Whitey - 1:05 am on Jul 11, 2012 (gmt 0)
A brand could be potentially useful, but itís certainly not the only lens to interpret the world. There are lots of signals we use to try to find the results that bring the most value to users. And whether or not someone is an advertiser does not matter at all.
One of the great things about the web is that it still offers up-and-coming businesses opportunities to build their own reputation online. This can enable them to succeed even though other companies may have large advertising budgets.
If it is already a crowded space with entrenched players, consider focusing on a niche area initially, instead of going head to head with the existing leaders of the space. This is probably what you would have done if there were no search engines, and itís often still the best approach. Find something that the entrenched players do not do well, and focus on that. Establish a reputation in that niche, become a leader in it, and then expand from there.
This whole brands thing is something that's been observed and debated on WebmasterWorld a lot.
My interpretation here is that managing "reputation" matters a lot. Not completely, but a lot. And Eric Enge's earlier remark about building reputation seems to me to matter a huge amount.
So if nothing else stands out in a crowded space, chances are, existing brands will surface to the top in the algo.
What Matt is also saying, in my interpretation, is that in crowded spaces it's all been done. He shows an example of a website which is geeky and provides a new way to visualize online airline bookings - which is currently different.
If you are going to break out of Panda into a crowded space, you are not going to do it with stacks of "unique content" which is not really sensationally different. You will have to build your reputation differently.
And you are not going to rank it better by lot's of links from crappy sources in crowded spaces. You'll be "Penguined".
Now that's my interpretation. The reality seem to me that Google defaults to brand in verticals that are too hard to administrate. But don't underestimate the amount of manual quality control that's likely going on in the big verticals.