General trust is moving from older big brands to new innovative companies, but Google still seems to prefer established websites. Should Google change the way it values authority or is the change in public opinion already taking its effect on SEO?
This article describes which SEO ranking factors prefer new brands and which seem to have a positive effect on older, more authoritative websites and brands.
Current Markets Prefer New Brands
There used to be a time when big old brands were the most trusted companies in the world, but that is changing.
The banking crisis ruined it for financial institutes. Corporate social responsibility and sustainability seem hard for well-known brands in clothing, fast food, and energy. Government institutes across the world are plagued by negative statements from people like Edward Snowden. Big media companies are having a hard time surviving in a "content is free" society, so even old-fashioned publishers are losing people's trust.
New and innovative brands are taking over. People currently trust the opinion of the masses and that of close friends long before they would trust the expertise of scholars and renowned authorities.
Verifiable claims can make or break your business. Well-informed masses act as judge, jury, and executioner. Everything your company does is under constant scrutiny and the more you have done, the more mistakes you could have accidentally made.
Standing out from the institutes that have once damaged people's confidence gives new companies an initial benefit of the doubt. People want companies that fully embrace the influence that the crowd wants to have on them. Whether it's smart to trust the masses remains to be seen, but it is the current state of the market because earlier trust in large corporations appeared to be misplaced.
SEO Chances for New Brands
When the crowd endorses you, you are bound to attract a lot of inbound links and social media mentions. Although growth spikes in links are often a positive signal for your ranking in Google, the effectiveness wears off and the effect is limited to a smaller scope of keywords. If you can prove that your initial success is more than a fluke, links will hopefully continue to grow and you keep your top position in search results.
As you can see in the acquisition timing (grey line) from social media and viral links, their respective ranking effect timelines (blue and pink) show a short ranking peak and little remaining value. You can also see that top positions for more competitive keywords are possible with viral links, but there is little effect in the broader theme.
It's a fine line between a real hype and just active link buying. Without proper SEO guidance new brands are bound to make a lot of beginner mistakes which can make them look like spammers.
Investing in sufficient SEO and link building is also getting harder, because conversions on organic search traffic are getting harder to track. Without the ROI experience of older brands, new players might not trust that continuous effort will eventually result in a lot of free SEO traffic.
Older Brands Have Authority Domains
A domain name can earn authority in the eyes of Google mainly by having attracted the right links over many years and not resorting to black hat tactics. This form of domain authority enables a website to rank across a multitude of themes and keyword combinations. They don't require a lot of additional relevant links to be able to compete for almost every keyword.
As you can see a broad range of less competitive keywords is within the grasp of this authority website. Once an authority domain acquires additional relevant links, it builds on top of this strong foundation.
With older brands, much of the SEO effort for top positions is probably already taken. Calculating ROI on SEO effort will often only be done on the additional effort from this point. This makes them more willing to spend a lot of effort on a particular top position than new brands.
Is Google Taking Sides?
Google is creating great new ways to target your audience through paid ads, but they are reducing the openness and optimization options for organic results. Experience has shown older brands that little is changing, so they will continue on the SEO route they've chosen.
New brands get little proof for being on the right track. Personalization, conversational search, and "(not provided)" make it hard to see what your current ranking is and how close you are getting to great top positions with a lot of traffic. In these choices Google inadvertently favors experienced companies.
Domain authority is also providing a much better starting point for existing websites. Where people increasingly mistrust old-fashioned authorities, Google continuously serves them for every search query. It's about time the "domain authority" algorithm gets revised.
Do You Represent a New Brand?
New brands shouldn't just give up on SEO. They need an "old-fashioned" SEO expert that has been around for some time to understand and measure how SEO efforts are progressing. Only once they get close to those old brands will they see top 10 ranking and traffic across the board.
New brands can much more easily win the crowds and they can act with much more freedom. If you represent a new brand, use these benefits to take on the Internet dinosaurs you're competing with. They probably lack the flexibility to act on the ever-changing role of the Internet.