Are Big Brands Stealing (Buying) the SERPS?

    June 20, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

For a long time, search engine marketers wondered why the big brands were so slow to adopt, why they seemed to be ignoring Google. They may be wishing for the old days, when smaller players with smaller budgets had a better shot at the SERPs.

Are Big Brands Stealing (Buying) the SERPS?
Are Big Brands Stealing (Buying) the SERPS?

Coke still hasn’t quite figured it out yet, as Google+Search”> is still staring at them menacingly from the number four spot. Pontiac and Mazda, after a short scuffle over competitive keyword bidding, seem to have forgotten each other for now, too.

But notice the domains listed in the organic results for "Pontiac":


You’re saying "so what?" right? It’s reasonable that Pontiac or General Motors-owned sites show up in the top ten. That’s relevance.

But what makes the Yahoo forum greater than, or GMC Canada, or any of the other 35 million results?

SEObook’s Aaron Wall would argue that Google is "over-representing site authority in their relevancy algorithms." This isn’t to say that Yahoo’s Pontiac forum isn’t a great authority, only to note that some links are worth more than others in Google’s eyes.

Wall says big brands with big budgets "have begun abusing the hole with the use of infinite subdomains." They have a tremendous amount of authority, and can set subdomains to leverage that authority, linking to the sites they want to rank higher.

What may be more ethically questionable than that is that these big brands are buying up the other sites they want to rank higher. The end result of that is they are manipulating the search results so that only sites they own with positive messages about their brands show up.

Add that budget leverage to an innate ability to outbid smaller competitors on highly competitive keywords, and you have SERPs literally owned by big business.

"While small businesses are worried about the risks of buying or renting a few links," writes Wall, "some large corporations are launching shadow brands or buying out competing domains en mass."

He uses eBay (which just pulled its ads from Google),, Bankrate, and Yahoo as examples. Yahoo has at least nine verticals with Nintendo Wii coverage, Bankrate nails the rankings for "mortgage calculator" and has a bag full of educational subdomains.

This type of manipulation isn’t much different than Black SEO Google frowns on, nor is it all that different from buying links, which Google also isn’t crazy about. This will be Google’s next relevancy challenge, then, to find a way to prevent the dollar from overriding the relevance.