Do you need to build a brand to be able to rank well in the major search engines? After all, there are probably millions of sites out there that rank relatively well for a variety of terms, and their site name and URL is nothing more than a couple of words that describe what their site is all about. They didn’t need a ‘brand’, so why should you? Whether you’re promoting your website yourself, or you work with an individual or organisation that provides SEO services to help you improve your rankings, you might want to start thinking about branding your business, if you really want to see some success in the search results.
In recent months, it seems that websites built around brands have started ranking higher than those that are built around keywords. In the past, a domain that contained the keyword you wanted to rank for might have given you a bit of a boost in the search result, but because this practice has been over-exploited, branded websites now seem to be fairing much better, and if you think about it, the reason behind this is fairly obvious.
Google would like a truly meritocratic worldwide web – websites rank well for particular search terms based on the quality and relevance of the content they offer in relation to that particular search term. Their terms of service prevent site owners from any practices that would intentionally alter the algorithm’s ‘opinion’ of a site, in a bid to make the site rank higher – sites should be ranked purely on their merit. But we don’t live in a perfect, Google-obeying world, and there are millions of webmasters and SEO providers who make a living helping to improve search engine rankings for all sorts of websites, with some being more ethical and in tune with Google’s principles than others.
It is those site owners and search engine optimisers that, realising the potential of domains that contained the keywords they wanted to rank for and the algorithms positive attitude towards them, effectively ‘spoilt’ it for everyone else, by flooding the search engine results with these exact match domains (EMDs), which often contained content that was of little or no value to the searcher, and ranked well simply because of the keyword term being present in the domain.
Some SEOs feel that Google actually released a specific ‘EMD update’ to try and counter this issue which is why so many of these types of sites fell so far down in the rankings, but it’s probably more likely that the algorithm simply started paying more attention to the quality of the site and it’s content, and less to the domain it was sat on when it came up with the results for any particular search.
At the same time as the search engines were discounting the value of these exact match domains, it’s also likely that they started to add more weight and importance to sites built around brands, for the simple reason that these are more likely to be genuine, authentic business websites, that provide the searcher with the quality, relevant information or products they’re looking for.
Initially this meant that ‘big’, well-known brands seemed to be getting a bit of a boost in the search results, but it now seems that smaller, branded businesses are also seeing their rankings improve when their SEO focuses more on their brand and their business, rather than the keywords they might want to rank for.
You can see the effects of this change when you search for anything in Google. Yes there may still be some sites containing keywords that appear on page 1 of the results, but the EMDs no longer dominate the results; and you’re much more likely to see a branded business website at the top than you might have been a year ago. Which all goes to show that things have come pretty much full-circle, and avoiding keywords in your domain and focusing on building an online brand instead, might be the best way to move up the rankings.