SEO in the Age of Penguin 2.0 and Hummingbird: You’re Doing It Wrong

by Chris Kilbourn

Last updated on December 14th, 2017

Everything you learned about SEO five years ago is wrong.

Heck, everything you learned about SEO before last year is wrong too!

That’s because 2012 was the year of the Penguin—the Google Penguin, that is. Earlier this year, Penguin got an update and Penguin 2.0 went live. And now we have Hummingbird.

If you want to find out what the whole Penguin fuss involves, check out this definitive guide from Search Engine Watch. If you want to find out exactly what it means for how you handle SEO from here on out, then read on for the dos and don’ts.

Google Penguin

Keyword Dos and Don’ts

Some things hang around forever on the web. There’s a lot of bad SEO advice out there, especially when it comes to using keywords in your site content. Keyword stuffing was one of the hallmarks of old-style and black hat SEO—don’t do it unless you want your site to get the mother of all Google slaps.

Let’s be clear: overusing keywords in titles, meta descriptions and content is a big no-no.

And buying exact-match keyword domain names could backfire too, unless the rest of your SEO is up to scratch.

Here’s a better approach:

  • DO pick one relevant keyword you can optimize your content around and include it in the URL, title, description and text naturally—that last bit is key. You have to be able to read it aloud without wanting to gag.
  • DO make content relevant to the keyword and to your overall site and brand. Being relevant is important both to Google and to the readers who find your site.

Accessibility and More


Making your site accessible is one way to put your SEO efforts on steroids. Accessibility is a huge ranking factor; here’s what you should do:

  • DO ensure that your navigation works to help people find what they want easily.
  • DO name images with your keyword and include the keyword in the ALT tags—you get double benefit from this as it’s good for general SEO.
  • DO check that your site works well on the most popular browsers and on every platform. Try creating a mobile responsive site with a tool like Squarehook.
  • DO worry about on-page SEO—the right way. Hubspot has an excellent guide to help with this.

Link Building Techniques to Avoid

You know that old joke about people hiring anyone with a pulse—old style link building was a bit like that. As long as a site was up, SEOs would try to persuade it to link to yours, either directly or via some kind of linking ring.

Forget it.

Here are some old link building techniques that have been consigned to the garbage pile.

  • Article spinning to try to fool Google into thinking you are posting lots of unique content – gone!
  • Placing articles on low quality directories (or multiple submissions to those same directories) – gone!
  • Multiple social bookmarking, fake social media accounts and other black hat SEO techniques – gone!
  • Comment spamming—not that you would do this but you wouldn’t believe some of the tactics people will use on your behalf – totally gone!
  • Using the same anchor text link on multiple articles or posts or even press releases – sayonara, baby!

Sorry, but you’re going to have to build your links the hard way, with quality, relevant, useful content. More on that later.

Managing Bad Links

If you have lots of bad links out there as a result of poor SEO tactics, here are a few things you can try:

  • DO conduct a link audit and check out your link profile to find out if there are undesirable links pointing to your site.
  • DO get rid of links from sites that trigger malware warnings in your browser.
  • DO use the Google Disavow Links tool to get Google to ignore any poor quality links that you find.
  • DO use Google Webmaster Tools to see if Google has flagged any issues with your site, then fix them and submit a reconsideration request.
  • DO stop comment spammers from linking to you with plugins like GASP.

Link Building in 2013 – What to Do

If you want to build good links to your site in the age of the Penguin, here are some techniques that can work:

  • DO offer yourself as an expert source for other people’s posts, interviews, white papers and more. Use tools like HARO or MuckRack to find opportunities and make connections. That’s great for building your authority, too.
  • DO focus on local search by setting up your Google+ Local profile and getting listings in local directories. That makes you immediately relevant to the new on-the-go consumer sector.
  • DO guest post on high quality sites that are relevant to your business.
  • DO build links by leaving useful comments on high quality sites.
  • DO encourage other high quality sites to provide honest reviews of your products and services.

Checking on Quality

If you’re going to place content on other sites as part of your marketing strategy, then the quality of those sites is just as important as the quality of yours, as it will have a big impact on Google’s relevancy and trust algorithms. Here are some tips to help with that.

  • DON’T place guest posts on low quality sites that look like spammy article directories. If that’s how it looks, you don’t want to be there.
  • DO use tools to help you find the quality of a site, like a free online Page Rank checker, the SEO Tools Chrome plugin or the SEOMoz toolbar for Firefox. Both of those plugins will give you important information about a site’s age, ranking, social presence and more.
  • DO check sites and make sure they have thematic coherence—a little bit of this and a little bit of that is a sign of poor quality and a red flag for the search engine powers that be.
  • DO check for great content before placing your own content on a site. Social sharing (by more than one or two people) and comments are another sign that a site is trustworthy.

Content Marketing

Whether you’re writing content for your own site or placing it somewhere else, you need to focus on quality for maximum SEO impact and appeal to your readers.

Google Plus profile

  • DO set up your Google+ profile and claim authorship of all your content. Nothing says trust like that little photo in the search engine listing for the content you have written.
  • DO craft compelling titles and descriptions for posts, pages and other content so that your search engine entries are appealing.
  • DO create in-depth content that is interesting, informative and engaging. Not only will this enhance the image of your brand but it will be more shareable by quality sites and social media accounts.
  • DO include images with all content to enhance readability and general appeal.
  • DO enhance your content marketing efforts with quality products such as webinars and other content products.

Getting Social

social media

If people are sharing your content and talking about you, that’s a big plus as far as Google is concerned, but only if it happens naturally. Here are some steps you can take to make that happen.

  • DO create a strong, branded social media presence where you share relevant content but DON’T just push your own stuff. Underwater Audio does a great job of this and has an excellent, engaged Facebook following as a result.
  • DO add social sharing links to your content and include a call to action encouraging readers to share.
  • DO encourage customers and consumers to review your products and services—they will be sure to share.

The Bottom Line

So what does all this add up to?

If you don’t want to spend your time following Matt Cutts around like a lost puppy, then here’s what it boils down to: DO create great content for real people and DON’T try to trick them. OK?

What do you think? Is there anything you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!



Get updates on new articles, webinars and other opportunities:

Chris Kilbourn

Chris Kilbourn is a content strategist at Qzzr, an online quiz tool that allows you to create quizzes and post them anywhere. In past lives, he was a professional rock star (seriously), and he built and sold 2 successful companies from the ground up. You can connect with him via email at


Comment Policy

Please join the conversation! We like long and thoughtful communication.
Abrupt comments and gibberish will not be approved. Please, only use your real name, not your business name or keywords. We rarely allow links in your comment.
Finally, please use your favorite personal social media profile for the website field.


Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Alex says:
    June 6, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    I try to see from Ahrefs tool why some web site ranking in the top of some key words where i work also and i ‘m little surprise to see how many spam .edu backlinks thy have in the top of the best backlinks list. I never see that before some one can explain why?

  2. Ankur Pathania says:
    June 5, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for Sharing Information , your article is very helpful

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      June 5, 2015 at 10:11 am

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you found it helpful.

  3. SAURABH says:
    June 1, 2015 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for Sharing Information , your article is very helpful

  4. myntra says:
    May 6, 2015 at 4:17 am

    Nice article, thanks for the information. It’s very complete information. I will bookmark for next reference.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      May 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

      You’re welcome, Myntra. Hope it helps.

  5. Paddy says:
    May 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for the great post! You’ve got a lot of good points and tips there. Although I would add using DuckDuckGo when backlinking as Google tends to trace your every move.

  6. manu says:
    April 22, 2015 at 3:41 am

    Thank you for sharing such informative article for us..

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      April 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

      You’re welcome, Manu.

  7. Anonymous says:
    May 27, 2014 at 2:47 am

    After the panda and penguin the SEO is changed and the peoples are worried about it. According to these algorithms the website content is must be white hat and cannot be spammed. If the content of the website is not relevant and contained the duplicate material that will consider as spammed. Blogger you sharing are useful information your sharing points are very helpful.

    • neil says:
      May 27, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Great point! That’s why it is of the utmost importance that people focus on content. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:
    May 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for a smashing post really helps me with my business website and there is alot of information to use to improve my own site so thanks again.

    • neil says:
      May 24, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  9. Noida says:
    May 8, 2014 at 5:48 am

    This is actually one of my favorite article on Hummingbird..It is pleasure for me to read such great blog post.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      May 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

      Glad you like it, Noida!

    • neil says:
      May 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      Noida, thanks for the read. Looking forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  10. Wayan says:
    April 28, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Nice post,
    i want to ask something, i have website which lot some people copy my content and use my image by embed in their website without my permission, so i disable right click to my website, but the visitor to my website is decreased, i think because i disable the right click and very annoying to the visitor. If i enable the right click and lot some people will start to copy my content, are this will efect to my ranking in SERP, are google will know which one have the original content

    Wayan Adika

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      April 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Hi Wayan. Content scraping is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a content marketer. It takes time and energy to fight it, but you can win if you do it right. This article is a great primer for the process. I’ve tried it, and it works. Just be patient. I’ve seen it work immediately, and I’ve seen it take a month or more to stop the scraping.

    • neil says:
      April 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Wayan, I don’t think you should disable the right click. Have you tried the disavow tool?

  11. Jennifer says:
    March 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    We were kicked in the teeth by Hummingbird and have taken our SEO in-house. Now we’re working on disavowing bad links and creating high quality ones (which is a PITA), continuing our good fresh content (which has never been a problem), and getting some fresh video out there. What I can’t do is get my authorship back! I had it for awhile last year but my website company said I needed to connect my webpage to the company Google+ page – NOT the main page. I unplugged it and did what they said and I’ve never gotten authorship back. Should my website be connected to the company Google+ page or its parent page? So frustrated!

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      March 2, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      For Author Rank, you need to connect your personal Google+ page to your articles. A great plugin to make it easy on all your writers is AuthorSure. Otherwise, in your author bio, you need to use the rel=”author” mark-up. Here’s how Google tells you to do it:
      Good luck!

  12. Anonymous says:
    January 28, 2014 at 6:18 am

    It is great post for me,i know some seo techniques but don’t know how to do,i have not heared google panda,Thanks for sharing.

  13. Stephanie Riggs says:
    January 12, 2014 at 1:18 am

    With the introduction of Google Panda and Penguin updates people start building natural backlinks and kicked out all the automatic way of creating backlinks and in the last year with the Hummingbird update now people are paying attention upon the contents of the websites because Google consider those websites for ranking up which have good contents. Your post is good enough for those people still following old techniques for raking up their websites because it’s time to change your SEO campaigns.

  14. Anonymous says:
    January 11, 2014 at 2:50 am

    We need SEO though should be a secondary need for internet marketers. The reputation and integrity should be given utmost attention. Bad content with black hat SEO strategies mars reputation and only earns virtual intantaneous glory.

    Enough of these: ‘Today SEO, tommorrow algorithms update, content editing and links audit’. I thing it is very vital for webmasters, content and internet marketers to ask some questions:

    ‘What my contents could become without search engine?’
    ‘How internet marketing survived before the advent of search engine and Google to be precise’

    I don’t blame Google anyway, it cares about its business. Start builing your own with less depedence on other business owners though we all seems to be highly google dependent and worshippers.

    I’ll create a watchlist from the great articles about Penguin you’ve shared here. Thanks for calling our attention.

  15. David Allen says:
    January 7, 2014 at 1:41 am

    It is pleasure for me to read such great blog post.

  16. robort says:
    January 2, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Great post usefull one really going to help us to gain revenue while doing proper seo.

  17. Anonymous says:
    December 6, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Hey Chris,

    Big thanks to you, Its such a really good post to me… like to read. There are lots of post about hummingbird update but you wrote amaging.

    Keep write


  18. Anonymous says:
    December 5, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    What? All that i know regarding SEO was wrong? – That was my initial reaction upon reading the article but after understnading it well its not that bad tough, this blog instead gave me ideas on how to maintain or make it on top. I think the authot of this one generally speaks that mostly we are doing it wrong. (e.g. using of keywords is good but over using it is a big no-no). The bottom line – Dont exaggerate, just give the users the content they need (RELEVANCE) and it will make you more accessible to the readers.

  19. Riyad says:
    December 2, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Very Nice Article.
    Really very nice.
    SEO Is Very Needy for every Website.


  20. Matt Rowland says:
    November 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    This is aactually one of my favorite article on Hummingbird. I have shared it numerous times with my clients, trying to explain to them how different things are now. It has made me save valuable typiing time in email corespondances. Thanks CK! You rock!

  21. Deepak Singh says:
    November 6, 2013 at 5:46 am

    Google Algorithm is same, I think there is no changes as long as you are creating quality, fresh content and building natural links.

  22. Anonymous says:
    October 25, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Chris,

    What do you feel a proper Title Tag should loko like after Hummingbird?

    Before they were 70 characters, typically Primary KW, Secondary KW, Brand.

    What now?

  23. Somesh says:
    October 14, 2013 at 10:00 am

    That means seo is dead now ?

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      October 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

      I wouldn’t say SEO is dead. It’s just changed. Dramatically. Understand how search has evolved, and you can still optimize your site for search. Just don’t try to use keywords as your main strategy.

      • Somesh says:
        October 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

        keyword tools are not providing appropriate data these days and call it dramatic changes or improvement atleat these changes are helping those who’ve created there own quality content rather than just copying from here and there…

        • Kathryn Aragon says:
          October 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm

          That’s what I like most about these changes. Now I don’t have to compromise my writing style for SEO–in fact, I’ll be penalized if I do. And the people who copy what we write will have a hard time ranking at all. Glad we’re on the same page. 🙂

          • Somesh says:
            October 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm

            nice, now all i’ve to do is concentrate on the quality of content..
            thanks for the reply

  24. SEO says:
    October 11, 2013 at 6:17 am

    Nice information thanks for sharing.

  25. Jennifer says:
    October 10, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Cris,

    thank you so much for that post. It will really help us. I really appreciate it.

    thank you

  26. Richard Jonas says:
    October 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Hey Chris,

    Thank you for a truly useful and very well-written article. In particular, I really appreciate the info about doing a link audit. (HINT: I personally think an article focused on link audit techniques would be a big hit. Just sayin’.) But the entire article is a gem. I’ve already shared on Google+ and will RT on Twitter. Thanks again.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 12, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Hey Richard,

      Thanks for the compliments and suggestion!
      I’ll definitely write an article about link audits and publish it here.
      Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to cover.



  27. James Kilner @ Kilner Joinery says:
    October 9, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Hello Chris, the post was a very interesting read so thank you. Since Hummingbird my website has regained its spot in the organic search so I am happy. I have not named my images like you suggest so I guess if I do this then it may even help my rankings further.

    Thanks again for the post!

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 9, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Hey James,

      That’s great! Your website looks awesome as well.
      Naming images and alt tagging images can be great for short term improvements.
      Just remember- high quality links are the most important factor for increasing your rankings. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment,


  28. Jennifer says:
    October 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm


    I’m worrying about the impact of new seo algorithm to my business. Anyone knows what are the things that i need to do and not to do? I am doing the old seo techniques which is the title and meta tags optimization.

    thank you,

  29. Marilyn Moran says:
    October 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Excellent post! I have shared this everywhere I could because it’s an easy, no-nonsense guide to SEO and online marketing in general. A lot of these things seem “common sense” but they bear repeating over and over again. Thank you!

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 9, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Hey Marilyn,

      Thanks for the feedback and sharing it! I appreciate it.



  30. Kate Toon says:
    October 8, 2013 at 4:33 am

    This post is AWESOME – thank you. I will share and share again.

  31. David Wilks says:
    October 6, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Great summary. Thank you Chris.

    Because I come from a very long marketing, sales and advertising background, I have focussed only on quality content as I built my site. For two years I avoided ‘traditional’ SEO and focussed all of our efforts on that content and on social media.

    I truly believe in two old advertising adages:

    The consumer is not an idiot – she is my wife; and

    Walk a mile in your prospects shoes!

    That belief system has kept us consistently clear of Google’s ‘bad books’ and allowed us to build an exceptionally engaged audience.

    Just saying 🙂

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Hey Dave,

      I totally agree with walking a mile in your prospects shoes to understand them completely.
      That’s great that you’ve stayed “clear of Googles bad books”.
      I can’t tell what you mean with your statement, “Just saying”.
      Are your views different than those expressed in my article? Can you be more clear?



  32. Caetano Notari says:
    October 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Very nice post Chris.
    Google Authorship cannot be underestimated. I still have a pet project, a personal blog that focus on digital inclusion, and even though I never did anything on SEO or paid advertisement the number of visitors increased when I added Google Authorship.
    Also, I noticed that posting on Google+ also helps on getting content indexed by Google. So, if you blog, use all Google Tools to your advantage.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 9, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Hey Caetano,

      That’s interesting that you experienced a direct increase in traffic by adding Google authorship to your blog! How much of an increase have you seen?

      Thanks for the comment!


  33. Susan Payton says:
    October 4, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Fantastic post. I’ve heard that “too many” guest posts can work against you. What’s too much, in your opinion? I’m a blogger for hire, so naturally there are a lot of my posts out there, both paid and free. I don’t want that to negatively impact me, but sometimes the rules Google makes up are blurry.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 4, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Hey Susan,

      That’s a great question.
      It depends on the type of guest post. The quality, where it’s published, where it’s linking to, etc. can all make a difference with Google. If you’re doing 100% natural guest posting (like what I do with CrazyEgg, amongst other top-tier marketing blogs), there’s nothing to worry about at all. However, there are a massive number of “content farm” services that generate unique, but low quality “guest posts” and publish it poor sites. These types of guest posts are risky and can negatively impact your site’s rankings.

      Thanks for the comment and fantastic question.


  34. Ankur Upadhyay says:
    October 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Very informative guide for post Hummingbird SEO. Google has started focussing more on quantity and less on quality.

    Its better to write a blog post naturally without worrying about keywords. After that check out relevant keywords and try to insert them in your post at appropriate places, so that the whole process and post looks natural.

    What I find puzzling is that some bloggers try to write posts around keywords. I believe that you have to write for your readers and not forthe search engines. Anyone should get benefit from keywords only if your post is quality and keywords are used naturally and not in spammy way. And I am glad that Google agrees.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Hey Ankur,

      Yes, definitely. It’s always annoying to see posts that are written for search engines. The good news- it’s easy to seperate those who know what they’re doing from the ignorant.
      Thanks for the comment! I appreciate your input.


  35. Cathy Dunham says:
    October 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Excellent key points, Chris. It’s good to know we are doing LOTS of the right things the right way. And a few things we are sorta/kinda doing but need to pursue more diligently – namely, running our link audits more often and trying to block, correct or disavow bad inbound links. It’s a PITA exercise, but necessary. Thanks for the reminder… 🙂

    Your generous sharing also gave us a couple of new tools to check out, like MuckRack and Gasp. In fact, Gasp sounds like a solution we’ve been trying to implement with some other tools that haven’t delivered as promised. So, we appreciate your recommendation!! (Already forwarded to my more techier colleagues to test.)

    Overall, I think Hummingbird is a breath of fresh air. My only complaint has been the loss of organic keywords in Google Analytics. It’s extremely valuable to know the “top topics” that most of our clients’ customers/visitors are looking for — so we can in turn create and publish it for them… Shutting the keywords off puts all of us in the dark.

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Hey Cathy,

      That’s great that you’re running those link audits! It’s definitely a PITA, but neceassary exercise.
      I couldn’t agree with you more. Very frustrated about the keywords being shut off as well.
      Thanks for the comment!


  36. Jane says:
    October 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Most of the changes have been for good – at least good for the sake of SEO, even though many blogs lost search engine traffic.

    Now that over optimization is a sin, I can be rest assured that I can see a dramatic decrease in gibberish content written FOR search engines (And not for people).

    And yes, comment spamming begone forever please! Doesn’t seem that many people have “got it” though – I can still see the same old “hey I’m bookmarking your blog DEAR” kinda comments coming through 🙂

    Value and quality wins and gets recognition at last!

    • Chris Kilbourn says:
      October 3, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Yes, I can’t wait for gibberish content to become buried and its creators to be fully penalized for their spammy tactics.

      Haha! Yeah, I hate the “hello, greetings of the day. love this blog post. I will tell everyone” comments.

      Thanks for commenting, Jane!

  37. October 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Excellent, comprehensive guide here!

    Another content “do”…

    DO include sub-titles and bullet points in text content ( such as long-form blog posts and e-books) to improve readability and connect users with the information they want right away. It’s a great way to naturally include that keyword, too.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • October 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Hey Sarah,

      Thank you! That’s also a great “do”.
      Surprisingly, a lot of content writers don’t use subheadings and bullet points.
      It’s such an easy imrovement, but is very overlooked.

      Thanks for the comment!


  38. October 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Love this:
    “Making your site accessible is one way to put your SEO efforts on steroids. Accessibility is a huge ranking factor; here’s what you should do”

    Reminder: when you say:
    “DO name images with your keyword and include the keyword in the ALT tags—you get double benefit from this as it’s good for general SEO.”

    ONLY if the Alt tag keyword matches the picture! Accessibility is for people with disabilities. If the picture is of a cat and for SEO purposes you put in an ALT tag that says “strategic marketing”, a person who is blind and using a screen reader will hear “strategic marketing” rather than “cat operating computer & mouse”.

    Thanks again for getting the word out that Accessible websites are great for SEO. They are as accessible website are typically built properly.

    • October 2, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      Hey Richard,

      I’m glad you liked it!
      Of course- Only include keywords in the alt tags if it matches the picture.
      Thanks for the comment.


      • Purnama says:
        July 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm

        Nice post and info, I have a month old website. it seems so hard to get ranks in google. someone said that only using seo on page can do better in google, without any backlinks. is it true?

Show Me My Heatmap

To capture data, @blueearth recommends website heatmaps #CrushinItMN



What makes people leave your website?