claaarky - 4:42 pm on Sep 22, 2011 (gmt 0)
Brands get away with stuff the rest of us can't because they've already established themselves in the world by doing something significant (e.g. Amazon, AOL, Yahoo) and I think Google rightly in most cases assumes they'll put some serious resources behind anything they do to ensure their brand name remains unblemished.
If they don't look after their brand and let standards slide, people will eventually turn away from them which google will detect and then any sub-standard web presence associated with them will be more vulnerable to Panda. But big brands don't tend to let that happen.
Lots of real world businesses tap into the trust associated with a known brand (e.g. franchises) and that brand ensures the franchisee maintains their standards so customers continue to trust the brand.
The reality is that google is no longer the free for all it once was because there are too many people trying to cash in. It's back to the real world now - old rules apply. You need a USP and you need to constantly ensure you still have your USP because your competitors will be watching, copying and innovating in an attempt to overtake you.
The bar is now very high and a much more professional approach is needed to make serious money from Google. Once a single person could produce a website that could compete with the big boys who have thousands of staff and huge overheads. Is that fair? If that single person is doing something really different to the big boys then yes, but how likely is that.
I don't think everyone has to be a brand to make it in Google (not quite yet anyway!) but you definitely need to think more about what makes you different. If you're trying to cut corners Google will be able to tell. Now, if I ever say "there's no way Google can know that" I stop myself and think about why I'm saying that. It's usually because I'm trying to cut a corner. Google knows. Whatever you think they can't possibly know, they do. Sometimes I think they've bugged my office!