A Change to the search results page
As Google can sometimes do, they introduced an “enhancement” to their search results page that could have a major impact for many businesses. Google termed it “Brand refinements in search results” which in Google’s words would “make it easier for you to find the brands other people consider useful for popular product searches.” What this means is that on certain product types, the brand names of what Google determines would be helpful are displayed at the top of the search page. Below is a search for “bicycle” which yields several bicycle brand names at the top of the results page.
Brands vs Online Business
There is a good discussion going on about this in a blog post titled “Google Just Killed Your Online Business” on the CenturyHouse.net blog. This post focuses on the businesses selling the brand, and products within the brand category, versus the brand itself. For example, a search for “electric blanket” will yield electric blanket brands at the very top of the page in addition to the typical results that Google returns including online shopping, retail locations and social circle results.
The commenters on this post have some great ideas around how to deal with this, but there is an important group that is affected which I haven’t seen discussed yet. That group is the brand names that don’t make “the list”. For instance, using our example above, there were 5 bicycle brands displayed that Google deemed through their algorithms that would be the most useful.
At first I thought the list at the top would mirror the order of the brands in the search results – but that’s not the case. In our same example, Giant is in the 2nd brand position but is in the 8th position on the organic results. Another brand at the top, Huffy, isn’t even on the first page of the organic results and one of the biggest bike companies in the world, Specialized isn’t on the brand list at all!
So, What’s a Marketer To Do?
My suggestion is two fold.
First, watch and observe. Google loves to test things and what we are seeing now may not be the final incarnation of the feature. For example, when clicking on the brand names at the top of the page you are not directed to that brand’s website. Rather, you are directed to a new search results page using the brand name as the search term. It’s probably a foregone conclusion at this point that the user will then click on the brand name, but, understanding how visitors to your site get there using an analytics tool and walking through the process yourself is always a good idea.
Second, continue (or begin!) creating compelling, outstanding, relevant content that is keyword rich and SEO optimized. Then, use your business outposts to syndicate that content. Regardless of what new feature Google bakes into their search results, it is a safe course of action to assume that a major factor in Google’s (and other tools) search algorithms will be relevant on-page content and inbound links from authoritative sites.