Is Google Using Brands To Get to Content Producers?

February 25, 2009
By Lisa Barone in SEO

Head to SEO Book.

Aaron Wall has written the best post on search I’ve read in a long time. The post deals with the new emphasis Google is placing on brands and the algorithm update that quietly took place on Jan. 18 without much attention at all.

In his post, Aaron shows pretty strong evidence that Google is awarding prominent brands with better rankings in the search engines, showing ranking changes for many different keywords.

When I read the post, one thing came to mind. Okay, fine, two things.

  1. Aaron Wall has a genius mind.
  2. This is how Google appeases content producers.

It was a couple of weeks ago now when John Battelle took the stage at SMX West and chatted with Danny Sullivan. One of the big themes I took away from their chat was the battle that’s continuing between Google and publishers.

If you’re a content producer, Google pretty much sucks. They make money off your work and don’t give you much respect. In fact, Google does a pretty good job of erasing brands altogether. When you search for a product, affiliate sites rank higher than the manufacturer. When you search for news, Joe’s Magazine is tightly bundled in with Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. If you’re a small guy, it’s great. It’s what the Internet was founded on. But I imagine if you’re the New York Times, part of you probably wants to flick Google in the face. You’re the freakin’ New York Times. I mean, we saw yesterday what happens when you don’t give brands like Robert Scoble the attention they think they deserve. They get mouthy. And then we have to kick them.

I’ve always gotten the feeling that Google thinks they’re bigger than brands. That they think they don’t need them and that they have some moral responsibility to humble them. And as a result of that, we’ve seen an epic battle break out between Google and the very groups that have made it immensely profitable.  As the war waged on, we’ve seen:

  • Google fight with video producers.
  • Google fight with newspapers and content owners.
  • Google get itself in trouble with Google Book Search.

And at the end of the day (and every blog post), we all conclude that the publishers need to suck it up. They need to go through, as John said, the 7 Stages of Grief and learn to live in a Google world. Google’s better than your brand or your one piece of content. They’re not going to bend to you, you have to bend to them.

But then that January 18th update happened.

As Aaron showed in his post, Google’s Eric Schmidt went on record back in October to say that the Internet had become a “cesspool” of false information and that brands were the answer to that. I don’t know that I agree that big brands are what we need to see a more factually correct Internet, however, I do think giving brands more prominence in the SERPs is something that could help Google heal some of its relationships. And, of course, make more money.

When Google gives brands the rankings they think they scoble-ly deserve, you appease some of your biggest critics. You show them some goodwill and hope they simmer down and drop their lawsuits. You put that content higher and encourage the people with the big budgets to spend more with you. You essentially shut them up.

I’m not saying the new update was released for the sole purpose of throwing one to content producers, but I think it’s going to be a very lucky byproduct. One of the biggest complaints that media companies had with Google was how fragmented it made their brands. And now, well, Google may have just taken its first few steps toward mending that. How smart for them.

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