|Google Loves Big Brands - Yes or No?|
Something I've seen tossed around here a lot lately is that big brands are being promoted higher into search results. I've been thinking of that trying to determine how that behaviour is of benefit for Google. It's really not as if those brands cannot survive without Google promoting them because they are well established and already known. Also, I seriously doubt that there is any kind of business arrangement happening between Google and Brand manufacturers.
I think I understand what is happening on that front. I can only speak for my own behaviour when it comes to search so I'd like to hear what others have to say. When I need to purchase something online (or offline) most of the time I already know where I can get it. I know the company I'm going to purchase it from and I know their website so I just go straight to it -- no need for a search engine. Much more often than not, it's going to be from a brand site.
When I need to compare something pre-purchase I'll go to a search engine to dig up whatever I can to answer my question. If I were to go to Google to perform that query I know that these days the first results will typically be from the brand's website which I do not want because I was already there. What I would ideally like to see is a variety of choices of which among them I would hope to find similar products or services from lesser known manufacturers or alternate distributors. But, invariably, they are pushed off the page or at least below the fold.
As the page of results loads I quickly scan what's on my screen. I already know I'm going to see useless results from the brand websites so unconsciously I block that area out. What does then come into focus are the AdWords listings because the keywords are very evident. So I've come to a conclusion that Google does not love big brands but is simply using them to push organic results below the fold (because they know most people will ignore them). That will probably lead to higher CTR on AdWords.
In a nutshell I think big brands high in national results are the equivalent to the 7 pack in local results. They are simply there to push organic off the screen to "encourage" businesses to buy into AdWords.
Yes or no?
I've come up with a theory and I'm not smart so I must be wrong about it. It's called the starvation theory. I own it all so I take away with one hand and then offer a solution on the other hand that makes me more money. Not the intent of Panda, but certainly appears to be a side affect.
I think the key thing here is, instead of blocking out a portion of the search results page, that might be an indicator of looking at a different search engine. It's what I've been doing more and more.
Big brands are there because it's a no fail solution that backs up Google now wanting trusted, established, non MFA type sites showing up in the key areas. Heck if you can't trust Amazon who can you trust? If you can't trust CNET who can you trust? Thing is, who needs a complicated algo to know that Wiki, Amazon, CNN, etc are the best most trusted sites? Afterall those sites have "employees" and the webmasters have themselves.
So no I don't buy into theory as to why big brands are there. Afterall you're saying it without saying it. If that's their strategy or their goal, then I'm not hearing a lot of great feedback about search post Panda. We have self interest, and only Google will decide based on their numbers whether this brand result orientated search is what anyone wants. Start checking the Bing usage numbers and that might tell you more than you need to know. You're saying it. You're blocking out results in the top because you know it's pretty much sites you knew about. When you or others go elsewhere because of poor search results, those ads get less and less eyes. That in turn means less profit.
In a sense what you're saying is that Google is intentionally making their search suck for the sake of Adwords. No, they are making their search suck for the sake of cleaning out the content farms. Correct?
Big sites that mashup all big brands do even better, look at ebay. Somethign sent them to the top of the rankings for almost everything, a wikipedia like accomplishment.
I don't think there is any mash-up between Panda, brands and Adwords - or any major conspiracy to push organic results down. If users didn't respond well to any of these changes, they wouldn't stay around.
When it comes to Panda, I think we're getting exactly what Google said, an algorithm to measure quality. And it's a baby of an algorithm that has a long way to go.
Google has like brands for a while - going back more than two years to the Vince Update [webmasterworld.com]. Eric Schmidt gave us his view that a lot the web is "a cesspool", and brands as Google's answer. And I kind of agree. I absolutely hate a lot of the crap I see on non-branded sites and I won't buy from any site that looks like a generic play with no real trust signs.
Sometimes you get further in understanding Google by not trying to second guess them. There are a lot of small businesses still doing very well in search, and a lot of businesses going belly up, too. That's a lot like the offline world. New businesses and small businesses always have a lot to prove and a lot of business start-ups just haven't got the goods.
The answer is be professional - don't try to get by with the barest minimum. Do it for real, with great seriousness and intensity. The barriers to entry are incredibly low on the web, and that does mean a lot of cesspool sites. We just need to roll up our sleeves and build a new brand. This can be done and is done all the time.
A month ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly that Google loved big brands. I saw them taking over niches they had no right to be in, driving down the quality of the whole search experience. Since then I have seen huge improvements with quality sites coming back up again, at least here in the UK, and in the niches I am interested in.
I believe that the Panda is learning and growing up.
IMHO a more accurate statement would be that Google likes brand signals.
I own sites that have been rewarded with sitelinks for generic terms and have ranked at the the top for years. I am not a big corporate brand but I have developed these sites into brands. My site names have become popular search terms, my email list keeps growing and so does the direct traffic to my site, not to mention journalists contact me instead of me chasing them.
How did I do this? I provide the most comprehensive source of information for my niche. I provide free tools to help people in the industry. My email newsletter is 95% content and 5% sales pitch, so it gets forwarded alot & introduces my site to new audiences. I seek out cross promotions that benefit both sites so they are long term traffic generators. I'm constantly asking myself what does the consumer want and try to stay ahead of the curve.
What he said ^^^. In spades.
None of my clients are "big" brands. I'm certainly not. But we make an effort to give off genuine brand signals, and users reward that with authority and trust. And Google has gotten smarter about figuring that out. They don't always get it right, but I think they're definitely getting better at it.
For some queries, I really wish that Google liked big brands more. When it comes to furniture, appliances, and small engine machinery; I think Google's results suck.
When you are looking for a product that can't be shipped long distances affordably, Google would do better to trust the local brands that have local delivery options. Instead, the SERPs have keyword-phrase.com style domains and lots of spam.
I dunno how they could do that, though. That would be pretty easy to spam too (see Google Places and all the issues there)
The other thing to remember is that as much as those of us in ecommerce would like to believe otherwise, Google really doesn't think of itself as a shopping engine. Seriously.
|I think the key thing here is, instead of blocking out a portion of the search results page, that might be an indicator of looking at a different search engine. It's what I've been doing more and more. |
I haven't used Google in more than year except to check results or for an occasional long tail query. Bing gives me almost everything I need. The purpose of this thread is simply to address a theme I've been reading a lot about in other threads -- big brands dominating results.
|Big brands are there because it's a no fail solution that backs up Google now wanting trusted, established, non MFA type sites showing up in the key areas. |
If Google really wanted to push MFA out of the picture they could do it very easily without pushing big brands up. As someone who has a background in desktop applications programming I know it wouldn't be difficult at all to parse for AdSense IDs on a page and handle those types of pages with extra scrutiny. They could work something like that into their algorithm very easily -- it's programming 101.
|Afterall you're saying it without saying it |
Of course I did. It was very intentional. But I wanted to make it somewhat vague to take the edge off it so as to not discourage debate. If I wrote this thread with all the "matter of fact" traits of why the big brands are where they are there would have been little room left for debate. This way I can discover what the perception is from other points of view, and who stands where, for what reasons. I'm not claiming to know all the answers I'm just sharing my observations in the hope that we can better understand Google's intention so we can plan accordingly.
|When you or others go elsewhere because of poor search results, those ads get less and less eyes |
Yeah but the problem is that Google has built up years of trust and the flock has been well trained. It used to be that you could almost most certainly expect to find what you were looking in the organic results of page one. Google was very good at that and there is no reason that they cannot continue to be good at that except that they don't want to because it is of no benefit to them. The typical user, after they perform a search these days, probably sit there staring at the screen with a glazed over look in there eyes waiting for their browsers to automatically take them to a relevant result. As they slowly emerge from their delusional state they realize they are going to have to think for themselves so their eyeballs begin wandering to the right and left in search of the keywords because they already know what they are searching for is available on those big brand sites -- they want alternate choices. Google is happy to provide them in the form of AdWords. This is all about bait and switch. Unlike most of us in this forum who analyze these situations under a microscope, because of the nature of our minds, it will take a few years before the crowds catch on.
|In a sense what you're saying is that Google is intentionally making their search suck for the sake of Adwords |
Yes, but you are entitled to your opinion to the contrary. The content farm thing is smoke and mirrors.
I'm taking into account all of what you are saying and will study that for a while. My initial thought though, but I haven't let it stew for a while, is that like anything else there will be exceptions. I'm going to try to learn something new from what you've explained.
Maybe I'm just not reading between the lines deep enough but I didn't see a point in what you've said. Is it that your client sites have received boosts in SERPs by acting like big brands -- with real tangible benefits like better sales and lower advertising costs because they've been able to ease off on their AdWords spending?
Yeah I know. The point is Google is well aware of the local potential and they could very easily promote them to page one but they, without any doubt in my mind, are suppressing them so as to encourage getting businesses on board for the monthly hook of Google Places advertising. Not to direct this at you in particular but why is it so difficult for anyone to see that?!
|I don't think there is any mash-up between Panda, brands and Adwords - or any major conspiracy to push organic results down. |
You must get joyful glee out of twisting that knife? You have a strong tendency of getting into threads early when anything is perceived as anti-Google. The bias is very strong and very obvious. Other than that you have some valid points that I'll come back to when this thread appears to have meandered it's course because to respond to them now would get myself too far off topic and therefore the thread as a whole may wander. I'm just as guilty about having a difficult time keeping my responses on-topic sometimes.
You are as tenacious about defending Google as I am about my spirituality (and I know I disturb some members). Please once again I'm asking you to drop that conspiracy theory crap for once and for all. In exchange I'll do my best to back off the essence of who I am and refrain from dropping spiritual references. Truce? I hope my English clear enough.
In the cases of the bulky items that can't be shipped cross country, Google already has the technology to give better results. If I look at the bottom of the SERPs at the "Related Searches" section, I see all the big brands I would expect to have results at the top of the SERPs. They even appear to be regionalized. The brands that are available in my section of the country are there. Its amazing. They just aren't using this technology well.
Google doesn't consider itself *just* a shopping engine, but it does give queries with shopping intent special treatment. Given that shopping intent queries are so lucrative, and people can get burned so badly by spam in them, I would be very surprised if Google doesn't look for opportunities to improve those results.
|IMHO a more accurate statement would be that Google likes brand signals. |
Ba-da freakin' boom. If we're speculating on what makes sense, that's it right there.
I went looking for truck covers last night. I have no idea what a truck cover brand is. I do care that I hit a website that looks like they're something along the lines of a brand - even if it's a small mom and pop shop. I want a site that has the appearance of professionalism, that they're used to shipping online orders, have a real place of business, and know what they're talking about.
In fact, my own website, of a lowly little product provider does all of that as well. And I am a brand in the industry - I've seen unsolicited questions about my company in forums in the past year.
So I think it's important not to confuse 'brands' with offline brands. Nike has no advantage online that you can't compete with. I also think it's important that size doesn't necessarily translate into brand signals online. ANd the last thing I think is important it distinguish is that the exact factors (if they even exist) haven't been answered yet.
I think we're getting lost by using the term 'brand' because that makes us think Nike wins, and we can't compete. It's brand signals that matter. And that's easy enough to replicate if we can figure out what they are (and make the assumption that they matter - I'm not entirely convinced).
|Maybe I'm just not reading between the lines deep enough but I didn't see a point in what you've said. Is it that your client sites have received boosts in SERPs by acting like big brands -- with real tangible benefits like better sales and lower advertising costs because they've been able to ease off on their AdWords spending? |
Of course they have. And their rankings and traffic are *growing* - specially as Panda iterations knock out the sloppier competition.
However, we are not easing off on AdWords, we are increasing it. I run PPC on everything where the ROI is there, even on the products where we are ranking 1-3 in the organics. Another "brand" signal is pwning the page.
|However, we are not easing off on AdWords, we are increasing it |
And that in turn adds to the cost of products and services. The middle class have been pushed to the disposable income limit and under-developed countries have been exploited to the max. There is no more room to maneuver. Get yourself a front-row centre ticket to watch the ensuing collapse...because too many were in it for themselves.
Hunh? Because I'm increasing my AdWords spend?
|You must get joyful glee out of twisting that knife? You have a strong tendency of getting into threads early when anything is perceived as anti-Google. The bias is very strong and very obvious. |
To clarify what you are noticing, I am not actually defending Google, but I am trying to caution people about jumping to a full-blown conspiracy mind-set. That way of thinking sets up Google as an opponent. It is as destructive to optimal SEO work as blindly worshiping everything Google says and does.
A nuanced understanding of the situation is what we all need, not a "Google is bad or Google is great" black or white choice.
Some of the threads here get rolling with almost a lynch mob energy and that pushes a lot of experienced and savvy members away from even posting. And that is why I've been interjecting my counter-balance comments so often recently, especially since Panda 1.0.
I'm trying to say "all viewpoints are welcome here - please join in." Google itself doesn't need my defense. But your point is well taken. I'll back off a bit.
Is that your take on the current mess? that it's end of times?
Shrug. I see this as opportunity, and no different than the market collapse of 1929. Things suck really bad for a little while, then normalcy returns and we're back to boom. It's just going to take a few years for it to return.
Plus, developing countries have a growing middle class. And that's all manner of good no matter how you look at it. People hungry for success, with the faint glimmer of hope that they might actually achieve it.
In fact, I like this economic butt-kicking that's going on. It's cleaning house on my competitors, getting rid of them. If one just sits this out, when we get to the other side it's going to be better than ever - more business, less competition. I honestly can't wait!
|Is that your take on the current mess? that it's end of times? |
Where did you get that understanding from? That's stretching it. I'm hoping that through grace I'll be here for another 50 years at least. I'm indicating that countries that have been riding on the coat tails of under-developed countries are no longer going to be able to because those countries are now waking up and demanding their fair share of the pie -- India and China are the 2 largest of those such countries. The cost of goods for us is going to rise (Canada, U.S. U.K. EU) And in case Americans in this forum have been oblivious to the purchasing power of their dollar for the last 20 years you are about to have a rude awakening now that it is no longer considered the safe haven, it's on par now and will probably stay that way for a long time to come. I could go into more detail but it'll be way off topic. And "hungry for success" is open to interpretation and will vary widely from one to another.
@Netmeg - not just because of you singularly but because of the collective that think like you.
To get the question back on track -- is big brands an effort to suppress organic results nationally in the same manner that Google Places is to local search?
And geeeeez people don't shoot the messenger. I could care less about big brands because my scope of focus is strictly local. I'm just trying to get a decent debate going about something that I can be objective about due to lack of bias. If Google takes over the world tomorrow -- bah no skin off my nose. I'll close shop knowing I went down without gobbling up Google public relations fluff and maintained my dignity. I'll reflect on it all as my dry fly wanders down stream waiting for a trout to bite it. I'll think about it for 5 minutes then get on with living.
So could anyone give a Top Ten List For small Businesses To Give off "Big Brand Signals"
goodroi was pretty specific:
- provide helpful information
- provide free tools to help people in the industry
- Have a helpful newsletter
- Do cross promotions that benefit both sites
anyone have issues with these? anyone have other suggestions?
Thanks in advance.
|Netmeg - not just because of you singularly but because of the collective that think like you. |
You don't know how I think.
Include your website name / brand in your title. I have looked at the big names in my industry and many use up valuable space doing this.
|- provide helpful information |
- provide free tools to help people in the industry
- Have a helpful newsletter
- Do cross promotions that benefit both sites
anyone have issues with these? anyone have other suggestions?
Other than those are actions not signals, and I'm sceptical that any of those would necessarily provide enough information to make a ranking difference.
If I was going to target brand signals (and right now I don't), I'd consider things like:
- links with your company name much more frequently than keyword anchor text. (OK, that actually is one thing I do).
- uber-high authority backlinks
- maybe get your company name mentioned in text (e.g. webmasterworld). I don't have a strong gut feeling about that though.
here's the approach I would take if I was a strong believer. Become a brand - make consumers see your name everywhere, and let Google figure out the signals. So I would plaster my company name everywhere and mostly ignore SEO. Advertise and push on sites with my name so that my name becomes synonymous with a product. e.g. Kleenex, band-aid, etc.
It also helps if you do whatever it is you do better than anyone else is doing it. Or if you can't, give the appearance that you're *trying* to do it better.
(I have anecdotal evidence that using trademark and register symbols - if you've legitimately got them, of course - in page titles and meta descriptions seems to help. But my sample is too small for me to flat out declare it's a "thing")
Google loves satisfied searchers.
Google is what Google is. Most of we old hands have made good money out of Google and all the other search engines in the past and hopefully will do so in the future. We have seen our livelihoods dented or even destroyed several times but each time we've adapted and come back even stronger as the less able have fallen by the wayside.
OK, so Google is now top dog. They want to promote brands? Them let's become brands. Darwin's first law; the successful survivors are those who adapt. If Google didn't exist there are other possible scenarios which are much worse. Remember the old Goto days when paid results were mixed in with generic results, or the early Yahoo days when you had to pay for every click?
I deplore the fact that Google has such a stranglehold on the web and perhaps the legislators will change that but let's not kid ourselves that things will be better without them because it probably won't. They want brands? Then adapt, just as millions of other businesses have to do in the world outside the web.
If they do start using identifiable brand signals (or have, and someone figures out and discloses what they are) then this is a heyday for the independents. Because it is about signals, not brands - and seo companies and independents are much better poised to start sending those signals than most brands ever will be.
I had this reinforced today when speaking with a 'brand', a household name most Americans would know. TV commercials, international, the whole bit. And they indicated that they had another department with some dude that was kind of maybe but not really thinking about SEO.
Then I showed them how I outranked them on our industry term, and how I ranked front page for their actual brand (I'm a reseller of their product). So, so much for brand signals.