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Did Google Just Kill ORM?

Written by Anthony Verre   
Tuesday, 31 August 2010 00:00

The new Google algorithm Brand Update

Recently Google confirmed that they updated their algorithm for, as a Google spokesperson stated, “for searches that indicate a strong user interest in a particular domain.Barry Schwartz and Matt McGee had some excellent write-ups on Search Engine Land and are certainly worth reading.

How does this affect SEM on the brand-orientated SERPs?

The obvious answer is this update makes impossible to offer alternative suggestions to the “brand”. Not just organically, but through paid search as well. It has effectively blocked others from competing with a brand on Brand-SERP*. This is a very aggressive version of the “Vince” algorithm update. Bing is doing this as well.

Bing Brand SERPs

Closed-Out Brand SERPs

My consensus is that this will be a very effective and welcomed change for users, at least for those looking for a specific brand or product.

*Update: I have seen competitor ads on brand SERPs, but mainly in the industrial manufacturing sector. Also, I’d like to note that if the company in question has PPC ads on its own name, the SERP will display that. If it does not, it appears they will show a competitor’s ad.


The Larger Concern: Online Reputation Management (ORM) is Dead

Yes, I’m making a big leap here. Yes, I might be eating these words in a few months, but from what I’ve seen of these SERPs, they are, for the most part, all sunshine and rainbows. In one fell swoop Google has effectively relieved the SEMs and PR industry of their ORM jobs.

While I’ve only searched a dozen or so brands/corporations (the more notorious ones), I’ve seen nothing overly damaging in these SERPs going three pages back. There may not be any sparkling press releases to champion these businesses, but there’s nothing that reveals overly negative experiences either. Not like there would have been a month ago. Rip-off Report pages, consumer blogs highlighting bad experiences, etc. There’s scantly a trace of them now. See for yourself.


Tweaking Brand Suggestions?

What’s also interesting about this update is the Google Suggestions have been updated/changed for the brand update. It appears that Google, though I’m not one-hundred percent positive on this, has removed negative/derogatory suggestions from Google Suggest.

Here are the suggestions if a user is typing in “Comcast” as their query:

Comcast Current Google Suggestions

Here are the suggestions if the user’s intent might be to type in “Comcast sucks”

Comcast Sucks Removed from Google Suggest

What’s the need for an ORM specialist now? Google has wiped the SERPs for you and wiped the suggestions too. Unless you really want to find out something negative about a particular company or brand now, it is being completely shadowed by this update.

If this update becomes a mainstay for the algorithm, then Google may have just killed the PR and ORM department. Need more proof, here’s one that might be somewhat irrefutable: BP. Look at the SERPs and the suggestions for this company. How could there be nothing negative in the SERP?

BP New Updated SERP

BP Google Suggest

BP Sucks Google Suggest

Final Thoughts on the Google Brand Update

Even if this is a win for consumers, it’s the biggest free pass for large, well-known corporations ever. Talk about tipping the scales in favor of giants, again. Apparently, Vince update wasn’t enough to crush small and mid-sized businesses, now giants get this beauty.

Beyond instantaneously cleaning up the image of every large, multi-national, and global corporation on the planet, they just wiped out an entire search marketing discipline: ORM. It’s dead as Dillinger folks. Why would anyone other than a small business need ORM any longer? And, if you’re really curious about how Google treats small businesses, they’re getting the same treatment (kind of) depending on their online efforts up to this point.

I hope Google reneges on this update and reverts the algorithm back, but, as we all know, money talks a lot louder than anything else.

Tony Verre
Author Bio: Anthony Verreis the founder and CEO of Silver Arc Search Marketing. Known at-large as "The Milwaukee SEO". He has worked in search engine optimization and search marketing for over 5 years. Recently published a new eBook eProfitability; a guide for C-Level executives and upper management to understand the search landscape and maximize their profitability online. (follow him on Twitter) - Full Bio Here


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0 # Greg 2010-08-31 15:11
Great post Tony! However, I'm not sure that I would agree with you that ORM has been killed by this updated. Maybe on bigger brands, but on smaller brands and names of individuals, I still seem some damaging material being ranked relatively well.

It will be interesting to see happens over the next few months with this.
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0 # Anthony Piwarun 2010-08-31 15:52
Great observations and analysis Tony. I'm not sure this is good for consumers, though. If I'm searching a brand, no matter how big or small, I'm searching for a reason: to find information. If it's all sunshine and roses on the SERPs then how can a consumer make educated decisions? I echo your call for Google to renege on this update.
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+1 # Dave 2010-08-31 16:07
Hey Tony... I will go 50/50 on this topic. Yes, there are some reasons that people might want to monitor them brand wise, but that's not the entire picture IMO.

Will this hurt/help?

It is an implicit site: command essentially.

Which is why 'pseudo site search' or 'implicit site search' seems to be the best descriptions for it...

This is just something that works when U search with a domain name (minus the TLD extension) and then it brings them back. So, if someone is actually seeking a topic on a given site, then we aren't really missing out on anything SERP wise... so it is a non-starter

A good example to highlight it NOT being brand specific per se is searching Google for 'iPod Features' - this creaes a normal SERP.

So, yes there will be places where this does affect some. But it isn't as much brand as domain name. AND it doesn't always take over the entire page etc.

On a side note, this might require a follow up post on how this affects choosing a domain name. Surely screws a dumbass like me with 'huomah' goin' on. And now one has to weigh a KW rich domain over a 'brand' related domain name. Seems something we should look at.

All in all though, there are plenty of brand implications with it and it is a topic worth discussion!! Good one!
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0 # Tony Verre 2010-08-31 16:43
David is absolutely right with his comment: it's the psuedo site search. In the post, I was making an explict connection between brand and domain (making them a singular entity), whereas Dave points out, this is not always the case.

And, there must certainly be a follow-up post on this subject to see where big corps go with domain names.

Greg and Anthony:

Thanks for the great comments! We'll have to wait and see how business react to the update. I think the post above has some validity, but it may be too early to tell the long-term effects.
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0 # Mick McMullan 2010-08-31 17:23
Thanks for opening a discussion on this Anthony.

My first thought is that there is much more to reputation management than controlling Google SERPS though.

There are also plenty of individuals out there who will continue to need online reputation management and who don't have the resources, knowledge or time to do it effectively themselves.

Nevertheless, if any of your thoughts actually do pan out, then Google's own reputation may(and should)take a beating. That would mean they have sold out to big corporations for fear of losing them as advertisers.

I look forward to reading more of your comments in the future. Thank you again.
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0 # David 2010-08-31 18:01
Hmmm.... i agree that its a bad move to kill the transparency element and reputation management is a big part of why companies engage seo consultants and firms.

Good news is that there is still some negative phrases showing in the suggested results. A quick test shows that it will still offer the suggested keyword but it won't be bolded.
Twitter sux
Bing sux #5
Facebook sux
Google sux #7
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0 # Scott Clark 2010-09-01 01:10
Went back over the last 5-6 companies I pitched ORM to - because I had screen shots of their SERPs from June timeframe.

Pretty much all of them are the same - excepting changes in sitelinks - including the negative posts / forum topics / sites that I had initially used to propose to them.

Worth keeping an eye on!
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0 # Sam Michelson 2010-09-02 14:43
I enjoyed the post, though I don't really agree with your conclusions.

We are a boutique ORM company working with smll and medium brands and individuals and we have not seen the changes you describe.

In May 2009 we did an ORM study on Airlines ( and a quick check shows that the same negative sites (more or less)that were there over a year ago, are still there now.

As far as BP, we thought about pitching them a few months ago, through a contact we have, and saw that there were no negatives in the top ten in Google.

What has always been true for very large corporations is that its pretty easy to capture the top ten in Google just by utilizing your company's own web assets and interlinking in normal useful ways.

I agree that tehre are changes going on, and that those changes may favor sites owned by the corporation. This is indeed related to Google understanding that BP or United Airlines are not a normal search strings - but I think there is plenty more to do in ORM!
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+1 # Henry 2010-09-03 12:52
The title is a bit of a headline grabber. I don't know much about ORM but I think now users will just have to carry out more targeted searches such as "[brand name] negative reviews", "[brand name] poor customer services" and so on to find the other side of the coin.
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0 # William 2010-09-03 20:16
I'm still seeing negative listings show for a company that was interested in better managing their brand. The company decided to let it ride and all the negative listings are still in the same place today as they were months ago. No changes whatsoever.
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0 # LC Jarvis 2010-09-11 21:07
I'm not sure if this will help consumers, when I research a brand, I want the negative as well as the positive, but mainly consumers research to find negative before a purchase or doing business. I agree with an earlier post-Money talks, the Giants win again.
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