Does Google Favor Brands Regardless of SEO?
Ever since the “Vince” algorithm update in 2009, big brands seem to have gotten a leg up in the search results.
But it’s not just about being a big brand. It’s about the signals that come along with having a strong brand. Like expertise, authority and trust.
Presumably, big brands have bigger budgets and more resources, allowing them to do better SEO and compete better in the search results.
A more aggressive SEO strategy with all the right components can increase expertise, authority and trust signals to Google. So, Google will reward that brand’s website.
If that brand ends up in position one on the search results, they will begin to garner more clickthrough than the other results.
And if people dwell on that site for a significant period of time, that could also be a signal that the page is very relevant to users.
All this can then act as a feedback loop to Google to continue to reward that page.
Don’t forget also that if you have a strong brand, people will recognize that and it may impact their willingness to click on a result, too.
One study showed that 26% said a familiar brand was a reason for clicking on search ads. Even though that study is referring to ads, it is telling nonetheless for how people may react to brands in the organic search results.
So, there are many factors that can contribute to why big brands tend to show up in the search results.
But are the giants always better than the little guys? The answer is no. In fact, a lot of times big brands have more turnover and are less agile than the smaller guys.
However, despite a smaller company’s best efforts, there are times when big brands still outrank them.
For example, take RankBrain, Google Search’s machine learning component applied to its search results. It *may* enhance favoritism of brands in the results, as I’ve written about here:
Because Google tends to favor big brands online for a variety of reasons, with RankBrain things like the site’s engagement rate, mentions of the brand across many social sites and so on could further enhance favoritism here. This could happen despite the fact that some bigger brands may have a weaker link profile than other websites in their space.
So, what do you do when you think you can do better than the big guys that are ranking number one? You try it!
Despite the fact that it can take a lot of work (and perhaps a bigger SEO budget), you can try to be “least imperfect” compared to the brand that is ranking for your desired keywords in the search results.
Remember, SEO is about beating the competition, not the algorithm. Also remember that agility and speed to implement changes is a smaller company’s weapon against the big guys. Don’t be surprised by the traffic you didn’t get for the SEO work you didn’t do.
Will it always work? No. There are situations where it can be near impossible.
One way we’ve been able to help clients go up against big brands is by rethinking their keyword strategy altogether. Historically, brands have not been very good at owning long-tail keywords (those are the three to five-word keywords).
There is a lot of opportunity when you go after these keywords — you can get a good amount of traffic.
So does Google favor brands in the search results regardless of their SEO?
It occurred to me that this article could have been just one word – YES! But keeping to SEO answer standards – IT DEPENDS. Google tries to rank the highest quality, most relevant pages for a query. And major brands tend to have a lot of signals that Google is looking for.
Google is not perfect, however. That means smaller brands need to work harder to compete.
I have written about this topic at length in the past. So for in-depth SEO tips, see my article on how to beat the giants in the search results. And check out 50 “white hat” ways to get authority links to your site.
This article was inspired by a question I received during our live monthly Q&A sessions for SEOtraining.com members. Each month we meet to discuss all things SEO and answer member questions directly. If you’d like me to answer your SEO question live, head over to SEOtraining.com and sign up for membership.