You may remember my post last week about Google experimenting with the search results for brand keywords such as “apple” and “ebay”. Search industry experts had noticed for the past few months, and more prominently in the last few weeks, that the search results for brand keywords had begun to merge.
The search engine announced yesterday that this change is now a permanent fixture of the search results. Google’s stated reasons for making the changes:
We’re making a significant improvement to our algorithms by combining sitelink ranking with regular result ranking to yield a higher-quality list of links. This reduces link duplication and creates a better organized search results page. Now, all results from the top-ranked site will be nested within the first result as sitelinks, and all results from other sites will appear below them. The number of sitelinks will also vary based on your query.
How will this affect user perception of brands? When you search for a well-known brand, you expect to see that brand’s official website dominating the first half of the search results page. Google’s latest update condenses the search results and leaves room for other results that would have previously appeared on the second page to appear at the bottom of the first page. Thus the brand’s official online presence may no longer appear to be so dominant, perhaps leaving the user feeling that their credibility has diminished? Another possible downside for brands is that some of the sites that now appear on page one may portray their business in a negative light.
Currently the new 12 pack only appears for certain brand keyword searches, but knowing Google they may soon apply the feature to generic keywords as well. Rolling Google Places pins into the mix may also be a possibility … How do you think this will impact Google Places Optimisation? What are your predictions?