Google's Cutts: Big Brands Get Penalized Often

Mar 13, 2013 • 8:18 am | comments (19) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Big BrandsThe topic of Google giving preferential treatment to big brands has been around since the early days of search.

During the search police session at SMX West, Matt Cutts answered a question on big brands.

The question was something like, why do big brands get away with more spamming tactics than smaller brands?

Matt Cutts responded saying that big brands are penalized all the time but you don't hear about most of them because they are not the first to admit it. They often keep it under the radar because it is not good for their brands.

Of course, some are not so off the radar like most recently Interflora's 11 day penalty.

A WebmasterWorld thread is discussing this right now and most webmasters don't believe that brands are not treated better when it comes to not being penalized or being penalized in a more gentle manner.

Do you think brands get preferential treatment by Google?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for brands image

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Praveen Sharma

03/13/2013 12:36 pm

Of course they are preferred by Google. Else, what these big brands do differently that they reclaim their rankings within few days after being penalized whereas many small brand owners are still waiting for some Google update to find out are they in or still out.


03/13/2013 12:41 pm

I would have to say that from a personal perspective that it would seem that big brands get preferential treatment when it comes to being penalised although there is something to what Matt Cutts is saying. Also the reason that the big brands can survive the penalities compared to the 'little guy' is because there brand strength will deliver them traffic from other outlets. Also complaining about it doesn't really do much good, follow Google best practices and be as white hat as you can be and you shouldn't have an issue. Search isn't about the quick win, it is about long term customer retention and trust provided but giving them what they need.


03/13/2013 12:53 pm

It seems to me that the big brands get penalized as well, but the impact is negligible compared to the entirety of their site. If Best Buy gets a penalty for any given factor, that penalty will have a smaller ‘visible’ impact on their rankings than if Toms Electronics got hit with the same exact penalty. It makes sense on its face: They are both being affected by the same penalty and to the same degree, but it hurts Best Buy less because Best Buy has hundreds of thousands of natural back links, endless social mentions/presence, etc…. This can be argued as fair because everyone should be on a level playing field when it comes to ranking penalties, but when looked at in terms of impact (to the site, to the finances of the company, to the economic viability of those involved) the penalties seem ‘unfair’. One bad sweep with Penguin and Toms Electronics is nowhere to be found in Google’s SERPs; the organic traffic plummets, and the site is no longer making money as it slowly dies. This is not the case with Best Buy, it can simply absorb the damage of the exact same penalty with minimal or no apparent affect. It’s the difference between throwing a rock into a pane of glass and throwing a rock into a mattress while trying to hit a pane of glass. Is the answer a penalty system that works to scale? I don’t know, that has some ethical pit falls but it also has some apparent merit. One could argue that penalties for infringing Google’s guidelines should have equal impact to both Toms Electronics and Best Buy, but one could also make an argument that scaling penalties in this manner in biased/unfair by definition. Where do I fall? I think that scaling penalties so the impact of Penalty X is felt equally across big brands and mom and pops would further Google’s stated goals of shaping a better web experience (within their set parameters of course), but the actual ‘how’ of doing this is more difficult than it appears. How can you scale a penalty across small and big sites? Toms Electronics falls out of the SERPs for ‘home electronics’ and it’s a massive blow, potentially crippling the company; Best Buy falls out of the SERPs for that query or any other number of queries and it’s no big deal, they may suffer some miniscule loss in traffic/sales, but I would imagine most people shopping Best Buy are finding the site by searching for ‘Best Buy’. The point is that in order to have equal impact, Best Buy would need to be radically penalized by comparison for the exact same penalty. tl;dr: It is probably true that Big Brands get penalized the exact same way that mom and pops are getting penalized but the reality of the sites size/branding makes the treatment seem preferential, and scaling penalties for impact is harder/less ethical than it seems.


03/13/2013 01:09 pm

Interflora got penalized for 11 days, !000's of panda and penguin hit sites penalised for years. Shut up Matt you really are starting to get embarrassing.

James Perrin

03/13/2013 01:19 pm

Hi Barry, great idea to get a poll together on this. As we can see, there is a big perception that Google let bigger brands get away with much more than smaller brands. Whilst Matt Cutts says that bigger brands still get penalised, it's just that we don't here about it, I don't actually agree with this. If anything, when brands like JC Penney and Interflora get hit, it's huge news. As to whether they do prefer bigger brands, it's a bit of a no brainer, but for me it should motivate companies to invest more into creating a brand - and anyone working in white-hat search knows the benefits of this.


03/13/2013 04:28 pm

Sooo true lol.


03/13/2013 04:30 pm

Everything Matt Cutt says is carefully worded bullshit. People reading these SEO blogs and watching SMX need to understand that Matt doesn't consider Penguin or Panda a penalty. That's why he uses the word "penalised" rather then "hit by our algorithmic spam filters". Of course big brands get penalised when it's that obvious, but they have a lot more immunity to algorithmic updates which is what everyone is annoyed about.


03/13/2013 05:15 pm

Everyone should take a few minutes to think through the reality of algorithmic penalties instead of assuming there is a special index or criteria which brands are judged against. Who knows, maybe there is, but there is a whole lot of assumption and back slapping going on in regards to what some people seem to think are the facts of the situation. Think things through, you may wind up with more questions than answers, but it forces you to look at things from multiple perspectives.


03/13/2013 07:51 pm

Typical communist ideology. Why work hard to establish own brand and be equal in the brands world ? Let's decrease already established brands and we will be equal in the no-brands world. You even didn't bother to read Best Buy latest financial reports, just bla bla bla. So typical for commies.


03/13/2013 07:58 pm

Panda and Penguin are not penalties, but algo changes. No reason to compare apples and oranges.


03/13/2013 08:15 pm

Is this a troll statement? I am pretty sure I laid out a hypothetical situation and adressed the fact that 'fairness' is a fluid idea when it comes to penalizing two very different entities for the same offense. Maybe I wasn't clear in my ambiguity of opinion and find ethical dilemas on each side of the coin. And of course I didn't pull Best Buys financial report, I pulled the name out of the air as an example of a big brand with a good online precense. Maybe I should have made it Toms Electronics and Earls Big Box Emporium... Did you really call me a commie? Let me get my dayglo sneakers and phanny pack out of storage if we have suddenly found ourselves in the 1980s.


03/13/2013 08:38 pm

No, this is not a troll statement. However you can treat it this way, since obviously I disagree with you ) There are no ethical dilemmas. There are years of hard work and millions of money spent to establish brand. Pure economy. Best Buy or AnyBrand didn't become a brand on the second day of existence. It was a hard job. Please be brave and smart to respect hard work done by others.


03/13/2013 10:25 pm

Algo changes that penalize non-brands or non-adwords advertisers. Shut up scroogler

Duane McLennan

03/14/2013 12:28 am

I don't think big brands are preferred by Google at all. Consumers prefer big brands and the little guys just don't like it or any algorithm change that affects their spammy seo tactics. These manual penalties are quickly reversed when a brand gets hit because they have teams of people fixing the issues and once it's fixed, Google puts them back, because THE CONSUMER wants them back, not due to some brand preference. It's all a matter of scale. They made an example of something their algorithm likely didn't see as a huge issue or couldn't see because the spammy links were small in comparison to the quantity of good links coming. In comparison, if you or I did it for our "non-brand", the scale of links would likely be much larger and due to our status they would likely be coupled with a little grey hat the would also likely be a flag for them. In local search, the big brands have been hammered a hard blow in the last 5 years. Emphasis on local has made the little guy incredibly more relevant, pushing the big brands to AdWords. In the grand scheme of things, this has to have much more impact on their revenue than generic searches for products. The algorithms favour what the consumers want, deal with it,.


03/14/2013 01:11 am

Hey stop impersonating me LOL!


03/14/2013 03:59 pm

So because Matt Cutts uses clear wording that has been clearly defined, he's bullshitting? Panda and Penguin aren't penalties. If some SEOs don't understand that by now, despite having it explained to them repeatedly and at length, I don't know what to tell them.

andrew kelly

03/14/2013 10:36 pm

It would be great to see stats on this through a survey. On who has been penalised and who has not.

Kevin Nave

03/15/2013 04:15 pm

i use to work on big brands seo for a agency in london and trust me i had to work my arse of just as much as if worked on the smes like i do now. The only difference is because they are so huge they have the money and resource so that if they get a warning or a penalty they can just have like 5 people work on it solid to get it fixed.


03/15/2013 04:48 pm

Unless and until there is a fair comparison study, where it is established that normal websites are beating big brands based on their citations, links, usability, content etc, i am going to believe brands are given some preferential treatment. Can someone please do the case study for some top commercial keywords, for example Mobile Phones? :)

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