How search volume data may be used to determine brand authority

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  • July 1, 2009
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

This weeks brand update has left a lot of people trying to figure out exactly why Google is boosting the ranking of certain top brands. We know they aren’t boosting sites just because they are owned by a big brand – the boost comes from a number of authority factors that Google is giving greater trust to and the net effect of this is that brands are getting better rankings for major keywords.

One of those authority factors is likely to be search volume – if one of the biggest keywords in the travel insurance industry is “post office travel insurance” then Google gives the Post Office a boost for that particular keyword. I would be amazed if Google wasn’t including this data in the authority & relevancy part of the algorithm for major keywords, the only unknown aspect is how much it’s being used.

I’ve been playing around with the Google Insights for Search tool and comparing it to various sectors that have seen a big impact after the brand update – in almost every case the brands that appear in the related keywords are the same brands that received a boost.

Travel insurance – Post Office and Money Supermarket are 1st & 2nd in the search results and also appear in the top & rising searches.

travel-insurance

Car insurance – Confused.com jumped to 1st position this week and “confused.com car insurance” is the sectors hottest rising term.
car-insurance

Broadband – Virgin Media jumped apparently from page 3(?) to 1st place this week. “Virgin” & “Virgin broadband” are the most popular non-generic keywords in this sector.
virgin-broadband

Used cars – Auto Trader has jumped to 1st place and is also mentioned in 3 of the top 10 search results.
used-cars

Credit cards – Tesco, Virgin, MBNA & Lloyds all rank on page 1 and all appear in the top searches
credit-cards

One interesting feature of Google Insights for Search is the regional variations – I wonder how long before Google starts regionalising the search results based on search volumes?

Google uses a number of factors to determine related keywords, one of the main ones is likely to be the keywords searched for in a particular session. For example if I search for “car insurance” and then 5 minutes later search for “confused.com” then the two keywords are probably related. If enough people carry out these searches then Google has to think about moving Confused.com up in the rankings for “car insurance”.

The key takeaway from this theory is that the more people you can get searching for your brand the higher you can rank for your major keywords. In a big industry that might be pretty hard but in a smaller industry the site that becomes a “brand” first could get a major advantage.

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