It is no secret that Google favors well-established brands over all others. These brands enjoy better rankings with inferior SEO and fewer links. When they get “penalties” for misconduct, it only takes a few weeks for them to reappear. Smaller brands do not get the opportunity to resurface after their transgressions. The worst part is that the gap is widening between big and small brands.
In 2018, the dynamics of the search result algorithm has changed so much that branding is far more feasible in the long run than traditional SEO strategies. In fact, it makes more sense to build brand awareness than to try to rank in the Google search.
The Ever-Changing SERP
You may have noticed that the search engine results page (SERP) has dramatically changed over the years. The large brands seem to permanently occupy the best screen real estate when it comes to searches. No matter how much SEO small brands do, it is nearly impossible to compete with the well-established brand’s SERP ranking.
Google is notorious for changing the search algorithm thousands of times annually. This practice has literally crushed some businesses that were once top-ranking sites, virtually overnight. Among these changes lies one of the most threatening elements to small brands, and that is the featured snippet.
Featured snippets appear above the search results, and include excerpts from big-brand websites (often Wikipedia). These snippets are designed to answer users’ questions without them leaving the search engine. This practice all but cancels the smaller brands competing for the same search terms.
A rapidly decreasing number of people are clicking on the actual SERP results. The percentage split is said to be around 60/40 at this time. This means that 40 percent of the time users will not click on any of the search results, because of the information provided by the featured snippet. Over a two year period, the use of featured snippets rose from 5.5 percent to 16 percent, but the featured snippet recently saw a 10 percent decrease over a four-day period. Why the decline, you ask? That would be largely due to the rise of the knowledge panel.
The Knowledge Panel
Since people do not have to necessarily click on organic search results to get answers and this hurts the smaller brands competing with the majors. Since only 60 percent of searches result in a click, and only a chosen few brands are featured in snippets and knowledge panels, small brands are finding SEO methods of the past now offer a much lower return on investment.
When people familiarize themselves with a brand, trust is the outcome. The more visibility a brand gets, the greater the trust. Even if a smaller brand manages to rank higher than a known brand, the known brand will undoubtedly get a majority of the clicks. This is obviously due to brand recognition. It is similar to the name brand versus generic dynamic when shopping for groceries. The popular brand subconsciously says the product is superior to others. This is why branding is crucial if you want to increase your click-through rate.
With the rise of social media, brand building is much easier than ever before. With Facebook and Instagram advertising being so affordable, social media is the clear path to brand recognition. Using social ads to build your brand is the new way to generate traffic online. Take advantage of the opportunity to build your brand.