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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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