Five Myths About Big Brand SEO

This post warrants theme music! It's Rush, so that means that sound you just heard is Bryson expressing his disdain. :-)

I encounter a lot of misinformation and false assumptions when working with companies that have huge brands. Some are the byproduct of the naiveté and some are even fueled by other SEO's. Wherever they come from, if you hold them as truths, you may be compromising the effectiveness of your project. It's absolutely true that a brand with a lot of publicity has a lot of traffic by its very nature. They also tend to experience a disproportionate amount of navigational queries. But I digress...

The following are myths I’ve encountered through blogs, mass media coverage, and other discussions that simply aren’t true for any brand regardless of its girth.

-The amount of money you spend on paid search can influence how you rank naturally

Google has been quite adamant about this one. It's a little fuzzy with Yahoo's YSSP, but ultimately, a natural algorithm is not measuring a site’s paid budget. Were an engine to factor in budgets, it would go directly against the business model of an engine (which is to provide the most relevant results possible). Google can draw interest in Adwords because of the sheer volume of users it has. Diluting the results would compromise that.

-Larger brands are able to work directly with Google to be 'placed' higher in rankings

I'm not sure where this originated, but more often than I’d like, I hear someone assume this is possible. While I've seen search engines bend over backwards to help bigger spenders in paid search maximize their return, there isn't a secret society of marketers' that are able to manipulate natural search results.

-There comes a point in a company's website life cycle where SEO engagement is no longer useful

I’m pretty sure every SEO professional could write a 1000 page diatribe on this one! The truncated version (and I mean REALLY truncated) is that search behavior is a constantly evolving thing. Google’s Udi Manber has stated that up to 25% of the queries they see each day are entirely new to them. How can there be an end game with that happening? Sure there comes a point where a site is as crawl-able as it can be. But at no point can a site (nor its content) be an end-all-be-all high-ranking juggernaut for your (potential) customers' query forever and ever. For that reason (and it certainly isn't the only one), optimization must be continuous in order to achieve continuous success. There are a host of technical arguments as to why SEO isn't a finite process as well, but I think this one is the most logical/obvious.

-Certain big name companies and large-search firms are able to gain access/inside knowledge to Google's Algorithm

I don't know why I pick on Google because this rings true for any search engine. I guess Google selling off Performics made me think of this. I hear this implied from clients and colleagues from time to time, but the fact of the matter is that it just ain't so. Nobody has a replete list of all the things Google is looking at to determine rankings. That's simply not public information. Not even employees of the engines can tell you. Matt Cutts wouldn't know all the factors (as he's more or less implied over the years). Alex Trebeck doesn't even know (and from what I can tell, he knows everything). The ability to practice SEO with data driven recommendations, meticulous research and reverse engineering are what drives success.

-Big brands do not get 'banned' from indexes regardless of their SEO practices

Well I wouldn't say it is common, but it certainly happens. I would say that in my experience, when we encounter something on a site that could lead to a penalty, it's almost never because the tactic is being used to intentionally 'game' the engines. Mostly it's because something or other was overlooked, there's legacy content/code on the site or a functionality independent of SEO was considered.

Regardless, there is no free pass to spam or trick spiders. This is why one of the first things we do with a new client is go through their entire site (or sites) and ensure nothing is occurring that could potentially raise a red flag.

There's a lot of inherent advantages a company with big name recognition has in search. But those don’t include any of the factors above.

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


Bryson said...

You lost me at "Rush". Had I read through I probably would have agreed with you entirely. I guess we'll never know.

Dave McAnally said...

Hey at least I didn't deploy Tom Sawyer! :-)

I very nearly went with Money by Pink Floyd but that just seemed too obvious.

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