For the last few weeks there has been gossip on the internet (Sphinn, Search Engine Land, Twitter, WebMasterWorld), regarding a recent change to the Google algorithm. The SEO conspiracy theorists had suggested that Google’s latest update had given big brands a push up the rankings.
This was all speculation until Matt Cutts released a video on YouTube outlining what he calls the “Vince Change” (emphasising that it is not an update, just a small change, one of around 300-400 small changes they make per year).
The majority of the video deals with this one question posted to him:
Can you verify that Google is putting more weight on ‘brands’ in search engine rankings? If the answer is Yes, what is Google’s definition of a brand?
He answered this by saying that Google doesn’t consider Brand at all, and that as per their history – Google simply considers things like trust, authority, reputation, high quality and page rank when determining the rankings.
He added that if big brands are benefiting from the latest Google ‘changes’, then this would be because they are trusted and highly relevant, and for SEO-ers to continue competing we should just keep doing what we always were – making good quality content and good quality sites that make us an authority.
Really, that video did not help at all…
Personally, I am not sure how I feel about the new changes to the algorithm. It was pre-empted last year by some comments made by Google’s Eric Schmidt saying the internet was becoming a cess pool, and good content from trusted brands is needed to maintain quality on the internet – and in Google search rankings I suppose.
Brands like Dell would have huge sites, quality content, authority, and lots of backlinks, so I am not sure what the issue is for them ranking highly, they deserve to.
Also, it is pointless for SEO practitioners to cry ‘unfair!’ on a company’s private technology, it isn’t our ‘right’ to know how Google does what it does. Google developed their algorithm, they can do what they like with it. If consumers don’t like it, they will stop using it.
So SEO-ers will continue to wonder what it is exactly that has pushed the brands up the rankings, and Matt Cutts unfortunately did not provide any further insight. But with SEO there have never been any clear cut guidelines or rules, our work evolves through trial and error, experimentation and observation, to see what works and what doesn’t. This is just another factor to throw into the mix.