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February 28, 2009

Google’s *Brand* New Ranking Algorithm

There’s been a flurry of discussion on Twitter and various SEO blogs over the past 48 hours regarding what appears to be a new ranking algorithm for popular search queries on Google.

I could go spend an hour or two to go into great detail here, but Aaron Wall stayed up all night to write this incredibly insightful post about the issue so I recommend you read his take on it.

In a nutshell, it looks as though Google is now giving ranking preference to the sites of large or well known brands in the search results for certain queries, even when those sites aren’t particularly well optimized for search engine compatibility and were not ranking well with the previous algorithm. There’s been no official word from Google on the matter one way or the other, but plenty of people are voicing their concerns about the change so it probably won’t be long.

I have to admit that if this truly is what it appears to be, it scares me. Part of the appeal for me of optimizing web sites was the fact that Google SERPS were a relatively level playing field. Even with Universal Search thrown into the mix, you could still optimize the site of Joe’s coffee house in Halitosis, Missouri and have it outranking Starbucks and Gloria Jeans for target keywords if you knew what you were doing.

Perhaps this algorithm change (if that’s what it is) is an attempt to clear up the spammy scum out of the Top 20 SERPS, but it may also handicap the authentic underdogs from being able to compete with the big brands.

What do you think? If Google really is giving more weight to brands, is that a positive or negative? Please comment below.

27 Responses to “Google’s *Brand* New Ranking Algorithm

    avatar Marcel Upfold says:

    What a waste of time if this is true to still promote Google as a search engine. I mean, in South Africa the term Google as a verb has found itself into the everyday language by way of saying go and “Google” such and such. If Google now wants to be prejudiced towards the large companies they will find a negative impact from an emerging country where small business is promoted and larger ones left outside if this equation…

    avatar valencio says:

    ‘google’ has become a verb all over the world. It is unfortunate if google has indeed made this change to give larger companies preferences in search results.

    Thanks for the information, very useful. I think we should understand the web is a very young industry even if it seems to have been here for ever, I would expect changes to happen more frequently with SE Algorithms. In any case google goal is to return the best results for its web users.

    This is truly worrying. If we as a small independant opperator can’t compete on a level playing field with the majors because they get preferential treatment in the SERPS then we need to reconsider our entire online strategy. One option may be to concentrate our SEO on smaller search engines because that where people will go to get choice and value. If the majors gain a monopoly on large engine SERPS simply because of branding alone I’m tipping people will desert the big search engines in favor of the smaller ones where they can find variety and choice. What consumers want above all is value for money and it wont take them long to figure out that they will need to broaden their surfing horizons if they are to find it. Large companies with market monopolies are self serving and offer no value to the consumer in the long run.

    avatar SEO India - Jaya Kumar Patchala says:

    Perhaps, Google has realized its mistake of forcing the big companies to spend on Adwords. Big companies often have trustworthy products and services compared to smaller ones. If I am made to buy a sub-standard product, just because it has high ranking in the search engines, then I am losing money and general trust with the market. This move can also encourage big companies to spend on adwords for more sales. Having said that this may be seem disadvantageous to small companies, but there is no use if small companies are at the top SERPs that cannot serve beyond their geographical boundaries. Instead they can focus on keywords that are very specific and niche. Thats in very useful for them as they will be targeting less competitive keywords.

    I can see both sides of the argument. There is a lot of useless junk that shows up in SERPs. To continue to be useful and relevent, Google SHOULD give some weight to well known and well respected brands. But there’s still the need to let the little guy be heard and seen. Finding an algorithm that gets rid of the junk and still offers a good cross section of big and little brands is the challenge (maybe never-ending!)

    Well, if the results are terrible, I have no doubt Google will revise the algorithm. Google didn’t become the #1 search engine because they fail they fail to adapt. They are constantly changing and trying to get better search results.

    avatar MSolution says:

    if the end product still keeps a level playing field for the small fish, and could perhaps(which is most essential) remove the spammy blogs for the first page, it would be gr8!

    First and foremost, Google has said things were going happen in the past that didn’t. Think about the google Knol and how it was supposed to be so powerful. SEO’s from everywhere jumped on it and they did nothing for our rankings. If google went the way of big business they would lose credibility and the google empire would fall.

    London Web Designers ,I disagree. Google is in this to force companies into paying for adwords–plain and simple. It’s not about the quality result IMO. Do you think PPC clients always have a better product? Small companies hire an SEO and spend money in that direction versus paying google for PPC. Google would love it if all results were paid ads.

    Well I think google has a long way to improve its results in terms of relevancy. Dupe content from major players and the like and im not sure this is going to improve that. I agree it doesn’t help the underdog and money talks! Google may be under pressure to recognise brands better, it does fit with the relevancy thing and authority thing but makes piercing the market harder than ever :s

    avatar Adan Leo BRG says:

    If true this goes against the whole purpose of the web and against everything that Google built its very own “Brand” upon.

    Its already difficult getting information on smaller companies, or things out of your region as it is.

    For us personally soon we will be trying to break into an ultra competitive market with several big brands, we have no chance on Gooogle so why would I waist limited resources in a poor lending climate when start up cash is more valuable then ever!!!!

    avatar EarRings says:

    This is a shame on Google if they really are doing this. Just because these big brands have already made their names known that they get better ranking is plain just not right.

    avatar LazrWeb says:

    This is NOT good for searchers, or small to average companies.
    Fact: Google is in this to make money. It’s obvious that they feel the “brands” are the way to gain money, and/or force the smaller players (more numerous) into AdWords. Either way, we never knee-jerk in reaction to what Google is doing. They are at very precarious junction, and they know it. We could help them, but they already have their “engineers” that decide (for us) what is best for us. hmmmm
    Maybe a little too self serving they are. Or now they wish to fully capatalize on their strengths to market themselves to the “Brands” forcing smaller and mid-sized companies into more completive arenas.
    IMHO

    If “Google” really follow this new direction, this would be a bad news to the small web-hosting and marketing copanies in the United States. Especially in this economic tough time, everyone are finding ways to cut back on marketing, advertisings spendings. The bigger companies with strong brand name, the more harder for them to spend money. I hope the CEO of Google know about consumers’ loyalty theory in his Business 101 class. And don’t ignore the “small businesses” in the vast Global markets.

    – Mygoodpets.com

    avatar HomeLightingToday says:

    I dont like this idea at all. I am a strong believer in giving small businesses a chance and allowing for fair competition. I was self employed in a small company for years and lost out due to larger companies taking over the market. This will kill off any small businesses online. I currently work for a company optimizing their website and think that hard work should be rewarded as always.

    avatar aslan says:

    this is bad for small business. So much for the internet ‘level playing field’ and democracy. These big guys have huge advertising budgets across all medias. Not all business can get the financial backing to advertise in the same way. How typical, espouse concepts of free market and then cripple small business. As if backward link didn’t damage the ability of small business. The SEO is nothing big business and most users forget that.

    As an independent e-commerce business we source our products from various independent suppliers,not necessarily brand names,but that does not mean that our products are not value for money.The reported news about Google revising its ranking is truly worrying because we won’t be able to compete on a level playing field with the big brands and if they get preferential treatment in the SERPS we will have to reconsider our entire online strategy.Large companies with market monopolies are self serving and offer no value to the consumer in the long run.Consumers want value for money and it won’t take them long to figure out that they will need to broaden their surfing horizons,so in the future we might have to concentrate our SEO on smaller search engines,where people will move to find value for money.

    I completly agree Kornelia apaloo…. So much so that posted as much about 14 posts ago!
    If you are going to copy and past other peoples posts you could at least wait until the corpse is cold…
    Same thread on the same day… Bad form old chap… terribly bad form!

    avatar Larry Dickey says:

    I hope this is not true for Goggle. I am not even close to an expert on SEO but have been able to hold my own with ranks in google, but if this is true it will break me and a lot just like me.
    hho2u.com

    Sad day for SEO. If Google has implemented this, it will be very difficult to compete with the fat boys.

    avatar Chic Alert says:

    While I’m all for a level playing field and allowing for fair competition, I agree that better search results are important. However, while I agree that to achieve this Google’s algorithm should police the SERPs, it should not penalize the well optimized small website.

    avatar Alan@Free iPods says:

    This move by Google (if true), is totally wrong! Everybody should be competing on an level playing field. Why should large companies get preferential treatment if they do not optimise their websites correctly? It’s a disgrace!

    avatar Urban Fashion says:

    This is so ridiculous… So that should mean SEO is over… give the big boys the chunk and all the rest just doesn’t exist for Google…
    This can not be true, I don’t believe it. At the moment I’m beating Top Fashion Designers for certain keywords…what’s gonna happen from now on?… it’s confusing…

    avatar anonymous says:

    Well, I work on an e-commerce site for a big humongous household-name brand company, and we’re still getting beat by smaller players in the SERPs. so I dunno. If this is happening, I’m not seeing it yet.

    By the way, I totally agree that there should be a level playing field. but what frosts me is the little mom-&-pops who do spammy, unethical things that a big company (with a very strict legal department) would never do. ISTM that sometimes puts us big fish at a disadvantage.

    avatar HHO says:

    Google has always favored the big brands and has been looking for a way to weed out the smaller guys for years. It is starting to happen to those who haven’t been able to figure out the workaround. This doesn’t bother me at all, it just means I had to make a few changes to stay on top of the HHO industry.

    avatar Black Bikini says:

    If I freaked out everytime Google promised some big change, I’d lose my mind. I really think PPC will be the ultimate future. With Google maps/places, organic rankings are becoming less and less important. $ talks to Google.

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