turbocharged - 1:04 am on Jun 19, 2013 (gmt 0)
The whole theory that being branded gives good ranks is false*. A properly branded company/website impacts user behavior. When Google throws a fit and tosses the site back to page 2+ for "widgets," users then search for "brand widgets." *IF* Google successfully interprets their user's search patterns, it's just a matter of time before the site rises back to the top. I see this in more competitive areas. Smaller companies, that do not have enough users to influence brand recognition in an algorithm, have a bigger challenge to face.
Branding is all about impacting user behavior, in my opinion. Regardless of where Google may rank the site for it's primary keywords, users are compelled to refine their queries to find that branded website. If a user knows the branded company's name, why would they even search for it instead of going directly to the site? Why do so many people go to Google and search for Google? This is the part of user behavior that interests me. It's not as if most of these users are adding "reviews," "ratings," etc. to the queries as if to make a pre-purchase decision. Properly branded sites all have one thing in common from the data I have seen - their most active search keyword is their company/website name.
Ever since the release of Panda, the normal signals of a brand have been devalued in my opinion. Many companies are proud to list their professional memberships on their website, ratings at BBB and Angies List, etc. and many other things in an effort to build trust. The first Penguin further devalued these types of branding/quality signals. Links from Fortune 500 companies were also devalued, while the occasional reference/link from local news outlets also saw diminished value (or no significant advantage). With these types of signals devalued, and domain name authority apparently dialed up, the door was opened for black hatters to steal and rank others content. This is why the free splog platforms are doing so well in my opinion - because of their domain authority. Few small businesses would have an "authoritative domain name" in what I have viewed.
Branded sites generally get to bypass all of the headaches noted in the paragraph above as users are actively seeking you out by name and will not settle for not finding you on page 1 or viewing content that was copied from the original site. These types of users will actually work to find the brand they seek, and it's the search engines that look like fools when such users need to perform multiple queries to find what they are looking for.
Because some industries are not very competitive, it is easy to confuse being branded with just good ranks. Reviewing user behavior is the key to determining whether good search engine ranks are because of branding or just an anomaly.