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A snapshot of the way Google Search now pushes big brands to the top

12:42 am on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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This is something I've been tracking for awhile, I'm going to break down what I've been seeing over the past as succinctly as possible, step by step.

1. NonCorporateSite posts a story about Blue Widgets. They are an expert source, with clean page design and the story is indepth and of high quality. Google rewards that site by making it number one under the search term "Blue Widgets".

2. 2 days later CorporateBigBrandA sees that people are talking about Blue Widgets and decides to post a story on the subject. Their Blue Widgets story is much less short, less in depth, and they aren't recognized as an authority on the topic. Their story is instantly made #1 and NonCorporateSite's story is pushed down.

3. CorporateBigBrandB then sees this going on and also posts a story about "Blue Widgets". NonCorporateSite's story is pushed down further.

4. More Big Brand sites start posting BlueWidget stories, and even though their stories are not as expert, not as in-depth, and also worst of all LATE to the topic they are all put above NonCorporateSite. This goes on until page 1 is entirely populated with Big Brands and NonCorporateSite is completley pushed out of the search term.

Rinse, repeat. Every topic, every day, all day long.

In my experience, things used to work a little different. It used to be that if you were the first to cover something, you covered it in depth, and you were an authority on the topic you would get a good search engine ranking, and for the most part stay there or near where your rank was for a little while, after all the pretenders slid in and copied you. Now that's only true if the copycats aren't Big Brands.

Bottom line it doesn't matter what the topic or what kind of post it is, Google rewards Big Brand X with the top search spots.

I'm not really sure how to combat this, there doesn't seem to be a way to compete as a small or even medium size brand anymore. The only way to compete is to hope you can get enough traffic in the two day window before the Big Brands swoop in, to survive.
8:04 am on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I don't have an answer, but some people on this board whose opinion I value have chimed in on this and suggested that solid link development, including incorporating your business name in the anchor text of inbound links, can pay dividends.

There are a few threads on the forum where some of the senior members have expressed their opinions on what google is identifying as strong brand signals.

Although it seems the branding dial has been turned up recently, I wonder if it isn't something of an extension of the Mayday update of 2010. That update seemed to affect the ability of certain sites to rank for longtail keywords. I personally saw a significant demotion in longtail traffic due to the mayday update and it has required major link building to reclaim much of that longtail traffic.
9:40 am on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google's algo isn't perfect. When it is, the most relevant site for a query will indeed be top. Until then anomalies like this will crop up.

I seriously wonder whether Google is really pushing brands deliberately, or whether this is a by-product of a still-developing algorithm.
2:34 pm on Dec 13, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Shatner I feel your pain. This is no anomaly. I think this is about on-page vs off-page factors. When google was a babe the serps were much more slanted toward on-page factors. Google was david vs goliath. Small non-corporate sites flourished. But as spam permeated the serps, google turned the dials and cranked up the weighting of off-page (trust) factors. It has been a consistent trend in google serps over the last 10 years - update after update. Each time the little guy loses. Each time the corporate sites gain. Planet13 is right to point out the longtails - here the new brand friendly serps squash specific relevant content. try searching for organic blue fuzzy widgets - what i see is big brands ranking highly for maybe organic widgets - then on page 3 you can find some poor guy with a great page called organic blue fuzzy widgets. As a searcher this is what i always want. This is why i think google is broken.