Published by Joel Cheesman, on 17/03/2009
It was the most important Google update in 5 years. And it happened with little fanfare when compared to past updates of significance. Last October, Google CEO Eric Schmidt referred to the Internet as a “cesspool of misinformation” and stated:
Brands are the solution, not the problem … Brands are how you sort out the cesspool … Brand affinity is clearly hard wired, … so fundamental to human existence that it’s not going away. It must have a genetic component.
In the second week of January 2009, Google dumped a big ol’ bucket of chlorine into that cesspool, which boosted some of the world’s most well-known brands into ranking nirvana. For the time being, competitive phrases have seen the most significant impact. RankPulse, a site that documents and archives rankings, gives us some insight into the move.
Note the big brands in our space hold positions 1-3, with Craigslist and Google breaking into the Top Ten. Exact-match domains Jobs.com and Jobs.net seem a little less prominent than they have been historically, which is a trend I expect to continue. Searches for “mortgages,” “airfare” and the like are seeing similar results. (Yes, I know behavioral-based results deliver different rankings to different people, but this phenomenon is real and well documented.)
Of course, the question is, How does Google decide who’s a brand name and who isn’t? Well, they’re not telling us, of course, but here are a few guesses. 1) They’ve made a list. It’s not difficult and publications do it all the time. 2) They’ve looked at their biggest spenders. Google won’t admit to advertisers impacting organic search results, but looking at who spends the most gives them insight into who’s a brand and who isn’t. 3) Monitor user behavior via Google properties.
Here are a few:
There are probably more, but you get the idea. The bigger question is, What now?
Well, if you’re a well-known brand – spend big money on Super Bowl ads and throw your name on sports arenas – you’re SEO initiatives just got a lot easier. And if you’re, well, anyone else, your job just got a lot harder.
I’m already starting to see bigger brands creep into the rankings of longer, less competitive search queries, where they weren’t before. As Google continues to collect data on activity, I expect the trend to continue and the number of wannabes in the Top Ten to decrease.
Of course, it could work in opposite fashion if users fail to click on Monster, because, well, they’ve already been there and didn’t really like what they saw. Only time will tell, but newbies clicking on names they know is a fair assumption to make.
An interesting side effect could be the emergence of large employers cracking into organic search results with their brands, where they’ve been largely absent since the inception of Google. It’s left to be seen whether or not an employer like Dell or Wal-Mart will grasp such an opportunity, but it’s there now and likely will be more and more over time.
The trend will also continue to send the guerrilla marketers to social networks and vertical search engines, which, by the way, should make the likes of Indeed and Simply Hired very happy, assuming they can maintain their search prominence. It’ll also be good for Google. The big boys will continue spending and more little guys will enter the PPC fold to generate traffic.
Oh, and it’ll probably push a lot of search engine optimizers, and the vendors who service them, into doing other things, which is doubtful to bring any Googlers to tears.
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