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Vince’s Change to the Google Algorithm favors Brands

Matt Cutts of Google’s Search Quality Team posted a video response to the recent discussions of Google’s new emphasis on “brands”. He says Google doesn’t think interms of brands, but factors like

  • trust
  • authority
  • reputation
  • page rank
  • high quality

Matt says yes, “there has been a change in how we do some rankings”, and yes, it may be favoring big brands for some but not all search results pages. But if it is favoring anything, Matt says, it is because of the above factors.

But Matt continues to explain that for each query typed into Google, Google looks to deliver the best result to a user. Regarding the query someone types into Google’s search box, Matt says:

“sometimes that’s a brand search, sometimes that’s an informational search, sometimes it’s navigational, sometimes it’s transactional…”

Hmm. Notice that Matt specifically identified one type of user query as “a brand search”. Ignoring the fact that Matt had just told us that Google doesn’t think in terms like the word “brand”, notice that “brand” is not one of the search query types identified in prior Google documents (such as the Quality Rater guides). Informational queries, transactional queries, navigational queries have all been described before. Brand queries… that’s new language to me.

Matt gives as an example the search keyword “eclipse”, and suggests that if there were a branding preference, Google would probably rank the Mitsubishi Eclipse as a result (but it does not). He does note that Eclipse the development environment is present (which I see is the #1 result right now).

In my opinion, Matt chose a poor example to support his argument that Google isn’t emphasizing brands. Eclipse is not an important term identified by the archivists at (and therefore we can’t look at Google’s history of rankings for that term, to see if they changed on January 18), but (the #1 result) is exactly the site I would expect to be promoted as a brand result. So is, and (both currently Page 1 results).

I’m not saying the SERP for eclipse is another example of a SERP updated to support brands. I’m just noting it is not a good example of Google not emphasizing brands over other sites (such as well-supported informational sites or well optimized, quality but not strongly-branded sites).

In closing, Matt repeats the Google mantra that good content produced by experts, as recognized by users, comprise the set of sites that Google wants to present as search results.

Before we go, should I notice Matt’s use of “sites” as opposed to “pages” or URLs in that sentence?

Watch Matt’s video here.


  1. Geordie wrote:

    Substitute “brand search” for “commercial” and you have your answer…

    Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  2. darren wrote:

    Nice semantic analysis John!

    I thought the use of “Vince” was interesting too. What impact can 1 guy have that can lead to this type of update so that you’d name it after him? Did Vince discover a new quality metric? Considering how Zen & Art of Motorcycle Maintenance spent hundreds of pages defining the word, I’d guess it wasn’t a major complicated quality algo change.

    Did he turn the quality dial? I don’t think you’d name a filter/update/algo if it was just an adjustment one direction or the other of a few signals.

    dunno…just a thought.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm | Permalink
  3. spondishy wrote:

    Do they not just name the “changes” like hurricanes. Wasn’t the last one by Ursula?

    I’ve seen sites like netgear go to the top of the rankings for “wireless routers”, but the have the phrase in the title etc. Does anyone have any specific examples where a brand has gone to the top and doesn’t deserve to be there.

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 6:02 am | Permalink
  4. Interesting… I have heard of commercial searches but never a brand search. I don’t know how they would recognize the difference between eclipse and Mitsubishi Eclipse unless you would search for Mitsubishi Eclipse and not just eclipse. Google. Regards!

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  5. Nice catch on those semantic details. I wonder if his use of “sites” instead of pages was an error or a Freudian slip. Although I’ve long figured that homepages weren’t merely simple pages as often claimed.

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  6. john andrews wrote:

    Anyone know for real why Matt Cutts keeps hyping webmasterworld? I’ve already seen him say twice something like (not actual quote) “and it was mentioned on webmasterworld I think even before that”. It’s almost like he’s a sponsor for them.

    Best I can see wmw started talking about it on the 20th. SEOBook forum discussion started back in January. I’m cool with everyone staying in wmw but I want to understand why the Matt Cutts endorsement (?)

    Friday, March 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  7. There are lots of ways Google can identify brand names and their related keywords.
    The Chrome browser can collect behavioral data, they might estimate how often a URL is typed in the browser – more often = a brand. They can measure CTR, bounce rate & time on page for site-to-site links with Chrome. Data harvesting capabilities have expanded.

    Monday, March 9, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  8. In the past, I had the impression that Google was impartial and gave special consideration to non-commercial sites. Google’s new logic that being a big brand means trustworth and authority is utterly baseless. Big brands spend huge amount of money to promote and defend their sites and have selfish economic interests. This algorithm update by Google is really not welcome.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 3:29 am | Permalink
  9. Tom wrote:

    Google just killed the SEO industry…

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink