How soon will Google Hummingbird spread its wings? It may be happening right now

For many months by now, Google’s new search algorithm known as “Hummingbird” has been maturing and fortifying its positions in the Google search infrastructure.

Having had an awkward infancy (many people observed irrelevant search results when Hummingbird was first launched), the Hummingbird algorithm is now an integral part of Google search, its impact palpable in an increasing number of instances.

If previously one could spend the entire day looking for a fresh trace of Hummingbird in the SERPs, then nowadays evidence is quite easy to come by.

In this post, I’d like to analyze some recent examples of the Hummingbird algorithm in action (that I personally encountered in search), and give my opinion on what this could mean for SEOs.

But before we proceed, perhaps it’s worth mentioning that there’s just been…

Matt Cutts on penalty diagnostics: “think holistic ranking”

We all know how confusing it is to establish why a site is not ranking highly on Google.

Yesterday Google's Matt Cutts spoke on how one can tell whether their site was hit by an algorithm refresh or whether it was outranked by a competitor.

According to Matt Cutts, it's usually hard to draw the line between the two cases, because at Google they "don't think much about algorithmic penalties. The web spam team writes all sorts of code, but that rather goes into the holistic ranking that Google does."

In the video, Cutts goes on to say it's a "tough call to make" to differentiate between a situation when a site is affected by a punitive element in Google's algorithm, and a case when a site is impacted by an algorithm improvement that's NOT a penalty.

Google’s action on MyBlogGuest: what surface-scratchers seem to be missing

Yesterday morning, Matt Cutts announced via Twitter that Google "took action" on a large guest blog network.

What many marketers familiar with the industry read between the lines was that Matt Cutts probably meant Ann Smarty's MyBlogGuest. Indeed, later that day, a search for My Blog Guest returned only links to MBG's socials media profile in the results.

Then the penalty was later officially confirmed by the services founder herself.

To those unfamiliar with how guest blogging devolved from being a legitimate marketing practice to being viewed as some outlawed activity, MyBlogGuest's penalty may seem justified.

But I'd be inclined to think that anyone who shares this view simply hasn't been in online marketing long enough.

Dealing with unnatural links in 2014: do you have a post-Penguin plan?

In not-so-distant past, Google changed the game of SEO forever. In January 2012, the company began sending webmasters messages about "unnatural links" pointing to their sites. All in all, some 25,000 messages like that had been dispatched before February 2012.

The Penguin update ensued, causing the great migration of backlinks on the Web. Pretty much anyone who had been consciously engaged in SEO got "penguinised" and either sank into oblivion, or adjusted their linking strategies. Many had been cleaning up and disavowing their links - the usual Penguin aftermath routine.

Right now, the dust raised by Penguin's glossy feet seems to have settled, but the issue of unnatural links remains. First, Google is likely to turn up the dial with upcoming updates, and there may be new losers. Second, the punitive nature of Google Penguin gave rise to negative SEO.

So, how does one go about spotting and removing unnatural links? Is it necessary to take action as soon as you spot suspicious links in your profile, or should you act only if there is a traffic drop or a warning in Google Webmaster Tools? Let's look at some possible scenarios.

Google refreshes Page Layout algorithm: is your site at risk?

You may have heard of the Page Layout update Google first released in January 2012. The update pushes sites 'top-heavy' with ads further down the SERPs, since it's hard for users to find actual content on such sites.

About a week ago, Google updated the filter, affecting an undisclosed (this time) percentage of sites. 

Can your site be in danger?

In order to understand if your site has already been affected, check whether there's been a major, sharp drop in search traffic on February 6, 2014 or immediately after that.

If not, your site should be safe. Still, it is good to know what ad placement behavior to avoid (especially if you have an affiliate/AdSense site) in order not to get caught in this filter.