Why doesn't Rand Fishkin like Google

Branding & the new Google Ranking: Why SEO is no longer enough ...

Establishing a brand will play an increasingly important role in the ranking of content in the future. Why search engine optimization (SEO) is only one task in influencing search engine rankings and why marketing is becoming more and more important, I will explain below.


Rand Fishkin's keynote at SMX 2014 made this clear. I would like to get into the topic with my favorite quote from this presentation:

"Those who aren’t bulding brands will struggle mightly in the years ahead."

My contributions to the repositioning of search engine optimization, SEO in the marketing mix and Quo Vadis link building? PR, marketing or SEO? are also very well suited as introductory reading to the topic.

My lecture from April 2014 at the Marketing Forum as part of the Hannover Messe also takes up the following topic more intensively:

In the future it will become more and more important for Google to become a brand and authority in a certain subject area. I will explain below that the difference between the perception of a brand by Google and that of a person is no longer that great. First of all, the concept of brand as such.

Table of Contents

Definition and demarcation: brand, authority and entity

To begin with, I would first of all lose a few basic words about the terms brand, authority and, in relation to the semantic search, the term entity.


A brand is defined by the following characteristics:

  • In purely legal terms, a brand is a trademark
  • Has a brand promise: quality and trust
  • Is the basis for a mutual emotional relationship, brand loyalty ...
  • Has notoriety or popularity
  • Can be a status symbol
  • Can also be a beacon or authority in one or more thematic areas


While a brand can enjoy broad social popularity, authorities are more related to a specific social sub-area, e.g. an industry or topic. Reputation plays a decisive role here, less popularity. Julian also wrote a good article about this on SEOkratie. The aim should always be to be the number one source of information within an industry and thus the industry lighthouse. This is the only way to calmly face the expected content shock.


In semantics, an entity is clearly identified by an identifier and certain properties. Entities are always part of an ontology. The following graphic, which I took from my colleague Svenja Hintz from the SEOcampixx presentation on semantic search, shows that entities can also be related to one another within ontologies.


Entities can be people, structures, companies, etc. Ontologies describe the environment in which the entities are located. Applied to Google, it means that on the one hand you have to prove that you are an entity. On the other hand, you have to prove that within an ontology you have a certain - I'll call it entity-relevance. So in the end it is a brand and / or authority. And that brings us back to marketing.


Ranking of the future = SEO and marketing

The topic of marketing has so far only played a role in search engine optimization in relation to one's own brand terms. Establishing yourself as a brand or authority in a certain subject area could be ignored by SEOs in the pre-Hummingbird era. But at the latest with the final introduction of the semantic search through the Hummingbird update and Google's efforts to establish the author rank, large parts of the influencing factors for the ranking will change.

From document to authority

Before 2013, almost everything in search engine optimization revolved around the html document to be optimized itself and its external links. For an overview of the ranking criteria, an older overview from the article The Google Ranking in Transition: Ranking Criteria & SEO Yesterday, Today and Future.

Search engine optimization used to have direct influence

The smiling smileys at the individual points represent the search engine optimizers, who were able to actively influence these points directly and were therefore the main contact when it came to the topic of visibility in search engines. But even in the years before Hummingbird, more and more factors were added that could no longer be directly influenced by SEOs, such as increasing personalization (e.g. localization). I have provided these points with crying smileys in the following overview.

The direct sphere of influence of search engine optimization to this day

What will represent a kind of revolution in ranking factors in the future, however, is that, with the introduction of semantic search, the focus away from the document towards the creator or author, the brand, authority or domain itself as well as the further personalization of the SERPs based on the individual User behavior, there are many factors that can no longer be directly influenced by search engine optimization. The effects of this development are already noticeable today in highly competitive industries. In the niches, it is currently still sufficient to ensure good rankings with the usual SEO craft. The effects will gradually become more visible with the "learning Hummingbird algorithm".

Direct influence of search engine optimization future (click on the picture to enlarge)

The following statement to which I stand 100% and which not everyone will taste:

At least 50% of the ranking signals can no longer be directly influenced by SEO

... the other part is marketing, PR, social media marketing and usability and conversion optimization. While SEO focuses on technical and structural on-page optimization and is involved in the strategic alignment of topics, the areas of marketing, PR and social media marketing are responsible for branding. The usability optimization is responsible for improving the user signals and thus also indirectly contributes to the brand.

Future responsibilities for the ranking on Google & Co.

In the future, Google will attach great importance to how relevant you are as an entity, authority and brand in one or more subject areas. That is why marketing will play a decisive role in the future, whether or not you will be found in search engines, especially Google. This thesis is supported by statements in an interview on stonetemple.com with the Bing product manager Duane Forrester. He names the top ranking factors for Bing as follows:

"5 Keys to Improving Search Rankings" by Duane Forrester

Here it becomes clear that classic SEO measures such as on-page SEO and link building are no longer the top priority.

Since you have to convince Google that as a website but also as an author you represent a brand, authority or a beacon in the industry, marketing with a view to Google can also be called Google branding. But how does Google recognize a brand or authority?

How does Google recognize a brand or authority?

If you take a closer look at the already mentioned identifying features for a brand in connection with the terms brand and authority and bring them in connection with signals that Google already uses via your services or applications such as Google Analytics, Chrome, Webmaster Tools, Android ... can broadly identify it looks like this.

How does Google recognize a brand?

As already described, a brand can be recognized by a certain popularity in general or at least in a subject area. Transferred to measurable values, these are, for example:

  • Height and development of the search volume for the brand and / or domain: The height and development of the search volume for search terms clearly assigned to the respective brand says something about how popular a brand is. These signals can be influenced by classic marketing, advertising and PR.
  • The ratio between the number of searches for the brand or domain and the clicks on the search result: This assumption is based on a patent from Google, as explained in this post on MOZ. If the click rate on a listing for a search query is above average, Google can use it to bring the brand term together with the domain and, based on this, recognize the name of the brand without direct links.

How does Google recognize an authority?

An authority is identified primarily through reputation and trust. Google can use the following signals for this:

  • Co-Occurences and Co Citations
  • References or links from relevant media
  • Conversions
  • High proportion of returning visitors
  • Influencer relationships and interactions
  • Blog comments
  • Number of social media contacts
  • Social interactions in general
  • Length of stay
  • Bounce rates

Ranking: Marketing, Usability, Semantic Optimization, Technical SEO

To influence the ranking, it is necessary to focus on the customer and user, not the search engine. This involves promoting positive user signals, creating an emotional bond with the brand or website, increasing popularity and reputation, and establishing an entity. The basis for this is, in addition to determining the topic via keyword research and analysis, on-page SEO such as appropriate information structures or internal links, the transfer of structured data, website hygiene and crawling and indexing control. That is the duty but will not be enough on its own to win a flower pot in a contested area. Teamwork among interdisciplinary specialists applies here.

A quote from the above-mentioned MOZ article by Simon Penson:

My advice would be to begin thinking outside of follow links. Be happy to earn (and build) nofollowed links and mentions. Think outside the link, because there IS value in driving mentions and building brand.

In my opinion, the link building era is coming to an end. Why? I am of the opinion that the subject of link building or better online reputation optimization is a core competence of PR and corporate communication, less of SEO. The goal of PR and corporate communication is to build a brand, market positioning and reputation. The resulting backlinks are a nice side effect, but they are never in focus.

In times when co-occurrence and co-citation are becoming more and more relevant, Google can register the mention of brands and even recognize domains and URLs and use them to crawl new content, although they are not directly linked, the link itself is no longer that Must have.

Nowadays, search engines no longer only react to existing backlinks in order to identify relevance to a certain topic, but to a large number of off-page signals. The strength of the brand itself, the z. B. can be determined via the number of visitors via direct access or the number of accesses via brand-related search queries, plays a role. And that can be achieved with branding, marketing, PR or corporate communication.

In the future, the ranking of individual content and the visibility of a domain will, in addition to the technical optimization for search engines, most likely be decisively determined by the development of a reputation or brand and all signals and effects associated with it.

To conclude, my presentation at the Hanover University of Applied Sciences in mid-April, including on this topic: