control:
- The content that gets added to your sites
- The links you build (and when you build them)
You can’t control anything else, so it’s best to focus on these two things and make sure you do them well.
Fresh content never hurts a website…in fact, it only shows Google that your site is still active and improving which is a good thing.
And with regards to link building, when you focus on high quality links from related sites, as long as the link building looks natural to Google, then you can’t go wrong.
The key is that whatever you’re doing to get top rankings, it needs to look natural.
Link Building Reminders:
- Remember to get plenty of anchor text variation (I’m now using the URL about 50% of the time)
- Focus on consistent link growth over a period of time (don’t build links for one month then stop…it needs to be consistent if you want long term rankings)
- Prioritizing building links in places that’ll drive you traffic (and if you have access to Crowd Force, USE IT!!!)
- Don’t build all your links to your target page…spread them out across your entire website
- Show Google you run a trustworthy website by getting some decent social proof through a few good Web 2.0 authority links (Google+, Facebook Page etc)
SEO TIP: The Google+ Advantage…
One of the most powerful things you can do to boost your websites rankings, is to start leveraging Google+ profiles.
We’ve studied hundreds of rankings for hundreds of different keywords, and one thing that the top ranked sites almost always have in common is Google+.
Google is CLEARLY rewarding websites that are associated with trusted Google+ profiles…and it makes sense. After all, Google+ is Google’s in-house social proof platform.
If you want to get an almost immediate edge over your competition, start using Google+. Make sure your website is associated with your Google+ profile, use Google Authorship, and start growing your circles.
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If you have a question or want to leave a comment, use the box below (all comments are approved and I read every single one!).
Great information as always Aidan. I guess it’s gonna always be about understanding what the latest google changes really mean, and finding ways to adapt your seo/link building plan to these changes so that you can still make it work in your favor. In this case, focusing more on traffic opportunities, but yet still varying up your traffic sources. Also, taking advantage of the social media platforms where people are known to hang out a lot of the time.
Thanks again for sharing your insights on how to take on these changes in the seo landscape.
Glad you found it useful Shaun 🙂
Thanks for the in-depth explanation on the Hummingbird. I think a lot of people were wondering about it.
I had three sites take a dive a little earlier than Hummingbird release. One was only about 20% drop in traffic. That has been steady since then, improving only slightly.
Another took a dive from over 200/day down to <50 since. The third went from about 250/day down to about 75. it has recently rebounded to 170-180/day.
Sales took a hit as well. Good advice about the link building.
That should be the 'WAY' forward for all of us who were scratching our heads about the traffic reduction.
Hi Dave, glad to hear one of your sites bounced back (thanks for sharing), shame about the others…keep moving forward with the traffic generating links, and you’ll strengthen your sites and recover lost earnings.
Thanks for a clear overview about the new Google alga which has become a monster to most novice users like me. i also happen to fall in love with your “about me” profile. for that reason I’ll end here and rush over for a Facebook like. commendable job
Once again Aidan, some good information. Thanks
Thanks for the update Aidan. Good old Google – always on the move and working to improve search results for their visitors. Good to know the latest moves but also important not to be dependent on them as well.
It should come as no surprise that the key factors are fresh content and quality links. Its basically been about that since I started in 95. It seems like the more it changes the more it stays the same. In many ways the only thing that changes is where the customers congregate, as new forums and networks come and go.
I couldn’t agree more Graeme!
Aiden, thanks for the update. I have been following yourself and a few other SEO style people and have just launched my first website. I am still working on a best practice process for my link building and am somewhat confused with the method of PR network setup, and how necessary it is today.
PR blog networks can still help you get top rankings, but you need to be VERY careful how you use them. Google is too smart for 99.9% of blog networks now, so I only recommend you use them if you’re getting good quality on-topic links…
Thanks again Aidan, for a wonderfully informative summary of what’s happened and how to move forward, as always your info is succinct and soothing for our frazzled brains.. lol.
thanks Aidan, the never ending story of algo changes…can be disheartening. Thanks for offering some useful approaches, particularly linking for traffic. To date it has been buffer sites for me, and that has helped in the recovery of some rankings. Funnily enough, the traffic hasn’t been affected by Hummingbirds. Still not back to the pre-penguin levels.
Hi Aidan: sharing your results is so helpful to a very small business. But sometimes it seems things change so quickly with Google SEO and website rankings that it feels overwhelming to keep up with the fluctuations if you are a one person business. It seems Google wants to favor large businesses who have the $$ to make mistakes on some sites yet do well (according to Google) on other sites they own. I believe it is possible to highly rank a genuine info website on Google. But is it really possible to sell good products from that site. It seems once you try to recommend products or even sell products, Google puts a whole different algorithm into effect and if you don’t have deep, deep pockets to pay for their expensive clicks, like companies like Coca Cola, Nike, other huge brands, you are out of the game as far as even making a living. Is it true, in your opinion, that Google just wants advertising $$ from these huge companies and most other website owners are ignored or at least held back since they don’t have finances to pay Google what multi-billion corporations can pay. Has Google turned from “do no harm” to “do no harm to those that pay the most $$”.
Obviously Google wants to make as much money as they can, but I think they walk a fine line…because if they don’t rank the best websites at the top of Google, then people who use Google will get frustrated…
Good stuff, Aidan. Marketers gotta do what marketers gotta do. But while the talk is always about Google’s noble mission to serve searchers exactly what they want, marketers-be-damned, the cynic in me can’t get past the fact that Google is a very successful business with one of the highest stock prices in the world – over $1K just recently.
And that success didn’t happen because they trampled SEO and made organic searchers happy. But it is a direct result of trampling SEO. They don’t make money off SEO and organic searches. You know well that organic traffic actually siphons off revenue.
They do make money from paid searches, though. And the harder and more labor intensive they can make SEO, the more marketing efforts are driven to paid traffic sources – Adwords and Adsense being the two most obvious examples.
Nothing will ever change that except effective competition, but where’s the economical reason to challenge Google in the no-revenue, organic traffic game? Crowd Source is an amazing response to the Google zoo of updates, however, and many thanks to you and Steve for even revealing it, much less sharing it. But it’s still necessarily labor intensive… and marketers gotta do what marketers gotta do.
Great content, Aidan.
Thanks for the good info Aidan!
What would be your regular steps if you were working from a starting point of having the Google plus profile, facebook fan page, a youtube page, and google authorship, but haven’t done much with them?
That basically describes me. Currently, I’ll drop notice of a new post or article on them now and again. I do a new video every 3 weeks or so for youtube. Outside of that, I admit I lack understanding of the right way to use social media resources. People say I need to utilize them more. Now you are also. It’s time for me to dig in and use them the right way.
Do you have any type of formula or schedule you like to follow along the lines of your SEO tactics toolbox schedule?
Hi Nate, I think you’ve just got to dive in and start sharing content about your niche…link up the social profiles you have to your website, and set a plan in place to leverage them (maybe post something new each week). There’s no special formula that I use for this really, it’s just a case of getting stuck in and doing it 🙂
Thank you for the quick response. One follow-up: How much emphasis do you place on adding friends/circles etc.? Do you make a regular habit of growing these or is it not an area to be concerned with If growing these networks is important, what do you think is a good target number per week?
I don’t really have a set goal or this…I think the more the better though. People who have more connections, more circles, are going to give you better trust (from Google’s perspective), so focus on those ones.
Our site lost rankings altogether on 20th September, do you think it could be Hummingbird? We haven’t seen the bounce back as you have seen any tips on a recovery?
Your advice is greatly appreciated
Really sorry to hear that! It could have been attributed to Hummingbird, or to Penguin (Google continues to update Penguin all the time). All you can really do is add new content, or focus on building new links…and in your case, what I think I’d focus on are the traffic driving links (maybe you could make a comprehensive YouTube channel or plan out a solid traffic generation campaign for the next few weeks)…Hope you bounce back!!!!
Thank You for this exhaustive post. One of my web sites, full of detailed content, has duplicate its visits since the first days of september. The only answer I have is that the increase of visitors and visits are due to Google Hummingbird since I didn’t performed any kind of seo manipulation.
Aidan, as always, thank you so much. This is a very helpful and comprehensive overview. I heard about Hummingbird after the fact, and fortunately it did not affect my sites. This encourages me to keep doing what I have been doing; posting quality content frequently.
I appreciate that you shared in detail your link building strategies. This has become such a crucial issue nowadays as it’s so difficult to know what to do as Google makes these various updates. I agree that traffic driving links are very important, and likewise finding sources of traffic that are not dependent on Google. I look forward to hearing more about Facebook!
Glad you’ve found this useful Elaine!
This is a great content Aidan…. I have a question for you…. Where did you get the Follow Me on FB! that links to your facebook fan page this on the left side of you website. I would like to have that plugin for my website.
Can you direct me to where you got this… Thank you
I actually developed that myself…it’s called the “Attention Grabber Plugin”. It’s not for sale at the moment, but send me a message via my Facebook page and I’ll see if I can get it to you…
I was just going through some old Internet Marketing 300 Spartan PDF’s which reminded me just how much has changed in SEO and link building. The one thing that course did teach me was to follow those that talk sense and not rubbish (there was another word I was thinking of instead of rubbish!) so please keep up the flow of your current tactics, it does help.
Hi Steve, thanks for commenting! Yes, as you know, SEO is a rapidly changing game and a lot has changed since the 300 program. Make sure you check out my 1st December update in a few days time 🙂