Gianluca Fiorelli’s Super Search Update – September 2013 edition

Gianluca Fiorelli’s Super Search Update – September 2013 edition

9th October 2013

And one day, out of the blue, Vic Gundotra said [my paraphrase]: Oh, almost a month ago we radically changed the algorithm. We called that update 


And SEOs all over the world got stressed.

Hummingbird surely is the News in a month, this last September, which was generous with big news: the announcement of the Twitter IPO, not declaredGoogle updates, the 100% Not Provided, Penguin 2.1, Knowledge Graph and the Card philosophy expanding faster and faster…


Especially Google was able, once again to make us discussing, ranting, praising and gasping.

Let’s take, for instance, the phantom’s updates that seem hit several times between the end of August and the 15th of September. Retrospectively, with the delayed announcement of Hummingbird, SEOs are wondering if those fluctuating rankings were due to it, or if they were Pandas or Penguin flux or whatsoever tweak of the algo.

Sincerely, determining the reason of a rankings’ drop has become a very hard job, when it is not clearly a manual penalization.

So much that – maybe – the healthier thing to do is knowing what are the characteristics of each update, but immediately forget them and working just fine, using old SEO common sense as our guide.

For this reason, the best thing I’ve read about Hummingbird was this tweet by Dr Pete:


Now that we know how Hummingbird is in place since the end of August, we can put into contest many of the things happened during September.

The most obvious is relating the explosion of cards in Google to the little bird, but also the importance of this videos about the improved Voice Search, which was first published on YouTube on September the 5th and shared of G+ (and Twitter) by Matt Cutts himself the 10th:

Ok Google: what the hell is Hummingbird?

We can find some answers in this FAQ on Search Engine Land. The post is a valuable source of information not just because Danny Sullivan wrote it, but also because they are the result of an eye-to-eye conversation Danny had with Vic Gundotra just after the Hummingbird announcement.

But if we want dig into the (possible) rules governing Hummingbird, we should read the post Bill Slawski wrote few days later, where he describes a patent – Synonym identification based on co-occurring terms – that could considered a good match with Hummingbird.

Obviously SEOs started publishing first impressions, many – I must say – quite futile. Of all I save these four posts:

  • Doctor Hummingbird or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the algo, which I like – apart because of the Stanley Kubrik’s reference – due to the very practical point of views expressed in the post, especially relating Hummingbird with the diminished value of keywords and, my addition, relating the rising of the little bird with the news of the 100% Not Provided;
  • A Search Geek’s Thoughts on Google Hummingbird by David Harry, which reviews the evolution of the SERPs at the light of this epochal update. Historic perspective is essential if we want to understand something;
  • Hummingbird: Move Over Caffeine, Hello Sweet Nectar, especially the Dr Pete intervention, where he underline how Hummingbird will possibly be the foundational reason of the major updates from now to few years, as it was Caffeine, which cause Panda first and Penguin after;
  • Google goes scraper with Hummingbird update by Trevin Shirey, who points out to the dark side of Hummingbird. In fact, Google in its aim of offering an instant answer to a query does not have any problem in crafting the answers citing other sources, but not very well crediting them (if not at all).

Hummingbird, though, does not buried the value of all the old classic 200+ ranking factor.

When Vic Gundotra told that it is the most epochal update since Caffeine, that means that Hummingbird is more a new algorithmic infrastructure than a simple “new mass of ranking factors”. Link Graph is still there, PageRank is still there, On Page factors are still there, but Semantics and Entity Search factors now have a much much stronger influence in how Google shape the SERPs.

We are not in the Things search era yet, we are still traveling from Strings to Things… hence the Things factors still apply a lot.

For this reason welcome are the 2013 Search Engine Ranking Factors finally published in its completeness.

You may agree or disagree with the correlation study the Moz data scientists did and with the status quo painted by the 100+ more search industry expert, who participated to the survey, but this study still is an important document about how search possibly works and, for sure, a good giant list of best practices to follow.

Talking about surveys, I can’t not recommend this post: Seeing the Elephant: Defragmenting User Research. It is specifically written thinking about UX and User Research, but the methodology described by Lou Rosenfeld could be applied, with few changes, to every kind of research.

That post points us to the importance of talking for understanding. Somehow this is what Martin Macdonald did in An Interview with Google Webspam. If we want to know how the Search Quality Team works, why not talking with people who work(ed) there? For instance, did you know Google hires some of the best black hats when needed (that was my question, thanks Martin for asking it).

Related to web spam, the most interesting question asked to Matt Cutts was this:

Can nofollow links hurt my site’s rankings?

TL;DR: No, but if they are massive and depict a spammy attitude they could.

Is it just I, or this answer may mean that someone could do Negative SEO also without caring of the nature of links?

More interesting September’s posts/decks about SEO (because Hummingbird did not kill it again):

Solving the Sub-Domain Equation: Traffic and Value when Merging Sub-Domains, by Russ Jones on Moz.

On-Page Extreme. Common On-Page SEO Pitfalls by Bastian Grimm:

ImportXML, GoogleLookup Alternatives for Excel by Maurizio Ceravolo (I know many of you will love this).

Building Your Marketing Funnel with Google Analytics by John Doherty on Moz.

Using the Correct Hreflang Tag: A New Generator Tool by our own Aleyda on Moz (forgive me if I share many Moz posts this time, but it is long from being dead as a valuable source for SEOs).

What about Not Provided?

Without any doubt it was the News until Hummingbird was announced, but – let’s be honest – 99% of the posts written about it were more rants than actionable posts.
I sympathize with those rants, but – at the end – they don’t move things an inch, and Google won’t change just because SEOs will shout against its policy about referrals, also because – as I wrote before – I strongly consider that Not Provided and the Web of Things are strictly related.

More interesting to read and share, then, are posts that can offer us new ways of doing SEO even without the support of keywords in analytics.

The exceptionally on Tuesday Whiteboard When Keyword (not provided) is 100 Percent of Organic Referrals, What Should Marketers Do? Rand Fishkin shot is a good example.

Equally wonderful in offering a new way of looking at data is this post by Joel Klettke on iAcquire: Surviving the (Not Provided) Apocalypse.

Ok… I think I shared enough content to fill all your launch breaks until next month, and I am sorry because I am surely forgetting many others, for instance about video marketing and how to find “quick” ideas for entering into this trending channel.

As I would have loved to spend more time talking about growth hacking and cohort analysis, something that are getting more important everyday (we bring traffic, but we must retain that traffic too).

Or sharing some of the great posts about link building, from ultimate link building resources guides to using not linking brand mentions as a link building tactic, from about the importance of analyzing patterns in link profile instead of fixating in its quality to link building for eCommerce SEO.

Next time it will be… but let me say ciao to you with a final list, which nothing has to do with Web Marketing, but that simply amazing content:

Because, despite of all, SEO and Internet Marketing is not everything in our life (fortunately) and our old Mother Earth is indifferent to our digital pains… ah! By the way, did you know that you can do up to three experiments for proving that the Earth is Flat? (#facepalm)

Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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