Four months after Google’s so called Vince update, and there’s still talk amongst SEOs of brand building being the new link building.  The following three-part blog series aims only to present evidence for you to draw your own conclusions on what really happened, what Google is now looking for and how to effectively deploy your natural search campaign post Vince.

Before I present the data, let’s remind ourselves of Google’s official line on the adjustment.  I’d urge you to watch the full video and listen carefully to how Google’s Matt Cutts responds to the question:

Can you verify that Google is putting more weight on brands in search engine rankings? If the answer is yes, what is Google’s definition of a brand?

To quote Matt in his official response:

I wouldn’t call this an update, but there has been a change... It affects a relatively small number of queries... most people haven’t noticed it.

This raised three questions:

  • Why does Matt not want to call this an update?
  • Why would this 'change' only affect a relatively small number of queries? 
  • How could this largely go unnoticed?

Poker SERPs see a big shake up

Let’s first review the visible symptoms of the change, which Matt insists is not an update, starting with how the adjustment impacted the “Poker” SERP.

Poker SERP 24th June to 2nd July

The chart above shows the moving and shaking around the time of the Poker ranking adjustments.

  • moves into first place sometime before 8:31 on Saturday June 27th.
  • enjoys a few hours in the #1 spot as the Party brand temporarily displaces gaming giants and their new found natural search threat
  • Two days following the initiation of the ranking adjustment, finds its self on the ropes with posing a significant threat to’s dominance in and by Wednesday July 30th are the new leader of the pack.
  • Wikipedia’s poker listing is repeatedly displaced, forcing the encyclopaedic reference standard down below the fold.

Summary of Observations

We can see that the adjustment to this SERP began in the early hours of Friday 26th June and continued through to Monday 29th June. Online brand equity appears to be playing a role, however the parameters behind the adjustment remain diverse. We'll look at the analysis from our data set tomorrow. For now, note that by contrast, the “Online Poker” SERP was not impacted outside of normal flux.

Adjustment in the financial services sector

Let's take a quick look at how the adjustment impacted the 'Life Insurance' SERP, this time we'll look at a longer date range.

The chart above shows the Life Insurance ranking movement between the date range 19th June to 21st August.

  • Most of the competitors in this SERP remain unaffected, with the exception of
  • moves from page 4 to page 1 (#6) on Friday June 26th.
  • shows some movement during the adjustment period but settles back into 2nd place.
  • Significant movement can be seen by, the movement is slightly out of sync with Also, this oscillation repeats itself on the 24th July, suggesting the movement is likely to be symptomatic of other factors.

Summary of Observations

The 26th June appears to be the date when the ranking adjustments were rolled out by Google. In this SERP, the movement appears to be slightly more selective, almost corrective in fact. After all, one would expect to see in the top 10.

Food for Thought

At this stage I'd like to remind you once again to consider Matt Cutt's comments:

I wouldn’t call this an update, but there has been a change... It affects a relatively small number of queries... most people haven’t noticed it.

Tomorrow we'll look at the corrective adjustments in the 'Betting' and 'Holidays' SERPs, potential ranking factors which Google may have used to identify Ladbrokes and William Hill as the big betting brands and First Choice, Thomas Cook and Thomson as the big holiday brands, the real bombshell comes in part three. ;)

Paul Reilly

Published 28 October, 2009 by Paul Reilly

Paul Reilly is head of search at Stickyeyes, and is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)



Looking forward to tomorrows update. I think the web has been crying out for this type of research and info following the Vince update.

over 8 years ago



Granted a lot of agencies were guilty of just offering code changes and link building but anyone who really understood SEO knew that the best way to drive traffic to your site is by building its brand. I don't understand why everyone is using Vince to jump on 'brand building as the new link building'...

over 8 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Great article Paul, look forward to reading the next 2 installments and then getting my head round what it all really means.

Steve - I agree, isn't link building just one element of brand building online? IMO establishing relevant links from sites that add value and/or have a relevant audience for your brand is a core element of establishing your online brand. 



over 8 years ago


Paul Reilly

Mark, glad you enjoyed it, it starts to get very interesting tomorrow and the final part is very interesting indeed.

Steve, the data due to be published tomorrow, is taken from our ranking data set as well as our private index across all the SERPs we have an interest in and other available data sources.

There are a number of conclusions which start to become quite apparent.

The more data we looked at, the more this starting looking like something quite unexpected. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Cheers James, just wait for the bomb shell. :)

over 8 years ago

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