Most SEOs Feel Google Gives Brands Preferential Treatment

Apr 2, 2013 • 8:44 am | comments (27) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Brand PollA couple weeks ago, I covered a story on how Google's Matt Cutts said big brands get penalized.

Matt Cutts of Google said it happens often enough and you just don't hear about most of them because it is embarrassing for them to publicly admit to it. But the thing is, when they do get penalized, do they recover a lot faster than the smaller brands?

I polled you guys asking if Google Give Brands Preferential Treatment? We have well over 300 responses now and 74% of you said they do. Only 21% said they don't and the rest of you said you don't know or don't care.

Here is a clearer break down on the question, Does Google Give Brands Preferential Treatment?

  • 74% said yes
  • 21% said no
  • 6% said don't care or don't know

It is a subjective question of course but I am not gauging the real answer but rather the perceived answer, which is often more important.

Forum discussion continued at WebmasterWorld.

This story was scheduled to be posted today and was not written today.

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04/02/2013 03:08 pm

That is true. In my case i have a blog about home and garden. Nowaday companies are making blogs beside their static webpages and they are ranking better than personal blogs.

Bryson Meunier

04/02/2013 04:36 pm

At one point most cultures believed the world was flat. Doesn't mean it is. Also, while I love your blog, as you know, I don't see a lot of discussion about enterprise SEO around here. It's mostly small business SEOs and SEOs that do work for SMBs, who are not in a position to judge how Google treats big brands. For those of us who have done work for brands big and small, it's a theory that doesn't hold water. Appreciate the poll though.

Kevin Gerding

04/02/2013 08:22 pm

It's not that big brands do not get penalized, it's how quickly their reconsideration requests are reviewed and ultimately recover. In many cases their penalties last for just a couple weeks, when reconsideration requests for small business sites take months to be reviewed and their penalties leave them at a loss for over a year in many cases. Since most big brands have the money and engage in large scale paid link buys, they can quickly remove their paid links at will, submit their reconsideration requests and their problem is solved. Small businesses do not have those kinds of funds to participate in premium link schemes on such a large scale. Instead small businesses often get duped into paying for cheap SEO services that employ novice link building tactics that drop links on websites that they do not own and are unable to remove them once they are caught. The deck is stacked against small businesses either way you want to look at it. If Google really thinks how they apply penalties is fair, when big brands have in-house SEO departments managing sophisticated paid/self-developed linking schemes, they had better think again. But I personally think Google says that they treat all sites equally to maintain an appearance of neutrality in the public's eye. Google needs these big brands in their search engine or they will lose search traffic. That cuts into Google's bottom line, and they won't allow that to happen - even if it comes at the expense of damaging many small businesses that do not have the same level of brand recognition as their larger competitors.

Jim Christian

04/02/2013 08:25 pm

I say what does it matter if it's a brand or a small business as long as the search resulted in a cluster of relevant answers? Brands get big because they offer great products at reasonable prices, and who isn't looking for that?

Tim Mayer

04/02/2013 11:20 pm

my $0.02 From a search quality perspective people are looking for large brands by name more often and that is validated by looking at query logs. Many people use Google to conduct a site search. Not the SEO version using [site:] but just [arcam dvd player]. If this is disabled for a specific brand and people do not find what they are looking for this is a huge problem for the user and for Google as a service. There are business implication to this as well for the large brand and/or big customer and Google but it is the fact that the product and business are aligned that lead to the quicker resolution of penalties in my experience. If (fictional example) site is banned there are 1,000 other cookie cutter versions of that site that are offering the same product/service as the website and there are few or no people looking specifically for that site due to brand affinity. The company has violated guidelines once or many times egregiously. What product or business incentive for a search engine is there to solve this problem for users or anyone else?


04/03/2013 03:43 am

If there's not a big brand or perhaps "big adwords spend" preference, I'm at a loss to explain why Google sends so much traffic to eHow. The eHow business model is to hire people to copy decent content from smaller websites, perform a very thinly veiled "hand rewrite", and then toss a crappy nofollow backlink at the original source as a "Reference". Either this is Google's new definition of quality, or there's intentional bias. Has to be one or the other.

Bob Wilson

04/03/2013 04:23 am

Of course Google has a huge brand bias. Do a search for "los angeles homes for sale" (or any other major city) and with 1000s of agents and brokers with websites, the 4 biggest brands dominate the results. Once you get to page 4, it gets even worse.

Soni Sharma

04/03/2013 05:17 am

That's true... But it is already said that Google gives priority ranking to high quality sites and Big Brands sites counted as high quality site. most of the users also type known sites name in google search they not type it in browser..

Ammon Johns

04/03/2013 05:30 am

Tim Mayer makes a great point that the difference is not really Google's attitude to the brand, but the end-user's attitude to the brand. A searcher for "BMW" expects to find BMW's website, without having to worry about whether or not that company has been abiding by the guidelines of that search engine. That's an issue for the search engine to sort with the company, not to penalize the end-user for. People expect, and want, to find all the major brands in relevant searches. I may not worry overmuch if as a user I can't find BMW in a broad search for "Automobile" or "Cars", but I sure as heck expect them to be in the top 50 for "Car Manufacturers" or similar, whether or not I've used their brand name. A search engine that doesn't serve me the actually most relevant results because it has a personal 'spat' with some of those companies is a failing and broken search engine. The answer to this for the rest of us is simple. Not easy, maybe, but certainly simple. Become the company that the end users of search engines expect and want to find in their results. Then Gogle will be facing the same conundrum for your brand. But whining about the fact you've made your site in such a way that noone but you would notice or mind it being excluded from results is never going to change a thing. Sorry, but that's the truth.

Bob Wilson

04/03/2013 05:37 am

The bias goes way beyond end user attitude. Brands get away with tactics that others cant, so spare me the "become the company" Google kool aid.


04/03/2013 07:25 am

I think this is a case of "were sorry but we just can't help it" mentality, where Google needs to serve big brands to end-users, otherwise they will all just end up leaving in search for something that can give them what they want. And I can understand this, but one would at least expect Google to give good quality SMB's prominence on the first few pages, even if only 1 or 2 get's singled out to be returned for a keyword, but I believe everybody needs to get a fair chance and clearly this currently not the case.


04/03/2013 10:04 am

We've been seeing alot more preferential treatment towards brands across a range of highly commercial keywords since November. Especially in sectors where Google has some active activiey (e.g. Comparison engine); which you can see in mortgage & flights related queries. Coincidence?

Khalid Irfan

04/03/2013 10:13 am

Google believes in capitalism, "The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer"


04/03/2013 01:16 pm

Ah, but no survey is needed! (Though it's nice to see things are being seen by folks) Google themselves said a few years ago they are looking to give big name news and brands the weight in search engines. Thus, when CNN writes about purple ducks, and the thousands of rehashers write about the CNN purple duck post, CNN does not get outranked by some of the rehashers who have been playing the SEO game better than CNN. The same can be said about big brands. And then we got the two updates from G, then we started getting pushed towards G+, via the Author Rank bait, etc., etc.. And yes, Google seems to be making it much harder for the little guy to have a spot in the web world. But then again, when those lame-ass answer sites outrank valid websites with their deplorable processes, I sort of get the need for G to revamp how their processes work.


04/03/2013 01:42 pm

? That is not the definition of capitalism. I think perhaps you should read up on what capitalism really is. It is the only moral social system that exists. Free markets are the only fair system there is. I think in your statement you are mixing up "corporatism" with "capitalism". Your sentence is what happens in totalitarianism, dictatorships, communism, socialist systems.

Khalid Irfan

04/04/2013 06:17 am


04/04/2013 01:26 pm

TRUE. Try any automotive search query, they are always the same results from the big companies spending millions on AdWords, KBB, eBay, Edmunds, Ask, MSN Autos, AutoTrader, CarGurus, AOL Autos, etc, even if the content of these serps is ridiculously low, empty or unrelated, they are always in the top, along with the stupid unrelated YouTube videos occupying most of SERPs, meh!

Dennis Miedema

04/04/2013 05:02 pm

Couldn't agree more with you Bryson. I hear tons of SEOs say that big brands have huge in-house SEO departments, tons of money, and all kinds of knowledge. In the real world, though, that's an assumption and nothing more. I have literally seen billion dollar companies with websites no self-respecting SEO would dare call optimized... while they do have smart internet marketers working for them. Why? Lots of reasons, one being that as a business scales its problems scale as well: try optimizing 600 sites with 1k or more pages each well. Time definitely gets in the way at that point. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: being a big brand does not automatically equal you having big (great) SEO efforts. This assumption bothers me about as much as PPC marketers saying that if a company runs an ad for a year, that it's probably a good ad you can learn stuff from. Really? I've seen those same big brands run ads with an absolutely horrible performance (no conversions, low CTR, etc.) for years. Wake up everyone. The internet marketing game is much more complex than you think.


04/05/2013 04:44 pm

quit whining


04/05/2013 04:49 pm

the budgets to do spam reports for some brands exceeds your comprehension..


04/05/2013 09:41 pm


Ammon Johns

04/05/2013 10:52 pm

Really? Show me. You know, I've been an active and vocal SEO in the SEO community since before we were called SEOs. In the 90s we knew full well that SEO gave the small company a huge advantage in the fact that engines back then couldn't know a thing that wasn't on a page. By 2002, we were talking about a 'level playing field', but the reality was that the search engines still gave an unfair advantage to companies that were nimble and could make decisions very quickly. A site that was built in a bedroom but had 2 million links would always beat the big brand with only a couple of hundred links. But people pointed atthe brands like Amazon, Microsoft, and Adobe and said that their 10 billion backlinks were the engines giving brands an advantage. Well, today, you are looking at a level playing field. Does it really surprise you that the big brand with a team of hundreds of thousands of players is very likely to beat your 5 man team small company on a fair, level playing field? That's not a bias, that's just plain reality. The story of David and Goliath did NOT have David beat Goliath in a straight out 1v1 wrestling match. David had to use smarter tactics. He did not have the strength of Goliath, the reach of Goliath. David didn't have the armour or weaponry that Goliath had. He used a slingshot to apply his small force to a vital area. THAT is what a level playing field looks like in the real world. What you are calling 'Bias' is the natural environment in which marketing takes place.

or zilberman

04/07/2013 05:39 am

I think that generally Google prefers brands but we are still at the beginning, it has been shown that over time Google has shifted it results to support brands as this improves the dependency of they're online strategy in Google and may increase the scale of using swords and paid ads. As rich snippets begin to really kick in now I do think. That there is more to see about that and the implications of having your website marked as brand or Ngo with products.

Alex Fender

04/07/2013 04:17 pm

I work with several large brands and have consulted with hundreds of medium sized brands and they all have the same problems that the little guys have. Its more about their resources and their ability to leverage greater resources of capital, expertise and a base of online contributors who are loyally following the brand. The preferential treatment doesn't come directly to the brand in most cases, its the experts who consult the brand who get the preferential treatment. Many have direct lines of communication with Google and have the ability to get things done quickly. Most of the penalizations are minor and easy to fix but when handled by the wrong "expert", it can be hell.

David Whitehouse

05/03/2013 10:51 am

Hey Barry, You may be interested in this study I did on Brand search:


06/16/2013 01:12 pm

No matter what the product is, major brand companies, as well as Wikipedia, are going to be, at the very least, on the first page of Google search, thus requiring me to have to delve deeper until I can find an objective viewpoint before making a purchase.


06/16/2013 01:25 pm

Wikipedia? Now there's a credible source.

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