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.

  • Pkr.com moves into first place sometime before 8:31 on Saturday June 27th.
  • Partypoker.com enjoys a few hours in the #1 spot as the Party brand temporarily displaces gaming giants 888.com and their new found natural search threat Pkr.com.
  • Two days following the initiation of the ranking adjustment, 888.com finds its self on the ropes with Pkr.com posing a significant threat to 888.com’s dominance in Google.co.uk and by Wednesday July 30th Pkr.com 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 Aviva.co.uk.
  • Aviva.co.uk moves from page 4 to page 1 (#6) on Friday June 26th.
  • Directline.com shows some movement during the adjustment period but settles back into 2nd place.
  • Significant movement can be seen by Asdafinance.com, the movement is slightly out of sync with Directline.com. 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 Aviva.co.uk 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. 😉