Are exchanged or reciprocal links okay with Google?
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Will Google ever fix the big brand ranking advantage of multiple backlinks?

Will Google ever fix the big brand ranking advantage of multiple backlinks?

Backlinks are a significant ranking factor due to implicit authority signals.

But … does that not mean that the best search results will ultimately be the only domain for big brands that can afford to invest in advanced content and backlink strategies?

For consumers, monopolizing the SERPs of strong brands can certainly not be a good thing.

It is certainly not a good thing for less powerful brands with good services, good content and great value deals to be put on the sidelines because they have no backlinks leverage.

Today’s Style an SEO question comes from Andrew, from social. Andrew asks:


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“So will we see a day when Google goes beyond backlinks as such an important ranking factor and looks at the true value offered by smaller brands?”

For years, SEO professionals have complained that big brands seem to be favored by Google in the organic search results.

The reality is that brands are favored, but not because of the implicit bias of the search engine.

The author of this question hits the nail on the head.

Brands are preferred because they as established names within their area are much more likely to attract a number of quality links to point to their sites.


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Established brands areā€¦ Well, established

Big brands get more links because they are big brands.

But why?

A big brand is big for a reason.

This reason typically involves years of spending millions of dollars on placing oneself in the mind of the consumer as the product a consumer should buy when looking in a particular category.

This confidentiality translates into links because webmasters are consumers too.

People need to find what they expect to find

If you were to search for running shoes, you would expect to find Nike, the largest shoe company on the planet.

In fact, if Nike was not listed in Google’s results for a query [running shoes], you will probably consider the result to be deficient.

I do not know if Google ever manipulates the search results to consumers the brands they expect to find.

But in most cases, they do not have to.

The algorithm favors the “dirty connection riches”.

And as discussed before, big brands get links because of the confidentiality they have worked to build.

Big brands do well in spite of themselves

Over the years, I have seen some brands that ranked well despite incredibly poor on-page SEO efforts.

Anyone who has worked with enterprise SEO knows that website optimization is more challenging to implement than link building in these environments.

In smaller businesses, link building is the bigger challenge.


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There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is that changes in the company to companies require great efforts for approval and implementation.

But even the largest company can not control the links that point to their site – despite the best efforts of some in the company to sabotage the links that were obtained naturally due to brand positioning.

How do small brands compete?

We have found that big brands do well in Google.

Many small businesses mistakenly come to the conclusion that they just cannot compete with major brands in search engine results.

Nothing could be further from the truth.


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In fact, search engine results are a great place for a smaller, more agile brand to be David for a major brand’s Goliath.

It just requires a little knowledge and creativity.

First, even in the most competitive search engine results, there are 10 listings on the front page.

A small business may not get the top organic spot, but with lots of effort and a little luck, small businesses can appear on the front pages of highly competitive SERPs.

Small brands that take care of their on-page SEO and create content that others want to link to can rank for any keyword phrase they strive for, given enough time.


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They just can not rank # 1.

But it’s ok not to rank at the top.

In fact, many times consumers who search in a category where there is a dominant brand are actually looking for an alternative.

The most popular keyword is not always the best

Small brands often do very well when targeting peripheral keywords.

Peripheral keywords are phrases that may not have the highest search volume, but have a large buyer intent.

Big brands often do not appear as well in peripheral keywords, giving smaller brands huge opportunities.

There are also many “tail” keyword options for smaller brands.


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Tail keywords may not have a high volume of searches, but overall, their intent-based searchers can contribute a significant amount to the bottom line.

So in conclusion, is it a travesty that big brands dominate the landscape for the most competitive queries?

I do not think.

In fact, I think if they did not, there would be something wrong with the overall search algorithm.

But just because the big brands are on top, does not mean that smaller brands can not compete.

On the contrary.

With a lot of work and a little luck, small brands can have incredible success in SEO.


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More resources:

Editor’s Note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO consulting column written by some of the industry’s best SEO experts, which has been hand-picked by the Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


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