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James Perrin

Are Google Favouring Big Brands with their Sitelinks Update?

17th Aug 2011 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

Google have once again updated their SERPs, this time to expand the number of sitelinks and adjusting how they are shown within their search results, but with the greatest benefit coming for big brands.

This is a significant change for brands and manufacturers, because they now take up so much of the first results page. Whilst it’s great news for them, it isn’t so for smaller businesses and resellers within the market. So what are the exact changes? Let’s take a look…

In this example, we can see when searching for Argos, the link to the Home Page is still displayed as usual, however underneath there are a number of external sitelinks to pages within Argos’ site.

This is applicable to all brands, and I’ve yet to come across a large brand that hasn’t seen these changes. There are even sitelinks when you search for a subcategory of a site. For example you can search for Sainsbury’s and the main site links will appear, but if you search for Sainsbury’s Groceries for example, you’ll also be presented with further sitelinks.


According to Google’s blog, the changes have been made to make it even easier to find the section of the site that you’re looking for. That’s all very well if it was applicable to all sites, however it doesn’t appear to be the case – certainly not at the moment. Google make no reference to the changes and how they help brands within their blog post, which leads me to suspect they’re steering clear of this issue. Why? Perhaps because they’ve come under huge criticism in the past over how they favour big brands and not smaller sites.

Brand promotion is a huge part of Google’s algorithm, something that history has told us. From their Florida update in 2003 to the Panda update, Google have favoured larger brands whilst appearing to make it harder for smaller websites to rank.

Google have been favouring the big brands for search queries which have specific brand related terms, thus dominating the SERPs, specifically the organic results [See: Big Brands Benefit from Latest Google Update]

From what I’ve seen, these results only happen when specifically searching for a brand and not necessarily related for branded items they sell. For example, whilst “Samsung” brings up the new Sitelinks, if you were to search for “Samsung television”, you’ll still be able to see a full range of suppliers and shopping results within Google. This is good news for smaller sites and resellers.

Google have made the changes to make it easier to navigate to a specific page. They use the example of making it easier to find exhibits within the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Whilst this may be useful, having Samsung and its subsequent sitelinks totally dominate the first page for the term Samsung may not be so good for smaller retailers.

It isn’t clear how Google are deciding on which pages to show, maybe this is a case for optimising these sitelinks, especially as they now include a small meta description. Is this something that SEO’s should be looking at in future? Controlling which sitelinks appear will be particularly helpful, especially if you want specific pages to appear or organise them in a specific way. For example, looking at our own Koozai sitelinks, it would be advantageous to have our services higher up as opposed to any news stories.

These changes will certainly give more thought into optimisation and earning a brand authority status within Google. For existing brands it’s great news, however for smaller sites, it’s another hurdle Google have placed in their way.

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