Brands, Links, Authority, Blah, Blah, Blahhhhh

I’ve started this post a number of times regarding brands, authority and links. I’ve started and then stopped it because I still don’t think I’ve got my mind wrapped around it completely.

History Lesson: Vince

Ever since the Vince update in 2009, SEO folks have been talking about the weight Google gives to brand names.  They notice that big brands rank higher for general terms than small sites do, and they conclude that this means that brand recognition is a ranking factor.

I work with a big-brand website. One you expect to see at the top of the SERPs. If you follow this blog, you know that I started working here in 2010, a year after the Vince update. It was one of the first things I asked my new boss. What was the impact?

His answer was that it helped drastically at first, but that the overall impact has blurred and diminished. That subsequent updates have undone most of the impact Vince had.

Bruce Clay published a summary of an SMX West session about big brands earlier this year that I would’ve loved to have attended.  But the messaging there appears to be the same, brand is only a tiny part of ranking signals.

Fast Forward: Authority

Panda demoted sites at the domain level for low-quality results. This is a brand-level assessment. Rel=Author is at a writer / contributor level assessment of authority – do you have experts contributing to your site? Are real writers paid real money to produce high-quality content?  This then lends to domain and brand-level authority.

Doesn’t an “authority” site have reasonable brand awareness? Does it have branded interaction? Brand-specific search, branded terms in keyword anchors?  Isn’t “authority” just a new buzzword for building an online brand?


Next Steps: Brand Management

One of the big takeaways from the SMX Advanced sessions – from Matt Cutts and from the SEO panel – was that sites need to make an effort to clean up their link profiles. Google is talking about allowing webmasters to disavow crappy links.

If last year was about establishing authority signals, then this year will be one of ensuring that we’re sending the right signals from all of the right places.

Online brand awareness cannot exist in a vacuum, it has to accompany real-world brand awareness.


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