Are the new Google results really helping their users?
Google announced last Friday that they were testing displaying a higher number of results from a single domain on brand related searches.
Instead of the usual 2 results max. per domain, people are now seeing a lot more pages from the same domain on the first page of Google (up to 8). With the sitelinks also being displayed, this could mean upwards of 12 links on the first page of Google for a search related to your brand.
Exemple of new search results for Accounting Web:
Exemple of new search results for Accountant Websmiths:
How to get such results for your site?
Having only been announced last Friday, testing and researching is probably already under way, but we can also make educated guesses as to what triggers these results.
- Relevancy: as usual with Google it is all about providing relevant results for a query. The term we also see bandied about for this latest change is “intent”. Relevancy – and intent – can be measured by different factors:
- Click Trough Rate (CTR): how high a CTR does your domain / website have for the brand search? For accountant websmiths, our website’s CTR is above 22% (figures provided by Google Webmaster Tools) and a lot more if we consider Google Analytics.
- Bounce Rate: how many people are leaving your site straight after having arrived to it via the brand search. If they are returning to Google they can probably track that. On the above domain the bounce rate is only 10-12% (the lowest of all the domains mentioning the brand?).
- Uniqueness of domain name / brand name: how unique is the keyphrase / brand name and can it be strongly associated with a single domain? Back in 2002 (yes that long ago), Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld said, in his 26 steps to 15K [visitors] a day that domain name should be brandable. A brand is even more easily associated to a website if the domain name
containshas become a brand. It doesn’t work so well for keyword domains.
- Trust: another word that you often see mentioned when talking about Google ranking factors. How trustworthy is your site? Do you already see signs of being on the good side of Google, via sitelinks for example? And not only the sitelinks when doing a search for your domain but also for your main keyword (if you rank high enough)
If I had to venture a guess, and this is exactly what I am doing here, sitelinks and the new results we are seeing are strongly linked.
- Overall competition for that brand: are there any strong websites that seem to want to compete for these terms, and if there are, what “signals” do they send? Do they mention your site and link back to the “brand” website or simply try to acquire that traffic?
- Inbound link anchor text: again a vital factor in Google algorithm, these results are also probably taking into account backlink anchor text and the ratio brand/other keywords (is it time to work on your brand?).
As I said these are only speculations, but they are likely to have an impact in the new results we are seeing today.
What shouldn’t play a role in these results:
- Volume of searches: using results extracted from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, we extrapolated the CTR to find the volume of search per month on our brand name. It is below 1000, so we can assume that search volume is not a major factor in what triggers these results.
- Adwords: after having looked at some queries returning more results from the same domain, I couldn’t see any link between bidding from the brand keyword in Adwords and the organic results.
- Number of pages your site has: with around 50 pages, a website size do not seem to be taken into account if it is believed to be relevant to the query.
- PageRank: our domain has what is probably considered to be a low Google PageRank as we only have a PR1.
For our site, the pages shown seem to closely match the sitelinks, and some of the sitelinks we removed through Google Webmaster Tools.
Despite the fact that we were “lucky” in having our brand website display these results, I am not certain that these are actually helpful for the end user:
- the pages seem to closely match the sitelinks;
- 7 or 8 results might be a bit much on a 10 results page. 4 might be a more helpful number in a skip-over-to-find-results-from-another-domain kind of way;
- companies that are getting a bad online reputation, might not have to worry about it too much as it will be easier to push it below page 1 for their brand search (whether they deserve it or not).
I am also wondering if the type of site (blog vs non-blog) and Google Suggest do not play a part in what can only be described as a major change in Google Algorithm for brand searches.
Did you notice anything else that could be a factor in the way Google chooses which site is granted the “domination” of the SERP for their brand.