Could this change to the Google algorithm give big brands a leg-up, or does Google have another agenda?


An interesting blog post that I spotted this morning by Malcolm Coles had me thinking about the possible motives behind an update to the Google Algorithm which displays more results on the first page of the Google SERPS from one site.

Assuming that this ‘update’ has, as has been suggested, rolled out and that changes are visible across Google’s results, rather than in one isolated case, I thought it sensible to consider the possible outcomes of an update of this nature. It has been suggested that it hasn’t been applied as a blanket update to all results at the time of writing this post.

It seems to me that the update that Malcolm Coles is reporting could be a reversal or adjustment to Google’s seemingly unnatural process of limiting the number of relevant pages that appear for one site for a search term. It could be that a site contains multiple relevant pages of content for a search term, where these pages are individually, still more relevant to that query than content on other competing sites. In this respect, quality of results returned could well improve for the end user.

Does Google have a hidden agenda?

In this update from Google, the rules regarding brand term usage in Ad Text have been relaxed for the UK, Canada and Ireland to bring them in line with the previously adjusted US rules.
Could it be that Google are purposely making it more difficult to rank on page one of their results for brand terms unless you are the brand owner, forcing affiliates and resellers to pay for their traffic through AdWords?

Large brands will still bid on their own brand name, as traditionally they comprehensively target multiple channels in the digital marketing spectrum, so Google stand only to gain from the update.
In brief, I suspect that there could be a number of winners and losers in the Search Results if this update does apply across the board.

Some of the winners could include:

  • Large sites with keyword rich brand names – as Search volumes will be highest for key terms. With additional page one results covered, traffic share will increase and in turn, more revenue is generated from Organic search.
  • Large e-commerce sites with lots of unique content i.e. variation on products. – for the ‘right’ searches, large sites will not be limited to only showing one or two product pages per search. This could potentially increase exposure, traffic and revenues.
  • Google – Arguably the biggest winner here. Reduced competition for brands in Organic search, forcing the competitive struggle into the AdWords marketplace. Essentially the same players will be forced to pay for their positioning. This also has the knock on effect of increasing the cost of AdWords clicks for the brand owner as well, because of the increased competition in the AdWords auction as a result.

Who stands to lose?

  • Review sites and cookie cutter shopping comparison sites – Sites which rank well, but not in position one for brand terms on the weight of the sheer volume of those terms on their sites could see a shift down the SERPS for brand searches.
  • Thin affiliate sites and reseller sites of big-brand products relying on exact match brand terms in their domain names will suffer in a similar way, moving down the SERPS for those brand terms.
  • Non e-commerce brand sites, relying on resellers. This could backfire for brand owners in the respect that that more of page 1 will be covered with their non-e-commerce pages. The trick here will be to include reseller information clearly on their brochureware sites.

Ultimately, if this update does roll out across the board, big brand will win here, especially those with large numbers of pages with content. Those with keyword rich brand names will win biggest. The real question is whether this will happen, or if the speculation is unfounded.

Have you seen any evidence of this kind of change in your search results for brand searches that you monitor? Let us know in the comments what you may have found and we will see if this update is as widespread as has been suggested.

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