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Brandspam - Google's new challenge?
superclown2




msg:4344400
 8:14 am on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

We all have our different views on the value of Google's search results after Panda. What is undeniable is that a lot of rubbishy spam sites have disappeared out of the listings which is very welcome - but many commercial key phrases are now dominated by big brands that have taken the opportunity to move into niches that they have never been in before, and which they have little obvious expertise in. Their thin pages (usually affiliate pages, which often appear higher in the SERPs than the sites of the merchants whose products they are promoting) can offer little or nothing extra to searchers, and degrade the search experience.

The idea of promoting sites which are more trustworthy is, on the face of it, a logical move; but it is one that is now being abused by many brand sites. Should Google counter this? Or is it a trend which should be encouraged, in order to improve websites generally by making us all more professional and competitive, whilst squeezing out those that cannot adapt?

 

HuskyPup




msg:4344416
 9:53 am on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

but many commercial key phrases are now dominated by big brands that have taken the opportunity to move into niches that they have never been in before


I'm not seeing this, to which general sectors are you referring? Do I also assume you mean in the US?

Just wondering so I can make comparisons.

koan




msg:4344434
 11:01 am on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

If Panda works as stated, brand sites would be slowly poisoning their web site if they started cranking low quality pages like content farms or thin affiliate sites.

Marketing Guy




msg:4344438
 11:16 am on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing this in the UK car sales market although I don't think it's a particularly new thing. It's fairly commonplace for big brand manufacturers to provide subdomains for small local dealships, which in turn optimise for local terms.

At face value it's thin affiliated / largely duplicated content, but it does have a legitimate business application (the sub domains give the small businesses the car search functionality that their own website might not have), as well as giving them some big brand backing.

But if we were to implement a thin content sub domain strategy, there's no doubt G would boot us quickly! ;)

I think on the whole the benefits to having subdomains / thin affiliates ranking for local terms outweighs the perceived "spam" issues, assuming they are legitimate businesses.

superclown2




msg:4344439
 11:16 am on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not seeing this, to which general sectors are you referring? Do I also assume you mean in the US?


I am seeing this in the UK. Not sure if the TOS allows me to specify the categories.

HuskyPup




msg:4344455
 12:26 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Travel, insurance, health, food, electronics, vehicles? I can search with a general clue:-)

superclown2




msg:4344487
 2:03 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Travel, insurance, health, food, electronics, vehicles? I can search with a general clue:-)


Try certain insurance niches (hope I don't get shot down for this <G>)

potentialgeek




msg:4344501
 3:11 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Excellent thread topic!

Maurice




msg:4344504
 3:17 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Marketing Guy - would that be a certain germanic maker of motor carriages whose name is very near the start of the alphabet would it :-)

I reamber a few years ago they where buying PPC for their thin subdomains competing against their own dearler ships.

londrum




msg:4344517
 3:37 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

its easier to see how much brands have been dialed up when you look at something like wikipedia

if you search for something like "fish and chips", then you might expect google to put all its local stuff at the top, with the maps and everything, because people are likely searching for local restaurants. but what comes first? i am getting a wikipedia page detailing the history of fish and chips. its the same with "chinese food", "indian food" and "pizzas". wikipedia beats out every single restaurant.

there can only be one reason why they are at the top for those search phrases -- because their brand is so strong.

engine




msg:4344520
 3:41 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

>"fish and chips",

Isn't that SERPs correct? If you wanted "fish and chips in Peckham" then I wouldn't expect Wikipedia to come up top, unless Del and Rodney had a F&C shop in Peckham. ;)

But, yes, brandspam appears to be coming to the fore.

londrum




msg:4344524
 3:56 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

i suppose so... but all the stuff im seeing after wikipedia is local. i get all the google local listings starting at no.2 (with 7 restaurants), and places 3 to 10 all refer to restaurants. so google obviously knows what the user is likely searching for. so why do they persist with putting wikipedia at no.1? its because their brand has been dialed up too much.

[edit: a search for "fish and chips london" still brings up wikipedia at position 6, which doesnt make any sense, given how many fish and chip restaurant websites there must be in london]

Marketing Guy




msg:4344534
 4:16 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

@Marketing Guy - would that be a certain germanic maker of motor carriages whose name is very near the start of the alphabet would it :-)


Nope! :) Actually was for several different big brand names. Like I said, it was all pretty fair game stuff and the dealerships seem happy enough it's going on. Just interesting to think it'd be considered spam not so long ago lol!

Marketing Guy




msg:4344536
 4:18 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

[edit: a search for "fish and chips london" still brings up wikipedia at position 6, which doesnt make any sense, given how many fish and chip restaurant websites there must be in london]


45th for "fish and chips edinburgh"! There's more competition north of the border it would seem!

engine




msg:4344544
 4:26 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

@londrum
The problem as I see it is Google's trying to be too smart and second guess the user all the time. This has been going on for years, and i've often vented my frustration over it. I'll continue to do so, too.

The idea of promoting sites which are more trustworthy is, on the face of it, a logical move; but it is one that is now being abused by many brand sites.
@superclown2
Yes, brandspam is making it very crowded in some of the SERPs.
I'm still not sure the thin content sites have been eliminated. I'm still seeing many such sites, although, many have been downgraded or removed.

I was looking at one particular area of technology and did notice a lot of sites doing well in the SERPs which appeared to be a boost of brandspam. Perhaps it's the result of the thin content sites being demoted, and the apparent brandspam naturally rising up the SERPs.

Shaddows




msg:4344559
 4:55 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Re: Fish and Chips

This is an excellent example of why people disagree about the quality of Google SERPs.

To me, some percentage of people would be looking for info. They have wikipedia.

Most people will be looking for food. They have a CHOICE from SERPs.

Some websites will be giving recipes, and their owners will be on here complaining its all restaurants, where's the variety?

"Fish and Chips London" has wiki in 6th as the article mentions London 11 times. Indeed, the article is not at all bad at relating the history of Fish and Chip shops in london- presumably some small percentage would be happy with that. The rest have 9 restaurants/comparison results to choose from, plus Places dominating above the fold.

"Fish and Chips edinburgh" is not well served by the wiki article, with little information provided and only two mentions.

So baring in mind query intention and the desire to satisfy the maximum number of people (or to avoid failing the least number of people) possible, "Fish and Chips" and mentioned derivatives seems to be working as required.

HuskyPup




msg:4344588
 5:30 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have to wonder just how many people search for fish and chip shops?

Ok, let's assume they do, I probably live closest to the biggest fish market in UK and one of the largest fish processing centres in Europe, therefore try - fish and chips Grimsby - All good results yet it is noticeable that many fish and chip shops are not listed simply because they don't have websites and have no necessity to do so.

IMHO fish and chips is not a good example.

mrmobility




msg:4344596
 5:35 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

Wikipedia probably also has one of the best link profiles in the business - they have over a thousand externals to the fish and chips page alone - so would be pretty close to the top if it was only PR based ranking.

outland88




msg:4344619
 6:17 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing this all over the US results especially in health sections. What the “Brand” is doing is developing a lot of small 1-3 page domains with good not great index pages then interlinking them. In some cases they are affiliates. The key is one of the sites has a high PR which floats the others upward. This is nothing new to heavy link-builders but this was somewhat penalized in the past. The mother site in essence is telling the other sites or affiliates not to replicate their pages or it will be penalized as a duplicate. The problem with this is it’s introducing a lot of junk into the results while larger topic centric sites are seemingly penalized by Panda. In fact for the first time with Panda, or any time before it, I am clearly seeing duplication hurt the original. This has only started in the past few months.

londrum




msg:4344633
 6:58 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

this might be a better example than fish and chips... try searching for "ford capri engine valve part" (on google.com)

im pretty sure that anyone searching for that is either looking for info on fixing it or buying it, but wikipedia still manages to occupy spot 1. and thats not all. because they get spot no 2 too! and they dont even have a page about that specific part (those pages primarily refer to the ford pinto and ford cologne engines), whereas all the b&m businesses below them do.

as long as wikipedia contains a page loosely related to the subject, its brand name seems to carry them to the top.

Bewenched




msg:4344656
 7:47 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

this might be a better example than fish and chips... try searching for "ford capri engine valve part" (on google.com)


Yup... totally amazing..... I think it has something to do with keyword density, but if you are putting your query in quotes google should at least try to find an exact match. But it does not! How annoying is that!

No wonder people arent finding what they're looking for.

netmeg




msg:4344661
 7:56 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm hungry now

Planet13




msg:4344695
 9:03 pm on Jul 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

...there can only be one reason why they are at the top for those search phrases -- because their brand is so strong.


Or because they have a boatload of HIGH QUALITY backlinks pointing to their site (which in turn helps to establish their brand).

Otherwise, I don't see much activity in terms of "branding" wikipedia, do you?

For instance, does wikipedia place adwords ads? Do they promote their site though banner ads? Do they have a facebook page? (If they do, have you ever had a reason to visit their facebook page?)

maybe they tweet a lot. However, I just can't imagine that a site that diverse could really tweet on a general tweeting forum.

So if we want to say that wikipedia has a strong "brand," then I think we have to redefine our concept of brand to include lots of backlinks and lots of mentions (link-less citations) on the web.

anyway, I just bring this up because so many people say the final aria has been sung on the value of backlinks, but I doubt that.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4344782
 2:31 am on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Yes, I think there is a problem but no I don't want Google to start passing judgment. They need to let the visitors decide and webmasters adapt or else google will be further changing the internet instead of just reporting it.

CainIV




msg:4344828
 4:57 am on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

I can see it and it is frustrating to the high quality smaller business that often offers a product or service better than the name brand, but by simply listing particular types of products trusted brands seem to almost "instantly" enjoy front page rankings.

The big problem with it - and some here have been taking about this coming for a long time, is that other, potentially high quality businesses that have not reached the same level of brand status and might have a unique product or service (or offer better service) do not get the chance to compete on page one.

Marketing Guy




msg:4344918
 10:03 am on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Does a random small business deserve to compete on generic terms? Even on local terms? Big businesses can surpass smaller companies in many ways (product selection, marketing, service, experience, etc).

I think as an industry we've been somewhat spoiled with the ability for over a decade to compete smaller websites with any big brand competitor for pretty much any SERP. SEO has in many ways become the small guys only weapon in lieu of proper marketing, design, research, resources, etc. How many small business websites still look like they've been designed by a kid? I still see loads that have never had the attention of a halfway competent graphic designer.

The reality is that many SMEs (not all) have leaned heavily on SEO & PPC over the past decade, to the detriment of other areas of business that they may have otherwise been forced to address in order to succeed as a business - brand development, design / UX, external marketing, PR, etc. I've seen companies spend 6 figures each month on Adwords, but wouldn't fork out £5k to get their website redesigned by a professional designer. There's something incredibly wrong there.

All that's really changed is the market is shifting to place more importance on these things - is it really an unexpected change?

awall19




msg:4344947
 12:27 pm on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Big businesses can surpass smaller companies in many ways (product selection, marketing, service, experience, etc).

Customer service is generally *not* one of the strengths of big business. ;)

[youtube.com...]

Due to vertical integration (& an attempt to use whoever in the supply chain they have the most leverage over) sometimes product selection isn't a strength either. Generally the strength is often more in pricing rather than selection.

Experience from a niche provider who only operates in niche X is generally deeper than an affiliate feed page on a Fortune 500 website. (Sure the brand looks like a cohesive experience at a glance, but dig deeper & there is something else quite often).

Though it makes sense they can (& do) spend way more on marketing than a smaller business can, since such expense covers way more markets. Google runs display ads about how display ads lift brand searches. That says more about "brand" than just about anything else you could get out of Google. ;)

jecasc




msg:4345065
 4:41 pm on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)


Does a random small business deserve to compete on generic terms? Even on local terms? Big businesses can surpass smaller companies in many ways

In my niche all the brands take top spots. The problem is: The manufacturers do not provide service or any other assistence to customers. You can't even buy the prodcuts there. Their websites are entirely useless for the average user. They are directed at retailers. Nevertheless they sometimes take up the top three spots in the SERPS:

I also have noticed a bad trend with Google ignoring additional search terms when I put in a brand name in a search.

For example I had a problem with a video player and was searching for - brand player problem description -. The top 6 spots were taken by the companies websites and had nothing to do with my problem. Only after I changed the search to - brand player +problem +description - I got reasonable results.

Planet13




msg:4345071
 4:50 pm on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

For example I had a problem with a video player and was searching for - brand player problem description -. The top 6 spots were taken by the companies websites and had nothing to do with my problem. Only after I changed the search to - brand player +problem +description - I got reasonable results.


Out of curiosity, were there any pages available that had the brand name and that particular problem in the TITLE element that were being outranked by the company's website?

Also, since the company seems to only sell to resellers, did you try any searches related to the company's products using words like "buy" in the query? If so, did they still turn up that company's site in the top spots (despite the fact they don't sell retail to the public)?

outland88




msg:4345097
 5:37 pm on Jul 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

Does a random small business deserve to compete on generic terms?


The real question should be whether a dominate search engine should be forking over the top positions to big business on a silver platter. Google is just concentrating the wealth back into the hands of the few who’ve always had it. I believe in the concept of a stand-alone website. In other words Amazon, Wal-Mart, and countless others do not need millions of even thousands of listings to gain even more business. Google has just become a (paid?) marketing arm for those companies. I think the fair thing to do is limit the listings of many companies. We let the banks in this country operate without rules and unemployment is at staggering levels in the US. Isn't Google just doing this on the Internet.

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