Vince: Favoring Big Brands?

The Vince update which was rolled out in February 2009 created significant impacts in the SERPs which appeared to favor big brands. Matt Cutts, a spokesperson for Google, deemed it as a minor change. However, several webmasters believed that it had long-term implications. At the time of its implementation, the majority of first-page search results were acquired by large national brands.

In the same month, Google partnered with Microsoft and Yahoo once more to launch the canonical tag, which enables webmasters to send canonicalization signals to search engine bots without disturbing the experience of human users. This format allows you to specify your preferred version of a URL publicly.

What’s It For

Statistical data collected by SEO Book showed significant changes in the SERPs and provided evidence on Google’s emphasis on the brand push. Cutts clarified that this minor update was not about favoring big brands over small businesses and their websites. Instead, it was more on factoring trust in the algorithm for generic queries.

He went on to explain that most users won’t notice the change, and it doesn’t have any bearing on long-tail queries. Apparently, Google was integrating trust and quality scores along with PageRank and other metrics to measure the importance and value of a page.

This information is conveyed to the ranking algorithm, which affects a site’s position in the SERPs. It was implied that big brands had established their credibility than small businesses, which is why they’re gaining the top spots in the results pages.

What Were Its Effects

Webmasters took to forums to share their findings on the significant differences in the SERPs. One WebmasterWorld member noted that Google appeared to be giving top spot rankings to what was described as “Fortune-type offline brands.” For the broad-level keyword “laptop,” Apple and Dell ranked high while ATT and Comcast dominated the search for “high speed internet.”

Another mentioned that these were publicly-traded companies, which may have implied a boost in trust factors. Others speculated that the trust that these corporations gained was through their established authority in their niches and social media buzz.

While webmasters at the time may have been frustrated over Google’s seemingly biased treatment on small and big brands, in hindsight, it appears that the update was a step toward the team’s overarching goal of valuing quality, trust, and relevance for the search engine.

What It Means for You

Before the update was rolled out, it seemed like Google CEO Eric Schmidt hinted at how branding was fast becoming an essential signal of trust for content. He admitted that the Internet was turning into a cesspool where false information thrives and one of the ways to combat this was through brand affinity.

Brand recognition is a crucial factor in influencing your target market’s buying decisions. If they had to choose between Nike and an unknown brand, they’d most probably go for the former even if the latter was cheaper. SEO is a potent tool for building your brand since it allows small businesses to level the playing field to boost visibility and awareness.

Here’s how SEO can help you expand your digital reach:

  • Meet Consumers in Their Micro-Moments Micro-moments pertain to the times in a person’s day when they reflexively open their smartphone or tablets to learn, discover, watch, or buy something. These are intent-rich scenarios that play a significant role in your potential customers’ buying decision. With the right keywords, you can ensure that your brand pops up for relevant queries by your target market.
  • Jumpstart Your Brand’s Inbound Strategy Most marketers employ the inbound strategy or the principle of drawing in consumers by offering them something valuable during the different stages of the buying cycle. SEO helps you create optimized content that will bring in more traffic and leads for your website. It also improves your social media presence by building higher engagements and establishes your credibility by associating with authoritative sites via link building.
  • Cement Your Brand Reputation Your brand reputation refers to consumers’ perception of your company. If you have a favorable reputation, it means that customers trust your advocacy and feel good when purchasing your products or services. An adverse response, on the other hand, will make them hesitant to conduct business with your brand.
    Your SEO strategy should include a provision for online reviews from your current buyers. You must also closely monitor mentions of your brand in review sites and social media to address negative appraisals. Reaching out to customers and offer possible reparations for their inconvenience to show that you care for them.