Why Google Prefers Brands

Wondering why Google prefers brands over non-branded domains in its results? Our comprehensive guide will explain the importance of branding in SEO.

Photo of Kristi Ray
Kristi Ray

If you look at Google's search results, you’ll notice that well-established brands are ranked higher than their lesser-known counterparts.

This doesn’t happen just because users like buying from recognised brands. As a matter of fact, Google is a bit biased when it comes to big and reputable brands. So, when you ask a question or conduct a search, you’ll be provided with a number of pages listing the best results ranked in order of preference.

Why Google Prefers Brands

In this guide, our primary focus is understanding the reasons why Google prefers big brands, thereby ranking them higher on the search results pages. But before that, we'd like to introduce you to the basic concept of branding in SEO.

We’ll then take you through some of the most crucial branding signals so that you learn how to build your own brand name online. So, let's begin.

What Is Branding In SEO?

Branding in SEO is a simple marketing practice that helps businesses build their name, reputation, and symbol, allowing search engines to identify and rank them higher in SERPs (search engine result pages).

Now, Google prefers ranking branded websites higher than less established businesses in the search results. This is because brands tend to provide a better user experience than their lesser-known counterparts.

For example, if you search for "sofas online" or "office chairs," you’re more likely to find results from at the top of the SERP because it’s a well-established and well-known brand. On the contrary, website owners who have recently launched their furniture sites have lower chances of ranking high.

In fact, as per the survey conducted by Nielsen, 60% of global consumers with proper internet access prefer buying new products from familiar brands than a new brand. Consider an example - if you conduct a search for "men's shoes online," Google will present you with top-notch options. But you’re more likely to opt for "Levis" or "Nike" because they are reputable and recognised brands.

Similarly, when you search for the "top 10 SEO tools of 2021," Google will suggest a list of the best options on the SERP. But you’ll more likely choose HubSpot as it’s a recognised brand and can be easily filtered out from a list of less popular domains.

So, you need to make your brand popular instead of only promoting the domain name. Even if the right keywords are used in the domain, the business won’t be deemed as a big brand by Google.

That’s why the primary focus of every website owner should be to get sales by building a brand, only then will Google favour the brand.

Having said that, search engines tend to see a variety of indirect factors contributing to our definition of a brand. Let's discuss these factors briefly to get a better understanding of SEO branding.

Understanding Brands in SEO

1. Brand Signals

Brand signals are the cues that help consumers navigate the marketplace. And the process of branding is complete only when the following brand signals are defined and considered.

These are just a few of the many branding signals that help build a brand as per Google's ranking requirements.

i) Strong About Page

The website should have a strong "about page" with a detailed company and employee information. You may also refer to competitor sites to check the content quality of their page.

ii) Address

The footer or about page of the website should have your company address. It’s better to connect to a "Google My Business" account for this, even if you are not a local business.

iii) Public Reviews

Google relies on good public reviews to rank websites. So, if your company information is on platforms like Glassdoor, Yelp, and Trustpilot, with higher ratings and a higher number of positive reviews, the higher the chances are of improved SEO rankings.

iv) Active Social Media Presence

An active social media presence on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can help small businesses build a brand name.

v) Phone Number

Include a phone number on your site's contact page. It’s better to provide a local number rather than call-tracking numbers if you wish to improve brand visibility.

vi) Logo And Unique Design

The logo and theme of a site are also considered brand signals as they help users identify the companies brand. A unique and reputable logo is bound to catch the attention of users and Google.

2. Number Of Branded Searches

The number of times your brand name is searched on Google is a signal that you’re a genuine brand that users are interested in.

That said, if you’re looking to beat the competition, you can also use the potential of offline marketing and off-page SEO to impact organic search results.

Radio ads, TV, billboards, and other traditional methods of advertising may not look like they could have an impact on organic SEO rankings. But people seeing your brand name for the first time would definitely be curious to know about your business and the services you offer. As such, they are more likely to conduct a search after seeing the ad - enhancing your brand's presence.

You may also use tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to track the number of searches you and/or your competitors are receiving.

That being said, consider the example of Tesla. It receives thousands of branded searches every month, so the volume of searches will signal the strength of the brand to Google. You can see the results on for Tesla on Google Trends.

Google Trends Tesla

This is one of the reasons why it usually ranks higher in the search results.

3. Brand Mentions

Another powerful indication of brand authority and legitimacy for Google are brand names mentioned without any link back to your site.

These are also known as co-citations and act similar to local citations for local businesses. The more your brand name is mentioned, the more Google acknowledges you being a real online business.

Let's now talk about NoFollow links; they don’t carry a page rank but with anchor texts, NoFollow links are powerful brand signals since they are important co-citations.

Brand Mentions

Is Branding A Good Ranking Factor?

This is a commonly asked question in the digital marketing industry - if SEO branding plays a role in Google's ranking system. A ranking factor is a technical and specific algorithmic input Google uses to determine the rankings of different websites.

However, a brand is not the same, as it’s not a direct ranking factor. To Google, a brand is the accumulation of various factors that we refer to as branding. Having said that, users tend to click on links from brands that are well-known and trustworthy.

Now although click-through rates (CTR) are not direct ranking factors, user behavioural signals do impact organic rankings. A strong and reputable brand can impact SEO and organic rankings.

However, Google doesn’t compare brands to see which one should be placed higher. For instance, it won’t be ranking Coca-Cola higher just because it holds more brand awareness and affinity than other brands such as Pepsi.

Google Trends Coca-Cola vs Pepsi

This isn’t a factor in Google's algorithm. But the factors which are considered correlate with the brands directly and indirectly.

So, if a website has managed to build its brand name while maintaining good SEO practices, it’s more likely to find a top spot in the search results.

How Does A Brand Relate To Ranking Factors?

As we mentioned earlier, brand signals correlate to ranking factors, so make sure you invest in branding. That said, let's now take a look at how brands correlate to the following ranking signals.

First things first, Google measures the number of organic links earned naturally and editorially on a website.

This is why website owners and digital marketers try to earn backlinks by getting people to visit their site; consequently, having a fraction of the visitors linking to their site organically. However, there still might only be two or more among the hundred visitors that have the power to link to your website.

And even if that does happen, these visitors may not be sure about linking to your website despite quality content and outstanding products because your brand is not reputable.

In contrast, they would be willingly linking to you if your brand was well-known and well-established. You would then be gaining double the number of links than your competitors.

2. Social And Behavioural Signals

This is similar to the previous point; people who have prior experiences with the content, products, and services of a company will be talking about it and sharing feedback in their circle.

Even if they’re comfortable and familiar with the particular brand, it will be getting a higher number of social shares per visit and more exposure than normal.

Eventually, this will lead to a cycle of more social sharing which leads to more visits, links, and higher conversion rates.

3. Click-Through Rates

Click-through rates tend to have a direct impact on Google search rankings. If a significant number of people conduct a search and click on your website, ranking at number four or five in the SERP, you’ll be moving up the page very quickly.

Position to CTR

When searchers need to decide which site they should click on from the results, they'll be inclined to go for a brand that is familiar and they have a positive association with.

That’s why building a brand is important. Even if you rank lower than your competitors, but you’re the better-known brand, the click-through rate for your site will be higher.

And one of the best ways to build a reputable brand is through brand advertising. In fact, even radio and billboard advertisements help in boosting local SEO rankings.

4. Usage Pattern

Google usually looks at patterns of visitors to determine the sites they prefer visiting and what their experiences are like. Consequently, a site getting traffic on a relevant topic organically (not only from Google search but from different sources) tends to be rewarded by Google.

For instance, if people prefer searching for vacations in Costa Rica on a specific site, Google will identify a pattern and boost its rankings.

This is because it feels that people looking for this type of content usually visit a particular site. It need not necessarily be direct but via social media, organic website backlinks or email marketing.

If you’re a branded company, you’ll be earning traffic from various sources. Plus you’ll have the ability to get users to revisit your site ensuring your desired results.

5. Social Media

A good presence on social media platforms with a strong and engaging list of followers is beneficial for your brand awareness and SEO outreach campaigns. Most social media channels have made it almost impossible for the masses to see your posts organically, and there’s no denying this fact.

As such, only brands with a decent budget to spend are visible to people for engagement and interaction. Google values these social cues, rewarding these sites with improved local and national SEO rankings.

Next comes paid advertising - another significant ranking factor that can get your site to one of the top positions in search results. It’s evident that brands with a good reputation will generate more sales and income giving them the opportunity of making higher bids.

The bigger budgets will help buy larger scale advertising campaigns, which will ultimately enable bigger brands to outrank small and new businesses.

7. Quality Content

Quality content is an SEO ranking factor that has become extremely important to Google. And in order to identify sites with good quality content, Google looks for signals and considers metrics like bounce rates, pages per session, and the average time spent on the page.

Remember, the more engagement and traffic, the better the site's content. And obviously, a bigger brand will have the marketing budget and resources to create quality content that attracts users.

Quality Content Ranks Better

The above graph shows ranking for the keyword "Web Design Sunshine Coast" using SurferSEO Content Score feature which ranks the quality of content, grouped per 5 results. Showing the better quality content, holds a better position on Google SERP.

Steps To Build A Brand

There’s no denying that brands receive preferential treatment from Google whenever users conduct a relevant search. A list of snippets from the brand's site is displayed on the SERP to enhance overall visibility.

In 2010 Google announced it’s intent of showing "extended search results'' in favour of the brands. In other words, brands get to take up a larger part in the search results page, making it even more challenging for smaller, lesser-known companies to compete.

A similar concept was then again introduced in the form of "Google Suggest," where Google started suggesting specific search queries and often recommending brands.

This usually refrains users from searching how they want to. It affects the searcher's behaviour by suggesting brands before they can even complete typing what they wanted to look for.

To avoid this bias of Google, every brand needs to step up, select and follow its own niche. In other words, you need to pick a niche and then build your brand presence around it.

You can follow the steps highlighted below to build your brand name.

1. Creating A User-Friendly Website With A Unique Logo

First things first, to build a brand, you have to start by creating a unique and powerful logo to symbolise your brand or business. Next, you’ll need to focus on building a fast and user-friendly website.

You can use tools like Tailor Brands to create a custom-based logo. The best part about "Tailor Bands" is that it’s not an ordinary logo creation tool. Rather, it’s an AI-powered custom branding solution that can help build a brand.

You can easily get started by entering a few basic details about your company and identifying the preferred designs, then you can begin creating a logo for free.

Note that the ideal logo should represent the personality of your company. It should also be adaptable and powerful to perfectly match your company's branding strategy.

Once that’s done, move on to creating a faster website using a website building platform that’s easy to operate. The website builder should match the requirements of your business.

After you’ve built the site, use HTTPS to secure it and improve the user experience. Also, ensure that the page load speed is high to lower bounce rates.

You can use suggestions from Google Page Speed Insights to improve the performance of your website.

There are a few other steps that you should follow to make your site faster.

  1. Crop and compress your site images to optimise them.
  2. Reduce external scripts and disable plugins that are not in use.
  3. Install plugins like W3 Total Cache to take the help of browser caching.
  4. Creating AMP pages will allow your WebPages to load faster on mobile devices, improving user experience.

2. Get A Branded Social Media Presence

Social media is a big brand signal as Google uses it to determine the size of your user base and brand's overall popularity. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that all big brands have a ton of social media followers.

You won’t be achieving the best branding results unless your brand or business is popular on social media platforms. At the bare minimum, it’s important to have a fully functional account set up on Google My Business, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with zero followers. Utilise marketing strategies to acquire fans, followers and likes. With that said, you can follow the steps mentioned below to optimise your social platforms and improve your social media branding and reputation.

  1. Optimise your social media profile using your unique logo, company profile and name, and link back to your site so people know more about your company.
  2. Your social media posts and goals should solve the problems and concerns of the target audience.
  3. Post content with relevant keywords and hashtags.
  4. Share videos and use Facebook live to interact and engage with your audience. Create an omnichannel presence and reach customers whenever they need you, instead of ignoring them.
  5. Make sure you use branded cover images so that people recognise your brand across all targeted social media channels.
  6. Use LinkedIn to expand networking and show that your brand is a legit business. Profiles of employees showing they work for you adds to the authenticity of your brand.
  7. It’s a great idea to put your brand logo in the corner of the main picture you upload on Pinterest and Instagram. This will prompt people to search for your brand online.

3. Create Content Using Relevant Keywords

Login to Google Keyword Planner and enter your brand name. you’ll then be able to see the search terms Google relates your brand to. This will help you identify a niche to target and become a brand authority.

After you’ve identified a niche for your brand, find long-tail keywords and create content on the selected topics.

Short Tail Vs Long Tail Keywords

This will help you improve your brand presence in Google Answer Boxes. And as more people know about your business, there will be an increase in branded Google search queries.

Furthermore, big brands usually run content-heavy sites meaning that they have multiple authors who are contributing.

This is a strong branding signal, as confirmed by Google. So you can also get multiple authors to write relevant and engaging content for your website to reach rank higher on the SERPs.

4. Use The Power Of Storytelling

Successful big brands use the power of storytelling to improve their SEO rankings. You have to use the same marketing strategy to build your online brand.

Storytelling is the best way to win the attention of a user visiting your site. So, make sure you include a story section in your site like the Airbnb website. This will help keep visitors engaged so that they come back for more.

5. Make Use Of Video Marketing

People tend to avoid reading long texts; instead, they are more interested in going through interactive and engaging content containing images and videos. Make sure you create and share videos reflecting your brand's personality and goals.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. The introduction of the video should be inspiring, informative, and entertaining.
  2. Avoid including too much promotional content related to products and services; instead, focus on the goal of your brand.
  3. Your video should be well-optimised and mobile-friendly.
  4. Remember 65% of your audience are visual learners, while 70% of people remember what they see and hear. Use music and other video enhancements to keep your audience engaged.
  5. Publish and share your videos on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media platforms to enhance brand awareness.
  6. Create a video sitemap and ensure that your video is tagged with relevant keywords to reach the target audience.
  7. When you create a video, make sure you introduce your brand by name. It helps influence people to conduct a search for the mentioned brand name, which may lead to an increase in click-through rates.

Get visitors to link to your site if you wish to make it a popular and recognised brand name. You may use branded, SEO-friendly anchor texts whenever possible for this.

It will help provide relevant information about your business to the search engine and users interested in the products and services you offer.

You could also include co-citations, where people mention your brand name without linking to your site. These are also crucial ranking and brand signals that help Google identify your site as a reputable and trustable company.

The best way to use co-citations to your advantage is by dropping your brand name on pages of sites relevant to your target keyword.

This can also be in the form of online reviews and blog comments. As a result, Google will start associating your company or brand with that keyword, giving you a boost in SEO rankings.

7. Maintain Positive Reviews

Google has publicly stated that it algorithmically penalise sites with too many negative reviews. So, make sure you manage your brand's reputation by cleaning up as many negative reviews and poor ratings as possible.

If users have concerns, do your best to address them as soon as possible. Also, your site should be optimised to provide them with a good user experience.

This will help you get positive reviews, and your site will rank higher on search results.

sitecentre GMB Reviews

8. Pay Attention To User Interaction

Google may determine your site as spam if it’s blocked or there’s no activity and interaction taking place. Try to focus on keeping people on your site by interacting with them and engaging them in relevant content.

Google may even see how many people bookmark and return to your site after a visit, which again is a ranking signal.

Note that visitors go back to sites they like, and those sites tend to be recognised brands.

Mouseflow Heatmapping

Why Is Google A Good And Successful Brand?

We’ve gone through an in-depth guide of why Google prefers branding. Now, We’ll take an example of the most successful brands in the digital world; Google itself.

It has managed to build a brand name that’s recognised throughout the world with its dedication to continuous innovation, which is a part of the company's mission. As such, the brand has always empowered its employees to get creative and fulfil its goal of positively changing the world.

What makes this search engine exceptional is a number of factors, apart from its logo, which We’ll be discussing in this section.

Google Branding Strategy

1. Quality

Google started out as just a search engine, but using its knowledge and innovation, branched out to offer quality services.

When you use the Google search engine to access Google Maps, Google Analytics, or even Gmail, one can rest assured that it will work perfectly. That makes it a reliable brand everyone can trust.

2. Innovation

As mentioned earlier, Google began as a search engine in 1998. This makes it not so different from companies like Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, or Web Crawler. But gradually, it expanded its base and began powering smartphones with Android operating systems.

It also has the best web browser and can crawl to every corner of the world via Google Maps and Google Earth. And of course, it runs the most successful video service platforms, namely YouTube. The company changed over the years for the better and has always been successful in creating innovative products.

In other words, it has created a brand name for itself that every web user relies on. This is what we refer to as brand development, a crucial factor related to SEO ranking.

3. Variety

Unlike other big brands, Google didn't limit its products and services to just one or two kinds. It has all bases covered, be it wearable technology, map systems, mobile devices, productivity tools or cloud services.

If you search for a smartphone or for a specific video, you’re more likely to find Google showing its own product on the search results. And, as more people click on the links, it puts the brand name even higher on the search lists.

That’s how it has managed to grow over the years to one of the biggest tech companies out there.

Mix Up Your Offline Marketing

How Can Brands Achieve Success Like Google?

If you’re a new business, start by creating an optimised and user-friendly site with relevant content that targets your audience.

Once that’s set up, focus on building your brand name and reputation. Also, make sure you think outside the box like Google and find a niche that’s unique to your company.

Focus on your goal of delivering quality products and services, which will stand out from other brands while giving your users the experience they desire. And, of course, keep being innovative; you might be at the top of your ranking game but don’t forget that competitors are always fighting to be in that top spot.

We have a great article on Google E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and trustworthiness which can help you rank quicker on Google search.

In other words, even if you outrank small and new brands in the market, bigger or more innovative creative brands may take over your position within a second.

Also, understand that creating a unique logo to symbolise the purpose of your brand is crucial to the entire process as it allows people to see what your company is all about. Your ultimate focus, however, should be on brand development for sustainability and success in the long-run. After all, it’s not just a logo that sets brands apart from each other.

Worlds Biggest Brands Graphic

That’s why Google Prefers Brands

Building a strong online brand presence can boost your SEO rankings and give you an advantageous edge over your competitors. There’s no denying that Google, the best and largest tech brand in the world, prefers reputable and recognised brands over smaller brands that we don’t know much about.

In fact, even people tend to buy products and services from well-known brands rather than new companies who have recently entered the market. The competition is tough for these companies, but with dedication and the required amount of time, money, and effort, one can build the brand signals that will capture Google's attention.

Remember, SEO branding may not be a direct ranking factor, but it does correlate to the other ranking signals, including CTR, user data and more. So invest in optimising your website and establishing a brand and you can rest assured of positive results in terms of ranking. On that note, we wish you all the best!

Photo of Kristi Ray

Kristi Ray

Kristi is head of content production and editing at sitecentre and joined the team in early 2021 based out of our Sunshine Coast office to deliver higher-quality content to our partners. Kristi has a vast knowledge of copywriting styles and experience to accelerate the production of SEO friendly content at the highest levels.

Find them on their website: sitecentre and LinkedIn.

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