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Brand Links on Google: Watch out for the Big Guys

Link-Assistant.Com | Posted in category Google Search News

brand-refinementsGoogle's love affair with brands is well known. Ever since the Vince update Google has been giving the sites of well-known companies a preference in rankings, especially on generic keywords. It looks like they've just taken this trend a notch further with a new update to the search algorithm known as 'brand refinements'.

To help the users searching for broad product-related keywords Google decided to start showing links to some of the most popular manufacturers of these products. These 'brand links' appear on top of generic search results thus stealing the search traffic from organically ranked websites.

If you run a search on Google for sunglasses you'll notice a set of links entitled "Brands for sunglasses" on top of search results. The links lead to popular sunglasses manufacturers such as Oakley, Ray-Ban, SPY, Channel and Smith. If you follow the Oakley link (which many searchers will do) Google will take you to the search results page for 'oakley sunglasses' where is the top result.


Before this change most searchers would have been checking out sunglasshut (the #1 ranked site for sunglasses). Now the situation is a bit different. The newly added brand links on top will sure steal some of the search traffic from organic listings. It's hard to tell what proportion of searchers will click the brand links, but obviously they will get some attention.

The trend is observed on a wide range of generic product-related queries from [digital cameras] and [mp3 players], to [furniture] and [tennis rackets]. Whenever you're searching for a broad product keyword, Google will put out a line of brand links above the organic results. More specific keywords are not affected by this change (just yet?), so if you're looking for [bedroom furniture] or [furniture reviews] you won't get the brand link refinements. The update hasn't been rolled out on all regional versions of Google yet, but will be there sooner or later.

Adapting to the new search landscape

Unless you're a well-known brand in your industry you're unlikely to be happy about this change. Obviously the new addition to the algo makes it even harder to compete against the big guys. Just like with any Google update the #1 rule here is not to panic. We've been getting a lot of surprises from Google lately: from personalized search for everyone to new ranking factors. So you should have developed a thick skin against Google twists by now.

Knowing there's a way out of any situation, however difficult it may seem, let's see how we can embrace this update and run with it.

First of all, keep in mind that the brand refinements are only called out on broad queries. Focus on the long tail keywords and you won't have to compete with the brand links above you. More specific keywords provide a better ROI than the broad ones, so you should target them anyway.

Here's what you can do if you rely on broad keywords for traffic and sales and the addition of brand keywords causes a drop in the visits/conversions.

Check what brand refinements pop up on your targeted keywords and optimize for [brand + keyword] queries. Suppose you're selling cell phone accessories. You rank pretty well for [cell phone cases], but now that Google shows brand refinements for Coach, Body Glove, Verizon Wireless and other brands you may be getting less traffic from the term. The good thing is when users click a brand link they are taken to the search results for [brand + keyword], not the site of that particular brand. So you can optimize your site for [coach cell phone covers], [body glove cell phone covers], etc. This way you can catch up some of the traffic that leaks through the brand links.

What do you think of this update? Has this change already affected your site's traffic? We'd love to hear about your experience.

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