There is a common grouse among small brands online. The pet peeve is that they feel that Google and its army of algorithms favor big brands over smaller brand names. After all, is not internet supposed to be the great leveler? Should it not bring all brands, big and small, on the same pedestal and then encourage them to compete? As far as I can remember, the foundation of SEO is based on the principle that it gives low-cost online visibility to lesser-known brands.
If I find that Google is favoring big brands, who have the deep pockets to carry out not just online but offline marketing blitzkrieg as well, I will feel a little disappointed, if not cheated. Before jumping to conclusions, we have to look at the picture objectively. Does Google actually favor big brands in SERP?
What Actually Affects Google Search Ranking?
Let us look at the definitive condition for ranking on Google. Ranking positions are usually determined by the algorithms of Google and what inputs they bring in from individual websites. The parameters are never about branding in that sense. Google will not pick up a bigger brand like McDonalds over a local burger manufacturer simply because McDonalds is a reputed name. the question now is, should we reject the SERP claim of a bigger brand simply because it is a big brand? Think of the other side of the coin. Is the bigger brand doing something that Google is appreciating through a better rank? Why can it not be that the bigger brand is doing a better job of SEO and grabbing the SERP spots on merit?
Google Ranking Factors and Correlation with Branding
To take our discussion forward, look at the link building scene. As a website who is approaching another site for links, will you want to link with McDonalds or with a local burger site? That is how a big brand wins over Google with a more organic link network. A lesser brand will have to approach for links or get into tie-ups to build up a network of links. Established brands do not need to do that. They are approached by others and they can develop their link chain easily. They can even spread it out wider online. Surely, Google has to reward this link network. It is not the brand name that Google is rewarding with SERP status. It is the SEO work.
Social Media Factor
Social media networks may not directly influence Google algorithms but they surely have a strong say. A brand which is known and established will have its content shared and viewed by more social media users. Share a post by a celebrity blogger and another by an upcoming, amateur blogger. See for yourself which one is read and even appreciated! Even when the amateur has written better points and arguments, the perception always tilts towards the known name. It is the perception which tells you that the more famous blogger is probably right. It is common human psychology. Google will see how many people have tuned in to read the post. The blogger with the higher number, by default the more famous name, wins the SERP battle.
Other factors that influence SERP status, like number of visitors, PageViews, even Click-through Rates (CTR) work in the same fashion. A bigger brand has more people visiting the website, checking through more web pages and clicking on links, including PPC ads. Even when the content is better for the anonymous entity, people think that because they have never heard of that brand, it is better to go for the safe bet: the established brand.
The Final Word
What does this teach us all in SEO and digital marketing? We have to do our part in a better way to grab Google’s attention. It cannot hide behind the excuse that Google will always favor the market leader and rank me down the ladder. Pick up lessons on why the industry leader is grabbing that top slot. Look at your own game and you will find Google giving you the boost you need.