Is the competitive landscape of the web about ready to change once and for all with the introduction of Brand Rank (the ability for big brands to jump from parts unknown to the top 10 organic search results)? If so, this could mean tough times for SEO and the little guy (smaller businesses) who are trailing in links or website authority to their enterprise level counterparts.
It appears that Google has readjusted their weighting algorithm to reward pages or websites with geriocracy / age and authority (such as popular offline brands) for highly competitive keywords.
Is Bigger Always Better?
This phenomenon of popular commercial brands gaining a higher SERP (search engine result page) position and relevance score for select keywords out of the blue, poses one more threat to SEO or the little guy / smaller companies trying to compete in those niches (more on this controversial story here). My take on the Brand Rank algorithm is simple.
Change is to be expected and anticipated. Competitive rankings take time to chip away at. If you want long-term stability, it takes months and sometimes years to topple the top ranking sites for any given keyword.
Brand Rank is One More Reason to Build Authority
Each keyword has a tipping point / threshold that once crossed, allows that page to rank competitively and rise to the top of the rankings for exact match and stemmed related terms.
Instead of this traditional requirement of checks and balances, has the search quality team made adjustments to expedite this process for handpicked websites? Or is it the result of a new algorithmic shift that looks for co-citation and recalculated relevance based on a new metric.
What is the New Metric?
This seems like more of a revision to the TrustRank algorithm than anything, but just as an example, a very basic algorithm could be programmed to look for things such as (1) a website with (greater than) > 5,000 pages, (2) > 5 years old with (3) > 600K backlinks from 20K+ unique IP addresses (4) added over years equals = the tipping point for Brand Rank!, at this point the metrics are unclear. What is clear is a new realm of competition for anyone else targeting the same SERPs (search engine result pages).
Despite the new additions to the competitive landscape, basic SEO tactics still prevail. Obviously chronology has the upper hand a.k.a “sleeper effect” by virtually being two -steps ahead of the nearest competitor.
The Message is Clear, Add Quality Content to Insulate Rankings
Timing is everything with this metric replacing dated mechanism to ascertain relevance, which means those who started before (months or years in advance) are now benefiting from their patience and perseverance. Before link weight, relevant title tags and internal links was enough, now, you have to have years of history before getting clearance to join the elite (pre-Google) offline brands.
The idea is, to have as many keyword optimization campaigns operational simultaneously by carefully mapping out:
- the keyword landscape
- the modifiers (singular, plural and keyword variant/synonyms)
- the amount of pages required to synchronize for a common keyword objective
- the amount of internal and external links required (if your competitor has 10K links, then you need either a higher quality of links or a broader range of IP diversity to trigger domain authority).
- the internal requirements to track, measure and administer multivariate conversion methods (such as a custom CMS with a CRM interface, analytics and a platform to test multiple variations of landing pages), etc.
Giving the People What they Want Can Take Many Forms
1) The only certainty in SEO is that algorithms and metric will continue to evolve. As a result, websites fluctuate based on relevance, popularity, user engagement, brand exposure (like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon) and other unknown uniform metrics (from within the Googleplex, Yahoo and MSN).
2) Also, competition is evolving, so, you have got to continually evolve to stay buoyant amidst countless evaluations to remain relevant (which means more references within your site and to it from others & that requires content).
Some think (this adjustment) is a plot to undermine smaller less established websites like a bail-out for big business, since they spend billions a year on Pay per Click Marketing as a thank you of sorts. Others think it is about time to see larger brands rank in the SERPs. Both have a point, but at this juncture, it is too early to tell which contingent will gain the real upper advantage.
Don’t be Surprised by Big Brands Adapting and Employing SEO
Was it all algorithmic, or are big brands taking to SEO as well. In either case, the rule of thumb to consider here is, added exposure does not always convert, so, just because you can buy shoes from Zappos.com insurance from Aetna.com or airline tickets from American Airlines aa.com (all of which are big brands), that alone is not going to stop consumers from digger deeper into the search engine result pages to find what they need from other / lesser known providers.
I am certain you will see more about this phenomenon is the weeks to come as it is an interesting topic which impacts the way consumers shop (by controlling who they see first in line) as well as the thousands of companies who spent countless fortunes on SEO who enjoyed top spots, only to be bumped to the second page without warning.
Just like Wikipedia, it is a known fact that authority websites rank and rank well. The real message here is (a) start building trust by focusing on supporting pages to cross the tipping point (b) get in the game, the page you create today can defend your position from demotion for years to come and (c) use site architecture to build a better website (less leaks means you need less links to rank for more competitive terms).
Google never said they would keep everything static, nor did any search engine for that matter. The challenge for millions of businesses is figuring out the most ethical way to push the envelope to appear for their select keywords.
To reiterate a point from above, change is to be expected and anticipated and through keeping it simple (by focusing on quality content that is engaging) you can secure your spot in the search engines as a resource or a brand to be of the future.