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Vince Algo Update - More Offline Brand Authority in SERPS?
Voasi




msg:3854123
 6:12 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've been doing several different searches today, mostly high competition single and two-word combos and it seems across the board, Google is giving more and more top spot rankings to Fortune-type offline brands. For instance:

Keyword: Laptop
#1 - Apple
#2 - Dell

Keyword: High Speed Internet
#1 - ATT
#2 - Comcast

Keyword: Quit Smoking
#1 - SmokeFree.gov
#2 - CDC.gov

Keyword: Car Audio
#1 - Crutchfield
#3 - Pioneer

Does anyone else see this in competitive spaces?

 

tedster




msg:3854140
 6:31 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Note that the usual policy here (see Charter [webmasterworld.com]) is not to discuss specific keywords or rankings. We're making an exception here because of the topic.

I also have the sense that there is a change in this direction. In 2008 Eric Schmidt made some comments that brands were more important. My only question is whether the influence is from offline or possible some other factor - such as unlinked brand mentions, or social media buzz.

Marcia




msg:3854176
 7:28 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

I began seeing it in keyword searches for consumer goods other than the above, some of which had no possible on-site relevancy factors for the search: i.e. 100% graphical or Flash splash page in a case or two, and nothing in the internal navigation or text; not even content as such. Even anchor text wouldn't necessarily have been a factor, in the case of multi-topic sites with only one section pertinent to the search.

My immediate observation/perception was that it was publicly traded companies getting a boost - which all that I saw happened to be. That publicly traded = boost in trust factors.

Voasi




msg:3854182
 7:39 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

My only question is whether the influence is from offline or possible some other factor - such as unlinked brand mentions, or social media buzz

Yea, I wonder if it's combination of authority status and social media buzz. Even if Google went that route, I would think a lot of users would not like the SERPs for too long. A lot of the "big boys" have horribly designed websites and I could see the bounce rate coming more into play.

And if "brands" are more important, should linking be more focused on building the brand (anchor text just site name) and just sprinkle in a few targeted anchor text links?

[edited by: Voasi at 7:40 pm (utc) on Feb. 20, 2009]

incrediblehelp




msg:3854190
 7:48 pm on Feb 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not sure what the confusion is here. Inherently these top brands will/have more (high quality) back links with those keywords in them...so they will rank for those keywords.

tedster




msg:3855107
 3:04 am on Feb 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

However, the big brands now seem to have achieved more prominence, and one that is not always easy to understand from backlinks alone. We touched on this last October in the thread Google's Eric Schmidt Says 'Net Cesspool Needs Brands [webmasterworld.com]. It seemed he was signalling something there - such comments are rarely made lightly.

Yea, I wonder if it's combination of authority status and social media buzz.

This thread's title is about "offline" brand authority. No official comments from Google that I've seen - but the idea of giving some trust and authority to unlinked brand citations online seems possible to me.

It's very common to have your brand mentioned without a link in social media than on other types of sites.

I'm sure Google isn't ignoring the boom in social media - I know my clients aren't. Many of them watch the conversations where their brand is mentioned with intensity, and the number of tools for such conversation mining is mushrooming.

signor_john




msg:3855128
 4:05 am on Feb 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

However, the big brands now seem to have achieved more prominence, and one that is not always easy to understand from backlinks alone

Backlinks are only part of the Google algorithm, so why should it be possible to explain greater brand prominence by backlinks alone?

Question: If "offline brand authority" were a factor, how would Google implement it? The idea of employees typing a list of brand names and assigning authority value to each doesn't sound very Google-y. The other possibility--online mentions, as opposed to online links--seems more likely. But why limit it to "social media"? Why not news media, Wikipedia, and Web sites in general? Surely frequent juxtaposition of keywords like "Dell" and "laptop" at cnet.com or "Hostess" and "cupcake" at nytimes.com ought to provide at least as much brand authority as juxtaposition of those keywords at Facebook or on Twitter.

tedster




msg:3855130
 4:12 am on Feb 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

Just this year - and even this month - there seems to be an increase in big brands on page one.

Granted that's a subjective sense and not something that either the opening poster or I have done an objective data study on. But it's a worthy topic to toss around, I think, to see if anyone else has noticed this.

In a related observation, there were two major international brands I've been watching who were stuck in a yo-yo ranking for many, many months. Both are now stably on page one after a long time being in the top five results for just a few hours a day.

ogletree




msg:3856005
 6:13 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

How about the term shoes. You don't see a major brand until the third result. The top two websites are websites that sell shoes online only. It is purely on backlinks. They are both well branded websites. I think a well branded website that has good backlinks and seo will beat out some fortune 500 website with zero SEO. Nike is not until 23 and you don't get any bigger brand than Nike. Not to mention I know one of the best SEO's out there worked on it.

[edited by: ogletree at 6:59 pm (utc) on Feb. 23, 2009]

supafresh




msg:3856008
 6:15 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Very High Internal Page Rank
Halo Domain Trust
Mega links from Authority sites
Millions of natural links
Top 100 website traffic on the internet

With that much power they could rank for whatever they want.

JonW




msg:3856043
 7:06 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Did anyone consider that fortune 500 types hire expensive expertise for their advertising campains. Yes they have more backlinks, due to public awarness plus the efforts by their inhouse or hired advertising/pr/media folks.

Those guys know all the ways to increase quality scores, have worked the bid stratgies, and know people in the industry.

they use expensive software to keep track of their positions, and modify their bids 24/7 to optimize their returns.

Voasi




msg:3856046
 7:13 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Did anyone consider that fortune 500 types hire expensive expertise for their advertising campains. Yes they have more backlinks, due to public awarness plus the efforts by their inhouse or hired advertising/pr/media folks.

Those guys know all the ways to increase quality scores, have worked the bid stratgies, and know people in the industry.

they use expensive software to keep track of their positions, and modify their bids 24/7 to optimize their returns.


This is not as true as you'd like to believe. I've worked with lots of various Fortune 1000 companies and they still don't know exactly what is going on. Even if they're ranking, it's purely on domain trust and no because of well crafted SEO strategies.

I'm sure Google isn't ignoring the boom in social media - I know my clients aren't. Many of them watch the conversations where their brand is mentioned with intensity, and the number of tools for such conversation mining is mushrooming.

Are you clients seeing bigger gains in rankings due to those social interactions? ...and I'm not talking backlinks so much, but just mentions between the Twitters, Stumbles, Diggs, etc...

weeks




msg:3856071
 7:42 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

On Google
Keyword: search engine
#1 Dogpile
#2 Ask.com

tedster




msg:3856082
 8:06 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Highly visible brands are, well, highly visible. So they naturally tend to be involved in social media conversations, shopping comparison sites, etc. Metrics for determining the effect of any non-linked mentions on regular search rankings are not easy to nail down. It does appear from the coversation mining tools I've used that an increase in mentions (not necessarily linked) is often and quickly followed by imprved search traffic.

The question raised in the opening post is whether something has changed very recently in the way Google treats a brandname - and that raises the question of how "brand" could be defined algorithmically. It's one thing to say "I know is when I see it" and another thing altogether to define the concept of brand rigorously.

I can only say that this is a direction I'm sure Google has been considering for quite a while. They are not running a ranking contest, after all, but a service for their end users. If the end users seem happier with branded results it makes sense to me that they would look harder at this area. Sitelinks were a kind of step in this direction, right?

So is there an uptick in big brands on the keyword searches? How can WE measure something like that when defining the concept of brand, rigorously, is rather slippery thing to do?

I've learned a bit more about those two big brands that escaped the yo-yo this month. In both cases there was a major increase in mentions from various news media, both offline and online. This meant a flood of unlinked mentions, a significat growth in social media mentions, and in one case, more than a half million new backlinks as well. So deciding on cause and effet is not an easy call.

jeremy goodrich




msg:3856084
 8:10 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't know about you guys...but, every site that I've ever worked with, over time, gets the bulk of it's traffic to the home page from their brand name + close variants of their brand.

Eg, "widgets.com" "widgets .com" "widget s home page", etc, etc. So even if your site gets 2 million - or 10 million - visitors / month, you have a "brand"...and, Google is probably paying attention to this signal of quality.

The only time your site *wouldn't* be gaining in brand search volume in addition to regular, non branded search volume...is when your site is MFA, has no brand value, nothing "viable" about the user experience.

So...from where I sit, Google's using that branded "chatter" for sites...all sites, not just fortune 500 types.

IanKelley




msg:3856088
 8:15 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

While I have no doubt there are algorithmic factors, when it comes to household name brands a quick glance at Google's quality tester guidelines seems to be more than enough explanation.

This also explains why top brands dominate some terms but not others where you would expect them to, human intervention only covers select searches.

Rugles




msg:3856109
 8:43 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Very High Internal Page Rank
Halo Domain Trust
Mega links from Authority sites
Millions of natural links
Top 100 website traffic on the internet

With that much power they could rank for whatever they want.

geez ... don't tell them ;-)

oddsod




msg:3856121
 8:53 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not every big brand is seeing this. So, it may be more than a case of non-link mentions of the brand in association with a particular product/service.

For example, big ad campaigns are largely defined by a surge in image and video links across the web. Such tidal flows (and ebbs) of advertising indicate big bucks typical of brand builders. And if someone has a large budget then they must be a big brand and "worthy" of a high rank.

However, even that may not be the whole picture.

I've held #1 in SERPs for some very competitive B2B keywords that a lot of the big boys with multi-million dollar ad budgets, well known brands and PR8 sites haven't been able to shake. I wish I knew what the secret sauce was that put me there.

tedster




msg:3856145
 9:30 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

big ad campaigns are largely defined by a surge in image and video links across the web

Thanks for that possible ingredient. Patent applications over the past few years have mentioned ad hosting as a ranking factor for the site that doe the hosting, so just maybe the ads also get noticed as a sign of "a brand"?

bwnbwn




msg:3856160
 9:50 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have as well be seeing the brand ranking and for a few months had sitelinks for a search with an added word with the brand name. I thought this was great but it only lasted a couple months. The site links are gone but I still have top spots for the term.

It is all about Branding tedester Eric Schmidt said Internet is a "cesspool" and the future is Branding, so I would think it is very important to brand yourself one way or another otherwise you might find yourself behind the game soon.

willybfriendly




msg:3856200
 11:21 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

beer - only 3 of top ten are branded sites (one an error page no less...)

vodka - 6 of the top ten are branded sites.

Tell me people are not writing about mixers and suds in social media.

Actually, for the first the results look pretty much like I would expect. Bud, Guiness and a bunch of review or informational sites.

However, for the second, a comparison with 'vodka drinks' might be illustrative. All those brands pretty much disappear, even though many of them include "recipe" pages.

Onders




msg:3856202
 11:25 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm surprised no-one has picked up on Weeks' comment about the term "search engine". Google is one of biggest brands in the world, and when it comes to new media, social media mentions, unlinked mentions etc it's got to be up there with the best of them. That coupled with a market dominance (especially in the UK), and you'd think it would absolutely control the number one spot if brand was a factor..

I'm not ruling out your ideas at all, but wondering what your thoughts are on this..

dublinmike




msg:3856208
 11:38 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Onders that's the one term that everyone will judge them on, so they will always use the term (or not) to appear innocent.

In my industry G have been favouring the branded market leaders for some time, which makes the big guys bigger and increases the Adwords take on the myriad of smaller players trying to reach No1.

Onders




msg:3856223
 11:55 pm on Feb 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Ok - but by that token you're saying that if it's algorithmic then Google is not applying the same rules to itself. Actually, looking back over this thread, is that what everyone, Tedster and Voasi, are saying? That there could be some algorithmic "brand" element?

ogletree




msg:3856312
 1:53 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think maybe it is just a modified version of authority.

minnapple




msg:3856321
 2:30 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, I have seen more weight given to major offline an online manufacturers & retailers in competitive searches.
I have been discussing this for the last two weeks with others that have a vested interest in certain searches.

walkman




msg:3856347
 4:06 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I doubt it. Why Dell and not HP for example?

Just a quick point: imagine how many times people talk about the laptop they bought on Dell or Apple.com. Millions and millions are sold each year. Even the US govt and .edu buy from them.

Then think of the reviews each time the launch a new product. Dell has a PR8 and Apple PR 9 with 1000's and 1000's and 1000's of links.

[edited by: walkman at 4:08 am (utc) on Feb. 24, 2009]

signor_john




msg:3856348
 4:06 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can only say that this is a direction I'm sure Google has been considering for quite a while. They are not running a ranking contest, after all, but a service for their end users. If the end users seem happier with branded results it makes sense to me that they would look harder at this area.

Sounds reasonable to me, at least for results where one might expect to see a brand name. As a user, I'm always annoyed when I'm looking up "widgetco widget" or "hotel flibflab" and get a dealer page or a booking page at an affiliate site instead of widgetco.com or hotelflibflab.com. On the other hand, if I were searching for "shoes," I wouldn't expect to see Nike in the #1 spot. I'd expect, or at least hope, to see something like a Wikipedia article about shoes or maybe the International Footwear Council's home page.

Onders




msg:3856428
 8:11 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I theory this sounds great - returning branded results where the user expects and wants them, but my head can't get round how Google would distinguish between phrases that should return a branded result, and phrases that shouldn't. So for example, how would Google realise "shoes" shouldn't return a branded result, whereas "hotel flibflab" should? Perhaps based on actions of previous users who have used those specific search terms?

Shaddows




msg:3856471
 9:51 am on Feb 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

So for example, how would Google realise "shoes" shouldn't return a branded result, whereas "hotel flibflab" should? Perhaps based on actions of previous users who have used those specific search terms?

Nowns versus proper nouns?

Also, I notice a definite tendency to diversity, whereby deserving (high links, good content) sites of one type are relegated to page 2 by less-deserving pages of another type.

So, you get a few branded, a bit of info, maybe an ecom and/or some price comparison sites. But you don't 5x info, and the ecom might be better than other ecoms, but it shouldnt beat all the infos on page 2. Maybe its QDD (which I don't quite get), maybe its something else. However, on some middling-competitive terms, I notice surprising stability in the order of TYPE of site, even if the specific site varies.

In any case, brands seem to be a new 'type' of site, recently diversified from 'info' sites. Thus, its not so much "the rise of the brand" as the disambiguation of brands and disinterested (or largely neutral) info sites.

This would also have the effect of surpressing affiliates. Brands used to be outranked by infos, but now rank along side. The content is on the brand site, so affiliates lose out as G does not want to have the same content on two first-page results.

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