Google appears to be taking another step toward emphasizing brands in search results. As pointed out by Gordon Campbell a few days ago, and then again today by Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable, Google is placing brand names at the beginning of titles for links in search results.
One example both point to is for York Fitness.
As Campbell points out, "Google has presented us with the page title ‘York Fitness: Gym Equipment & Machines | Weights | Boxing’ but the page title that York Fitness has set is ‘Gym Equipment & Machines | Weights | Boxing Equipment | York Fitness’ and truth be told, Google’s version of the page title looks far better."
They appear to be doing the same thing on a variety of pages.
While it didn't speak about the brand-specific method of retitling pages, Google has talked about its process for retitling pages in the past.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far wrote on the Google Webmaster Central Blog over a year ago, “Page titles are an important part of our search results: they’re the first line of each result and they’re the actual links our searchers click to reach websites. Our advice to webmasters has always been to write unique, descriptive page titles (and meta descriptions for the snippets) to describe to searchers what the page is about.”
“We use many signals to decide which title to show to users, primarily the <title> tag if the webmaster specified one,” he continued. “But for some pages, a single title might not be the best one to show for all queries, and so we have algorithms that generate alternative titles to make it easier for our users to recognize relevant pages. Our testing has shown that these alternative titles are generally more relevant to the query and can substantially improve the clickthrough rate to the result, helping both our searchers and webmasters. About half of the time, this is the reason we show an alternative title.”
“Other times, alternative titles are displayed for pages that have no title or a non-descriptive title specified by the webmaster in the HTML,” he said. “For example, a title using simply the word “Home” is not really indicative of what the page is about. Another common issue we see is when a webmaster uses the same title on almost all of a website’s pages, sometimes exactly duplicating it and sometimes using only minor variations. Lastly, we also try to replace unnecessarily long or hard-to-read titles with more concise and descriptive alternatives.”
As far as brands go, brands are associated with trust and identity. We all know how important Google considers identity these days. A brand is the identity of a company or a product. Google seems to be be making sure content is clearly associated with the brand that puts it out.