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The Impact of Google's New Algorithm on SEO

On Google’s 15th Birthday, it gifted the world their most recent search algorithm update: Hummingbird. And Hummingbird has impacted nearly 90% of websites across the globe. The launch of this new algorithm which is the biggest since Caffeine in 2010 has shocked the internet marketing world. According to Google, this search algorithm is much smarter. It can immediately answer questions, filter answers and provide you comparison data.

Due to the penetration of Smartphones, Google understands the importance of mobile phones. Google wants content to be optimized for mobile phones. Some people are speculating that Search Engine Optimization is dead. However, experts say that SEO is not dead. In fact, there is nothing SEOs should be worried about. SEO is especially important in 24/7 Answering Services.

There’s a new algorithm update that was acknowledged late last night. I think the news was breaking around 5:30 Pacific Time. I know Danny Sullivan was blogging about it, talking about Google Hummingbird, and as with all these big algorithmic moves, people are tracking these very closely. This one actually came out somewhere around three to four weeks ago, so we’re talking about the last week in August, maybe spilling into the very first week in September.

Hummingbird is the nickname that’s been assigned to this update, and it’s a big one. This is breaking news. Ninety percent of searches affected. By comparison, that’s much higher than most of the Google algorithm updates we see from Google. Often, they’re talking three, five, seven percent of searches updated. We haven’t seen this kind of mass algorithm update since Caffeine in 2010, so that’s three years ago. So this is absolutely big news, people will be seeking this information. It’s just breaking. Even though the update was pushed out a month ago, the leak, or the announcement, is just coming out. I know the first thing people want to know, Chad. What is this doing to my rankings? Do I need to be scared? How do I react?

Well, as you said, Adam, this did roll out three to four weeks ago, so you want to go back into Google Analytics and look at the end of August and compare the end of August to the beginning of September. Did you see a drop around that time from organic sources? That’s really the answer to the question. If nothing has changed since the end of August, then Hummingbird is already in play. If you saw a drop, you need to look at that drop and figure out what’s happened. So, take a look at that and it should answer the question.

A lot of people are asking what the impact of this is. Of course Panda and Penguin, which we’ve been talking about all summer and even last year, are those dead? The answer to that seems to be, no, not entirely. They are using elements that they learned through Panda and Penguin in this new Hummingbird update. But Danny Sullivan is comparing this update to having a car that you might replace the engine on, which is what some of the previous Google algorithms were, versus having a whole new car, and that is kind of what we’re seeing with this update. Now I know the blogosphere always lights up every time there’s some big move by Google, saying, “Okay, this is it. SEO is dead. Long live SEO.” What is our opinion on that? I know Danny Sullivan is saying, “No, it’s never dead.” But what’s our take on that, from the HubShout perspective?

I like Danny Sullivan’s analogy there of the engine versus the whole car, and if you think back to Caffeine, it was all about how quickly Google could index the web. They were really faced with how to get more real time, because there was more news, social media was coming out. They really needed to figure out how to get information into search results quicker. This sounds like it’s moving more towards trying to answer questions in a different way, not being so focused on just the words on the page. I think those factors, as you said, Adam, are still in there. Everything that used to be in the algorithm is still in there. It’s just a different recipe. So, I think in the end, is SEO dead? Absolutely not. Any time anyone’s ever brought that up, we know it’s not dead. If SEO is dead, then we wouldn’t be using search engines anymore. All the data shows that searches are going up, especially as we move to mobile devices and other ways of asking questions. So, absolutely not. SEO is not dead.

The other hot question out there is, “Does this mean PageRank has finally been retired?” Most people say no. It’s still in the algorithm, but it’s one of nearly 200 factors, along with anchor text, which is still important, and the keywords used on the page. So, I know this is very confusing for folks, and people are probably seeking absolute certainty on what this Google Hummingbird update really means for them. Like Chad said, first analyze your traffic in Analytics before that last week in August and into that first week of September. If you do see a drop, then things get kind of confusing, because Google times these algorithmic updates with a lot of other things they’re doing. There’s been a lot of chatter this week about a large blog network that was taken down by Google’s web spam team. There’s been a lot of discussion about unnatural link warnings out there. All of that is timed around what we now know, three and a half or four weeks ago, was a major change to the core mathematics behind who is ranking things. So, that does make it very confusing.

To conclude, guidance from Google remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and hopefully better ways.