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.
I read Aaron’s post with great interest (as anything that involves SEO theories and strategies does). Big brands taking over generic keywords is a bit troubling. I was under the belief, right or wrong, that if someone did a search query like “credit cards”, they would naturally NOT find the Visa or Mastercard site because Google knows in its infinite wisdon that if the person was looking for the big, well known brands, they would just google the name.
When you are talking about household branded names, it would be logical that the person searching for them would just search for the brand name itself.
From a more practical standpoint, other than traffic, I don’t think that the main generic keywords probably wouldn’t convert all that great…it is too early in the search funnel for conversions, right?
Good point Leo, it may well be too early in the purchase trail to impact conversions BUT it’s a psychological win for the big brands and loss for the little guys regardless
Hi Kalena, it is such a huge debate as some of the Aaron’s commenter said “Google may be burnt out by web spam and they think brand is a safe way out”. I think that statement said it all. But let see what happens in the coming month since I am not a big guy and I don’t want to be a big guy :P.
If I was looking for Starbucks, then I would google Starbucks and the town’s name, or I might just use a telephone book. If I was looking for a new place to go, I would not necessarily want Starbucks to come up, followed by Gloria Jean. I feel the smaller places/sites deserve a chance. If you can’t optimize to come up on the top pages, what is the point to have a web page or to optimize at all.
How can SEO and a search engine marketing campaign improve Leadsmarketer website (www.leadsmarketer.com) position in the search engines? Our marketing and sales department invested a lot of resources in writing all the content for our web site but we just can’t seem to be ranking high enough in the engines, while our competition is on top. Do we have to re-write it all over again?