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by Stephen Logan on 20th August 2010
A look at the latest Google update which appears to give brands a huge advantage in SERPs for generic branded terms.
After last year’s brand update, it looks like Google are at it again. Search queries for specific brand-related terms appear to be favouring the big boys, to the extent where they are now able to dominate the organic results.
If you have done any such search recently you’ll probably have seen the top three or maybe four positions directing you towards the same site (or domains from the same company). However, now you can fully expect to see SERPs containing eight or nine. There’s no breathing space, and very little room for competition.
But don’t panic. This isn’t universal. If you’re selling products by a brand, you shouldn’t be overly affected. If you were somehow ranking for the brand name itself, or a variant of it, then you might have some cause for concern though.
The phrases that are producing these results, as pointed out first by Malcolm Coles in Google treating brand names in search terms as site: searches?, are largely generic brand terms. They aren’t your usual ‘Black & Decker Drill’ (although that does appear three times), but your core phrases like ‘Adobe’.
Speaking of Adobe, they have a clear market advantage anyway due to the speciality of their products, but search for the brand name or ‘Adobe Help’ and you’ll be faced with brand overkill. The help option returns eight from Adobe domains, whilst the brand name alone features nine, with the odd one out being Wikipedia.
The same is true for Microsoft, Vodafone and Tesco – well, pretty much any major brand with a distinctive name and large site. If you sell DVDs or have produced a film about a certain river running through Brazil, forget about it. ‘Amazon DVD’ is dominated by the ecommerce site of the same name. That’s a full nine out of ten, with poor old Bruce Parry’s BBC documentary of the same name languishing in tenth – on the BBC shop site no less.
Oddly though, if I was searching for Mr. Parry’s DVD then that would be the Google term I’d use. So what then? Do I have to be even more specific? Do I just buy from the BBC? Or do I go to Amazon and search for, well, Amazon?
For most sites though this won’t mean a thing. Why would you care about ranking for the word ‘Nike’ when you are offer telecommunications equipment? Probably not a major issue for you.
But as is pointed out by Malcolm Coles within his original post, if you want help with Apple product but are exasperated with their customer services, suddenly that’s all you’ll be faced with on Google. That’s just not cricket.
Equally, if you have a website dedicated to helping Apple customers or providing a forum to discuss issues, page two might now be the best you can hope for with a major keyword.
Brands should rank top for their own products, I don’t think many would contest that. If somebody is searching for a generic phrase related to a brand, it’s not unreasonable for them to have a few rankings sewn up. But when you are getting eight or nine, suddenly it’s a bit more brand-centric.
As with all Google updates, it’s hard to tell whether this is just a temporary test or a taste of things to come. But equally, the advice as always remains the same, keep calm and carry on. If you have seen a major drop in rankings you might be less forgiving of course. But they really should be few and far between. Vertical search engines, affiliate sites and some etailers could be impacted, but the rest should be fine.
Good news (or at least a little light relief) comes with searches like ‘Adidas’. A huge global brand and only five results on the SERPS. Three others (positions 5, 6 and 10), are general clothing stores, so it is still possible.
A good spot by Malcolm Coles and another thing for everyone in the SEO industry to frantically unpick. If you have seen any particularly extreme examples, especially in relation to your own rankings, please share them below.