In a move that seems to defy their original purpose Google has now granted nearly all of Page 1 (above the fold) for brand searches to the actual brand website. With upto 12 sitelinks including a small description snippet brands now take all except for maybe one or two places in Google. Unfortunately for megabrands like Walmart, Home Depot and Target it seems they only get six links along with a handful of location results below them.
Depending on the browser (chrome shows more than firefox or ie) and screen resolution a brand getting 12 site links only leaves about 1 other link available on the page above the fold. Smaller brands getting the six sitelinks leave about 3 other links above the fold, if those brands happen to be brick and mortar and have a Google Places page then that information shows up below the sitelinks and it's possible that only 1 link is now visible below the brands listing in Google.
So what does all of this mean? Well a dirty trick in SEO has always been to try and rank for your competitors brand name. They are typically low competition and extremely highly targeted. If you could rank high enough your presence in the SERPs would disrupt flow to their site and bring you qualified leads. Now that method is severely handicapped.
According to RedCardinal's research on leaked AOL search data (powered by Google) 73.5% of all clicks go to the top 5 results, or above the fold. Now this data was released in 2006 and countless experiments have shown some variation, especially with different search intent (such as research vs. purchase) and within different industries. However, if we take this as a stable figure and give it a +/- rating of say 7% for accuracy (i know a big range, but still powerful) we can make an assumption that all the links above the fold in almost any situation will get at least 66.5% of all clicks Whereas before the first listing was likely only getting an estimated 47% of all clicks.
So why do I think this will give a rise to offline traditional marketing? Well as soon as Google announced that the changes were live I began investigating what was causing the number of site links to appear as Google's official announcement said between 8-12 links (i see 6-12 but lets not quibble) would show up for branded searches. I noticed that many small brands that were made up of two or more words were only getting the six sitelink pack. However, if I spelled out the brands with spaces AND the brand was the number one listing I would see the 12 sitelinks 100% of the time. This lead me to believe that the number of sitelinks displayed involved average query volume. I checked a total of 20 small brands with names that matched this convention and found that if/when broad match query volume was below 2,000 on average per month (as reported by Adwords External Keyword Tool) that the lower number of sitelinks appeared, when it was high BAM! 12 sitelinks everytime. Taking out the serious outliers (mega brands like walmart with tons of local results) and I had a 100% success rate of 6 sitelinks for low volume, 12 for high. Since the mega offline brands get six sitelinks + local results they seem to take more of page one space than just having 12 links, a net gain.
Sure enough I tried this on my own brand (gamerstube) and found that 'gamerstube' had less than 2,000 broad match global queries on average per month, but that 'gamers tube' had over 4,000. 'gamerstube' has six sitelinks, 'gamers tube' has 12. I compared those results to another brand in the online Gaming sector and found that both 'nationvoice' and 'nation voice' each had more than 2k searches and each had the 12 sitelink pack.
Many webmasters find that 30-50% of all search traffic they get is for their brand name. So IF the amount of space a branded search gets to take up is based on the VOLUME of searches for that query then we could surmise that mass media advertising is now much more valuable for online SEO, as well as online mass marketing such as viral videos or social marketing.
As with anything you will find some variation. In a follow up experiment on megabrands I discoverd that CostCo gets 12 sitelinks and no location information even though the nearest one is a mile away from me and has a places page. Also discovered that some industries are given other additional listings such as latest news for news websites like CNN. Queries that denote deep research might see minimal impact (i.e. cars or homes) as consumers are likely looking for reviews/opinions about the particular purveyor they are querying.
Summary and other observations:
- Any brand query below 2,000 average global searches per month (broad) gets 6-8 sitelinks.
- Any brand query above 4,000 average global searches per month (broad) gets 12 sitelinks.
- Mega brands such as walmart or home depot always get 6 sitelinks + local results (based on users IP/location info)
- Online only brands can have sitelinks + search box making SERPs larger.
- Online news brands can have sitelinks + search box and/or latest news listings (3 links)
- Brands with physical presence can have 6-8 sitelinks for low volume + Google Places listing
- Brands with physical presence can have 12 sitelinks for high volume + Google places listing
- A boost in offline advertising (marketing) will increase the amount of real estate a brand gets on page 1 and improve CTR from their brand keyword(s)
NOTE: Sitelinks do not count as a second listing. There are still 9 other listings down there below the brands listing. Sitelinks only make the first listing larger.