Complete Guide to Hummingbird, Knowledge Graph, + Penguin 2.1 Every SEO Must Read


On its fifteenth birthday, September 26, Google shook up the SEO world once again by releasing a new search algorithm and several other changes to their system, the most notable being Hummingbird, Knowledge Graph updates, and Penguin 2.1. With all of the new information coming at us, Search Engine Savvy has assembled a guide to the changes, with insightful blog posts hand picked from across the web to educate you on the changes and how they might effect your SEO campaign. Complete with mini CliffsNotes from each post.

Happy reading!

All About the Improved Knowledge Graph

1. The Secret Behind Google’s Knowledge Graph [Business 2 Community]

"To ensure that your website is getting the proper visibility and exposure from Google’s newest search engine result system, be sure to follow these simple steps:

"1) Create a Google+ page for your business.

"2) Connect your Google+ business page to your website

"3) Utilize markup on your website’s products and articles."

2. Google Improves Knowledge Graph With Comparisons And Filters, Brings Cards & Cross-Platform Notifications To Mobile [TechCrunch]

"...[Google] is now featuring the ability to use the Knowledge Graph to compare things...

"Also new in this update is the ability to use Knowledge Graph to filter results...

"On mobile, Google is now making it easier to use your voice to set reminders and have those synced between devices...

"Google is now adding Google Now push notifications to its iPhone app, which will finally make Google Now useful on Apple’s platform."

4. Knowledge Graph [Wikipedia]

"Knowledge Graph display was added to Google's search engine in 2012..."

What is Hummingbird?

1. FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm [Search Engine Land]

"In general, Hummingbird — Google says — is a new engine built on both existing and new parts, organized in a way to especially serve the search demands of today, rather than one created for the needs of ten years ago, with the technologies back then."

"In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each 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."

"Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different SEOs or publishers need to worry about."

2. Why "Hummingbird" – Google's First New Search Algorithm Since 2001 – Is A Huge Deal [Business Insider]

"One beneficial result of Hummingbird should be that it creates a more even and fairer playing field for ‘the long tail’ of website publishers. Search keywords are dominated by large companies and brands who can afford to win the search word bidding war created by Google. Semantic search results are less predictable, and should enable small and niche website providers to gain a higher page ranking when a precise and complex search phrase is used."

3. Google Birthday: Piñata Doodle and 'Hummingbird' search algorithm update [Telegraph UK]

"New algorithms are therefore replacing traditional "Boolean" or keyword-based systems, because of the need to match concepts and meanings in addition to words."

4. An SEO Guide to the Google Hummingbird Update [Huffington Post]

"Hummingbird will be looking at search strings of three, four, five, or more words and rather than breaking these down it will provide results for the whole search string."

"Hummingbird will help ensure that Google delivers users to the most appropriate page of a website, rather than to a home page or top level page. As such, every single page should be closely targeted to potential visitors."

"Website owners and marketers should concentrate their efforts on a well-rounded content marketing plan. Website owners need to find ways in which to cover the different aspects of the topic their site is related to. They need to find ways to regularly implement new content and they also need to be able to do so in such a way that will make them appear more authoritative with readers, users, and the search engines."

5. Google Hummingbird: Where No Search Has Gone Before [Wired]

"Google now gives much better answers. For example, say a user searches for 'Hair salons near my house.' Previously, Google would analyze each word individually and provide results based on that — so you might get a Wikipedia article about hair salons, some map results based on your current location, and home improvement websites with pages titled 'my house.' With Hummingbird, Google better understands what you’re asking for, and displays a list of hair salons near your house (provided you’re signed in to Google and have provided them with a home address in Google Maps). The results match the meaning behind the search, rather than just individual words."

"As we edge into the era of wearable tech, Google is making sure they are ready to provide the best voice search experience around."

How Has Hummingbird Effected SEO?

1. Google’s Hummingbird Takes Flight: SEOs Give Insight On Google’s New Algorithm  [Search Engine Land]

"From a practical perspective, the need to identify the [unique selling point] of each business and become authoritative within it is now a key criteria for continued SEO success."

"[David Amerland] emphasizes the importance of content not being left in isolation, but instead shared across social networks via identified influencers. 'This is not something that can or will happen at the drop of a hat,' said Amerland, 'It requires time and commitment to building a relationship with influencers and sharing with them content that is of real value to their network.' Quick SEO, according to Amerland, 'Is now firmly in the past.'”

2. What Does Google's Hummingbird Update Mean For Your SEO Efforts? Nothing [Forbes]

"If you have original, high-quality content, and you have high-quality and relevant websites linking to your own website, then your website is still going to rank well. If anything, your website’s rankings will improve just as they should have after the Penguin and Panda updates rolled out."

3. Things, not strings: How Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm sets the stage for the future of mobile search [Venture Beat]

"One of the most telling things about Google’s recent updates is that the company chose to illustrate them with images of its mobile app, not its desktop site. That’s no accident."

"...stuffing your webpages with SEO-friendly keywords isn’t going to cut it anymore."

"If you want to understand where Google wants to go, take a look at Google Now, which pulls together data from all over to deliver you information that you didn’t know you needed. That idea, coupled with the always-listening, and always-present Google Glass, should give you a pretty clear idea of how Google wants you to interact with it in the future: constantly, quickly, and transparently."

"Sullivan says the general SEO advice remains the same: 'Have good, descriptive content, and you should be doing all you can be doing to tap into long-tail searches,' he wrote."

4. Google’s Hummingbird Update: Should You Be Concerned? [Wired]

"If I can give businesses one piece of advice after this update, it’s to prioritize a well-rounded online marketing strategy that continues to deliver a clear message. Every business in America has an audience, but not every business in America understands the needs of their audience. The companies who prioritize the needs of their users and create content to satisfy those needs will see the biggest successes in the future.

"It’s not enough to have a beautifully designed website or an entertaining blog that keeps people coming back for more. Businesses need to focus on staying ahead of the competition by taking advantage of all the marketing initiatives the Internet provides. From blogs and website design to a strong social media presence, it all ties in to becoming the authority in a given space.

"...all businesses should take a page from [Google] and focus on making their company name synonymous with their field."

5. What Google's Hummingbird Update Means for Small Business [Business News Daily]

"'Those businesses that didn’t have great results for generic terms will have more opportunity to see better placement,' Wisnefski said."

"'Businesses need to consider as many queries as possible, and what the searcher could really be asking,' said Bill Sebald, owner of Greenlane Search Marketing, a search engine optimization (SEO) consulting group. 'If your business is relevant for a search like, 'the best plasma TV to buy,' are consumers looking for bang for their buck in this case? Or rationale as to why it’s the best? Popular opinion? Content should now expand to cover as many meanings as possible to be more appetizing to the Hummingbird algorithm.'"

"'Content for the sake of 'words on a page' doesn't have the base value it once had,' Sebald said. 'Now, your content really has to answer something. This should move content strategy higher on the list of business marketing objectives; it's now even more important for desktop and mobile SEO.'"

"One of the biggest changes Hummingbird has to offer is search content displayed right on search pages... Although this is helpful for users, it can do a disservice to businesses, Evans said. With this feature, Google not only scrapes content from other websites to display information on search pages, but the process also promotes a Google-only user experience."

"So what should businesses do when Google takes your data and uses it to prevent customers from visiting your website? Adapt, Evans said. 'Businesses are going to have to offer something else to their visitors to make it worth the click for them to go to the site.' Although Google does not tolerate content scraping, Evans said businesses have to roll with the punches."

The Penguin 2.1 Update

1. Google Penguin 2.1: Who Got Hit? [Search Engine Watch]

"Penguin 2.1 appears to have identified newer link spam:

  • Forum spam: This includes comments in forums with exact match anchor text links.
  • Forum bio spam: Biographies of forum users containing exact match anchor text links.
  • 'Do follow' blogs: Blogs that don't add nofollow to the links posted. 'Let's face it,' Gabe said. 'Being listed on do-follow resource sites can absolutely send Google a signal that you are trying to game links.'
  • Blogroll spam: Watch for blogroll links gone wrong. 'Some may be fine,' Gabe said. 'If you are unsure which ones are bad versus good, ask for help from a seasoned SEO.'
  • Spammy directories: If you've used spammy directories in the past, and still have links out there, Gabe said 'nuke them, have them nofollowed, or disavow them.'
  • Blog comment signature spam: Google seems to be targeting these links even when they're not followed, Gabe said."

"Here are Gabe's top five recommendations on what to do if you've been hit by Penguin 2.1:

  • Understand that Penguin heavily targets unnatural links. Your new content and social activity won't trigger a recovery.
  • Thoroughly analyze your link profile, while keeping a keen eye on exact match and rich anchor text. That's what Penguin targets.
  • Remove those links if you can, and disavow the remaining links. And use the domain operator in the disavow file when the domain is low-quality. Don’t try and target specific URLs on a spammy domain, when you can nuke the entire domain.
  • Make sure more unnatural links aren’t being added as time goes on. Gabe said he's had a number of business owners think they cleaned up their situation, only to get hit harder during Penguin 2.1. After checking their link profiles, you can clearly see more spammy links were added during the spring, summer, and fall. This is what got them hit by Penguin 2.1.
  • Move fast and be aggressive. Gabe said he has seen Penguin recoveries during Panda updates, so there is a possibility of recovery prior to the next official Penguin update."

2. Penguin 2.1: What Changed Since 2.0, and How to Recover [Search Engine Journal]

"The trick is not to abandon link building; inbound links are still the most important piece of the ranking algorithm. Instead, you must replace them with high-quality, authoritative links that you earn.

"One of the best ways to build these backlinks is through guest blogging... In addition to building links through guest blogging, you’re going to need a quality on-site content strategy. Your goal should be to fulfill the 3 Pillars of SEO: Content, Links and Social Media."

3. Penguin 5, With The Penguin 2.1 Spam-Filtering Algorithm, Is Now Live [Search Engine Land]

"Here are all the confirmed releases of Penguin to date:

  • Penguin 1 on April 24, 2012 (impacting around 3.1% of queries)
  • Penguin 2 on May 26, 2012 (impacting less than 0.1%)
  • Penguin 3 on October 5, 2012 (impacting around 0.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 4 (AKA Penguin 2.0) on May 22, 2013 (impacting 2.3% of queries)
  • Penguin 5 (AKA Penguin 2.1) on Oct. 4, 2013 (impacting around 1% of queries)"

4. Your Keyword Strategy Is Wrong . . . But It Can Be Fixed [Business 2 Community]

"The primary changes are the ability to crawl and analyze pages that are deeper in your website to identify spam activities. What do you need to do? The same thing we told you to do in May:

"Review your backlinks; identify any spammy links, remove them or disavow them.

  • Stop spamming.
  • Stop trying to game the system.
  • Produce quality content, promote it, and trust that the cream will rise to the top"
Ready for professional SEO management after reading this? Start with a free SEO Audit from Search Engine Savvy.


Follow Steph McGuinn on Twitter, @HeartBuzzAgency.