How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results


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In the Academy Award-nominated film Food Inc, filmmaker Robert Kenner reveals how the varied choice of items we see on the shelves of supermarkets is actually a false presumption.

Instead, that seemingly endless variety is actually controlled by just a handful of companies.

Today I’m going to reveal how the huge diversity we perceive in Google search results is once again a few large corporations controlling what we assume to be choice. More specifically I’ll reveal how just 16 core companies are dominating the most popular industries online and how that situation is going to get a whole lot worse.

To begin our journey down the rabbit hole together, I want to take you through a series of events which uncovered something I had never considered before about the industry in which I operate: Are the Google rankings I aim to get for myself and my clients actually controlled by just three hands full of companies?

Around two weeks ago I came across a post on Reddit about Hearst Media. I was unfamiliar with Hearst Media but very familiar with the brands they own such as Esquire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.

The Reddit outing, which was shared on a new account, claimed that Hearst were using their powerful brands to “game Google” and rank a new website of theirs very quickly, using slightly shady practices.

Being an inquisitive marketer I had to check it out for myself. The quick summary is that Hearst clearly were (and still are) using their authoritative brands to point links to their latest venture, BestProducts.com.

While I expected BestProducts.com to be receiving a lot of traffic from the brands linking to them – which also include Marie Claire and Woman’s Day – I didn’t expect Google to have taken such a huge liking to them. Especially when the site in question had zero reason prior to be ranking so well (it was owned previously then the domain dropped a few years ago).

To give an overview of what was happening for those who are skimming this article, the situation looks like this.

clarify

The arrows in this picture represent links.

There are far more brands involved in this network, but we’ll get to those in a second.

As I stated earlier, I was far more surprised by how Google reacted to this.

Launched in October, They Now Receive More than 600,000 Visitors from Google Per Month

Here’s the graph that kick started the countless days of research I did for this blog post.

natty-google

As we can see, the estimated traffic to BestProducts has shot up dramatically in the last few months. SEMRush is showing similar numbers, as we’ll get to in a second. With 62% of their traffic estimated to be coming from Google, that’s at least 600,000 organic (free) website visitors for the month of April.

I expect the data for May will be significantly higher, but I have to wait until June 10th to see (that’s when SimilarWeb confirm they’ll update their reporting).

So Why Am I Surprised?

Tons of authoritative sites linking to you is obviously great for SEO.

But as anyone who has been involved in search engine optimisation for a period of time might wonder, surely getting so many sitewide links in a short timeframe should raise a bit of a red flag?

Even if the links in question are from some of the biggest media brands in the world.

Here’s a few examples.

Esquire.com (Product Reviews)

esquire

Elle.com (Beauty Reviews)

elle

Cosmopolitan.com (Beauty Reviews)

cosmopolitan

MarieClaire.com (Reviews)

reviews

PopularMechanics.com (Product Reviews)

popular

Now, I will say that 90% of me thinks there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, you’ll see the majority of this post is focused on why I’m surprised Google give the resulting website so much traffic.

Quite simply if I owned a lot of websites, I would be fine linking them together. If for nothing more than from a usability standpoint.

That being said, 10% of me is a little surprised that these link texts and locations are constantly changing. I think it’s a bit risky on their part.

As of publishing this post, Cosmopolitan use ‘Beauty Reviews’ as the anchor text of their footer to the site. Previously it was in a different placement and used the anchor text ‘Style Reviews’.

cosmomarch

These are not static footer links that have been left alone (and not just on one site). They’re changing to different pages – and using different words – on a fairly frequent basis.

To me this takes the situation away from “they’re just linking to their own site” to “they’re doing a lot of tweaking to see which results in higher rankings.” You could argue they’re testing it for usability reasons, but you’ll see in a moment why I think they know a thing or two about SEO.

Before I get into that, I wanted to see if I could figure out when these links were added to their network.

Were they all thrown up at once and it took a while for them to have an impact, or was there some clear plan behind the links from Hearst Media’s various brands?

Here’s some of the data I managed to uncover on when each site first linked to BestProducts (I bolded those that linked on the same day).

  • PopularMechanics.com – November 5th
  • Esquire.com – November 5th
  • Cosmopolitan.com – January 1st
  • Seventeen.com – January 12th
  • RedbookMag.com – February 23rd
  • Elle.com – March 15th
  • CountryLiving.com – March 18th
  • WomansDay.com – April 5th
  • MarieClaire.com – April 5th
  • RoadandTrack.com – April 13th

For my own curiosity, I was glad I took the time to trawl through every screenshot on Archive.org to find these answers. It’s now obvious that the people working for Woman’s Day, Marie Claire, Popular Mechanics and Esquire had some conversion that went along the lines of, “Don’t forget, today’s the day we have to put those links to Best Products in the footer.”

As I said earlier, I don’t really care too much about what Hearst media are doing with their “link network” of magazine brands. I don’t see anything wrong with it and don’t think Google should either.

That being said, because I’ve done more research for this blog post than any other, I do want to add that they purchased the most successful SEO agency on the planet just a few years ago.

digital-marketing

If you can’t read that because of my small post width (I’m working on a redesign), they paid $325 million for an agency that generated more than 60% of their revenues from SEO clients.

At the time of acquisition iCrossing were also the biggest search agency in the world based on revenue numbers. In other words, the staff at Hearst Media comprises of a large number of people who know a lot about SEO.

To me this explains the slow buildup of network links and the semi-frequent changing of URL’s and link text in their website footer.

I Have No Problem With What Hearst Are Doing. Google’s Reaction Is What Really Interests Me…

I’ve said it a few times but I’ll say it once more for anyone skimming the post: This is by no means an attack on Hearst Media. They own the websites so they’re welcome to do with them as they please. They also made BestProducts a rather attractive looking website.

Then again, I’m surprised at how well their strategy is working. I’m not naive – I know that authoritative links equal a good chance of increased search rankings – but I didn’t expect they would be outranking some of the biggest brands on the internet for search terms that can make them a lot of money.

From Zero to $583,000 in Free Search Traffic

We’ve already looked at the data from SimilarWeb, but the stats from SEMRush are interesting as well.

semrush

SEMRush pips BestProducts at ranking for over half a million dollar’s worth of search queries (if you were to buy them via Google Adwords) in a very short space of time.

Their Top Keywords According to SEMRush

Some of those incredible rankings they’ve achieved include:

  • hairstyles: 11th (450,0000 searches per month)
  • short hairstyles: 7th (301,000 searches per month)
  • best wireless earbuds: 1st (22,200 searches per month)
  • short haircuts: 9th (301,000 searches per month)
  • best running shoes for women: 1st (18,100 searches per month)
  • bluetooth speakers: 11th (165,000 searches per month)
  • lighted makeup mirror: 1st (14,800 searches per month)
  • best makeup brushes: 1st (14,800 searches per month)
  • haircuts: 7th (165,000 searches per month)
  • short haircuts for women: 6th (110,000 searches per month)

They’re still ranking for these terms, which is why I predict the SimilarWeb traffic graph will increase a lot when they update their data for May.

Their Top Keywords According to SimilarWeb

It’s interesting to see how different the data from SimilarWeb and SEMRush seems to be, but they’re at least right that BestProducts are ranking for what they state they’re ranking for.

  • best dishwasher 2016
  • best smartwatch 2016
  • best gaming headset 2016
  • best action camera 2016
  • best bluetooth speaker 2016

Hey, I did tell you all just before new year that you should be writing 2016 everywhere on your site.

I could make this page infinitely scrollable if I show all of their rankings, so I’ll just share a couple to show they really do rank.

huge-brands

While they aren’t a top result for this one it does show that they’re likely still getting hundreds of clicks per day for just one search term.

3000

It’s certainly not just with BestProducts that Hearst are having a lot of SEO success though. Just look at how their brand is doing as a whole…

Hearst Alone Absolutely Dominate Certain Sectors of Google Search Results

hearst-domination

Worried about ranking top three? Why not just take all of the spots.

Sadly, Google Search Results Will Never Look Diverse Again

At least not to me.

You may think Hearst are some kind of exception and partly, you would be right. However, they’re certainly not alone.

Purch also own some of the biggest sites online.

They all already link to each other in the footer of every site, but it’s my understanding that they were all fairly big ‘brands’ on their own before being purchased. Just look at the traffic numbers for some of those sites:

  • Toms Hardware – 51 million visitors per month
  • Top Ten Reviews – 17.5 million visitors per month
  • Live Science – 20.6 million visitors per month

I don’t have to go into their domain stats; you already know they have authority.

Purch and Hearst compete in many of the same industries and one of Purch’s sites – TopTenReviews – also ranks in my screenshot above for the dishwashers search query.

There’s no doubt they are watching the success of one of their bigger rivals and if they see that they can spin off new web properties into valuable entities, it must be very tempting to follow the same path.

Sadly, the more research I did for this post, the less and less varied Google search results appeared to be. Time after time I was able to trace back the top ranking websites to some of the biggest media companies in the world.

There are of course some I’m missing (especially outside of the English language) but these are the companies I found most often in search results across the board.

dominating
Click here to view a slightly larger image.

To show you I’m not being dramatic, let’s take a look at some actual search results I believe that these networks are dominating. They’re not just limited to one sector.

They’ve Taken Over Software

video

That’s a little bit of a long-tail example, so let’s look at something far more popular.

antivirus

They’ve Taken Over Food

ground-beef
Image results were manually removed from this screenshot for clarity

And another…

network
For this screenshot I removed some Google images so I could fit in the search results

They’ve Taken Over Technology

bridge-camera

I’m starting to feel like I was one of the only people who didn’t know about these brands.

laptop-google-results

They’ve definitely got a big hold on the technology industry.

itstough

They’ve Taken Over Gaming

dark-souls
Note: One Youtube result was removed from this graphic so I could fit in the screenshot

They’ve Taken Over Health

lose-weight

They’ve Taken Over Automotive

cars

They’ve Taken Over Beauty

beauty

They Buy Out the Competition

freeonline

They (More than Likely) Share Keyword Data Across Their Network

I can’t blame them for doing this, but it’s certainly interesting to see.

baby-shower

It’s not only the big broad keywords that send a lot of traffic they can share either. If you have similar brands, you should definitely be taking advantage of the long tail.

purch-dominating

Why have one top search result when you can have two (or many more)?

These Companies Get $20,000 in Links Just for Buying a Domain Name

When Google search results are so reliant on one thing then we’re all a little bit at the mercy of whoever has the most money to throw at the problem.

Whenever these big brands start a new website the tech and news blogs share it with the world, and that means link acquisition.

Hearst’s Best Product Got Incredible Links On the Day of Launch

Here is Racked.com, ironically owned by another of the sixteen, talking about their new brand.

hearst-launch

As Did Time’s New Breakfast Site

Even if you’re just writing about the first meal of the day, it’s notable to those in the tech space.

nieman

As Did IAC’s New Health Site

There are few better links to get about a new brand than a mention from TechCrunch.

techcrunch

It’s Clear That Domain Authority is More Important Than Ever

If you didn’t “catch” on to this after seeing how well BestProducts are ranking then let me make it clear: There are almost no backlinks from other sites pointing to the top ranking pages of BestProducts.com.

They do have some internal links – mostly from the footer of PopularMechanics articles – but very few. However, they have a ton of strong links pointing to their homepage and category pages, which is spreading the ‘link juice’ around their entire website.

This is inline with what Brian Dean reported when he analysed 1,000,000 Google search results:

brian-analysed

As he says, “In other words, the domain that your page lives on is more important than the page itself.

Overall, it makes sense that domain authority plays a big role in overall site rankings (it’s not easy to get internal links) but I’m surprised to see it being so important.

How IAC’s About.com Used Their Authority to Catapult a New Site to the Top of Google

When TechCrunch covered the launch of About.com’s new standalone health website, Very Well, they had this to say regarding their SEO,

One of the greater challenges for About.com will be SEO. The company current has pretty good juice when it comes to Google searches, and launching on a new domain with a new brand could prove difficult to migrate.

The other interesting thing they quoted, which a lot of other news sites picked up on, was that,

Verywell will launch with more than 50,000 pieces of content ranging from common medical conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis to simple health tips like how to get more sleep or advice on fitness.

That’s a lot of content for a brand new site.

50,000 Pages of Content Did Nothing for Their SEO.

From what I can tell, Very Well seemed to come online around February of this year. The first mentions or evidence of the site didn’t appear until April, but some of their older content has February 2016 as the publish date.

Now the day they launched the site – whatever that really means – was April 26th, 2016. That means they added 50,000 pieces of content to a dropped domain in the space of two months.

During these two months not a single website analytics tool (such as SimilarWeb, Alexa or Compete) detected any traffic going to VeryWell.com

Luckily, About.com Has Some SEO Authority to Throw Around

As TechCrunch noted, About.com are one of the most SEO-authoritative brands in the world. It seems like no matter what you search for, they’ll be there ranking on the first page of Google.

It’s interesting then that About.com decided to risk that authority by pointing their health-related sub-domains straight to Verywell.com, as shown below.

very-very-well

This is just a sample of those I found. There are many more.

To be clear, these sub-domains used to have sites on them. They’re not just randomly redirecting. They were previously used by About.com.

WIth a wave of links from About.com and the media web talking about IAC’s new web brand, VeryWell started to get noticed on website analysis tools. Most notably by Ahrefs.

verywell

That’s a lot of links in a short period of time. Surely it must be setting off a few red flags like they did for Best Products.com? Heh.

“How’s That New Site Ranking, IAC?” Very Well!

If you want to know how this new brand is doing in Google, take a look for yourself.

google-organic

That’s a recording of 3.6 million visitors to the site with 56% of that reportedly from free search engine traffic.

IAC must be pleased with that. So much so in fact that I think this situation is only the tip of the iceberg.

This Domination of Google Results Is Going to Get Much Worse

Over the last two weeks of dedicating day and night to this topic I found a lot of similarities in these mega brands.

Many started offline in publishing and brought those titles online while many purchased their own competitors and ran different brands like they were separate entities. For instance, IAC purchased About.com while AOL (now owned by Verizon) purchased Patch, TechCrunch and The Huffington Post.

However, the most common thing I’ve found in my research is that they all plan to spread the authority of their online presence.

IAC’s About.com Will Disperse into Many More Verticals

Speaking with TechCrunch, their CEO Neil Vogel states, “What we learned in rebuilding what we were is that we don’t want to be that anymore. About was built during a different time in the internet, where scale translated to trust. But the internet has changed. No one wants advice on their 401k from the same people that give advice on how to bake a pie.

As TechCrunch also note;

Learning that, About has shifted its focus to building out verticals around its troves of topic-specific content, with Verywell being the first.

After seeing the quick SEO success of Very Well, I’m sure they’ll be bringing that plan forward.

Time Have Already Spun-Off into Two Verticals

Back in September of 2015, Time Inc’s ‘The Foundry’ (sort of like their internal incubator) launched a car news website called The Drive. Time recently revealed the site is now receiving more than 2 million unique visitors per month.

More recently, Time launched a website called Extra Crispy. Oddly enough it’s a website dedicated to breakfast, but if you saw the screenshots above then you’ll know they’ve received a TON of links back to this site, simply because it was created by Time.

Two of the 16 Are Teaming Up

Just last month, two of the sixteen brands I’ve highlighted today actually acquired a new company together named Complex Media.

teaming-up

The video-focused company claim to reach more than 50 million unique visitors per month.

With Verizon purchasing AOL last year for $4.4B, I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see them make a few more content-focused acquisitions. *Cough* Verizon will buy Hearst *cough*

Hearst Built BestProducts.com in Just Six Weeks

I’m not even talking about how long it took to get the content on the website. I’m talking about sitting in a meeting one day and having the idea for the site to actually having it online and getting links from some of the most powerful domains in the world.

Digiday reports that Hearst can move fast. “We’re now at place where we can spin up properties incredibly quickly,” Young said. “This went from idea to launch in six weeks.

Young also commented that, “We have a strong new platform. Now we can start applying that to new opportunities.”

Which to me can only mean that more BestProducts-like websites are on their way.

A Depressing Summary, but Not a Negative One

Though this post may seem like a bit of a “it’s us against them” fight, that really wasn’t my aim.

The more research I did for this article and the more I realised certain brands were owned by the same company, the more I felt like I was watching Food Inc, the documentary that revealed the thousands of brands you see on supermarket shelves are really owned by just a handful of companies.

food-brands
Side note: If anyone has the skills to make a similar graphic with the brands I covered here I would include it

It’s not too dissimilar from what I’ve shared today. Thanks to Jason and Mary for putting this graphic together.

jason
Click here to view larger

As I’ve always said, I write articles that I personally think would be interesting to read. In 11 years of immersing myself in the online marketing industry I’ve never seen anyone talk about the huge dominance that certain players have on search results. So, as the research was interesting to me, I decided to share it.

Let’s take an ideal worldview for a second. If Google’s ideals are to be believed, results from queries in their search engine should produce results that searchers want to find.

For that reason, I’m sure teenage American girls searching for advice on colours of eye-liner aren’t thinking “Ugh, really Google? Beauty tips from Vogue again?”

Similarly, when I’m searching for tech product reviews, I’m actually happy results from The Verge appear over some site I don’t have much faith in. I trust The Verge, and I’m more likely to click on their results than from anyone else.

From an objective standpoint, the Google results are good, if not great. They provide what the searcher, and I, are looking for.

But I’m a marketer. If you’re still reading this article, I can assume with 99% certainty that you’re one too.

As a marketer I learned how little Google care if a new site gets hundreds of thousands of links very quickly.

I came away with even more belief in the importance of having a strong domain (read: a domain that has a lot of backlinks) if you want internal pages to rank.

I also became a little fearful that these brands are going to spread into even more verticals, taking their already huge financial war chests and filling in all of the blank Google results they don’t yet own.

If we want to debate whether it’s fair or not or whether Google should make changes, a court of law in the US has twice protected their search results under the First Amendment. Meaning it is totally up to them to list and rank websites wherever they wish.

The first time they won a battle on their rankings, a company called CoastNews were suing them for $5M because they ranked at the top of Yahoo and Bing but were nowhere to be found on Google.

At the end of the day, Google is a business that aims to make their shareholders money and if we as webmasters are looking to rank higher in Google, it’s usually because we want to make more money as well. I can’t feel it’s unfair and want to profit from it at the same time. After all, I do have several niche agencies which profit from ranking other people highly in Google.

I can complain – it’s a shame Google can’t detect some of what is going on here – but it’s not going to change anything about how I run my business.

All in all, I simply hope you found my findings as interesting in one go as I did while discovering them on the way.

You Can Still Fight Back

Next week I’ll be going live with a report on the state of link building in 2016 so if you want strategies on how to get links to make your sites rank, make sure you enter your email in the box below (or in the right sidebar) to make sure you don’t miss it.

Thank you so much for reading.

431 comments
  1. That was a really interesting blog post. I knew the day would come when the large companies would start to dominate SERPs like they do traditional print but I didn’t realise how quickly they’d start doing it.

    The 6 weeks deployment time for a huge corporation is really amazing. These things normally take months due to internal bureaucracy, politics, etc. This means that they’re fucking serious about dominating the SERPs and I can only see them trying to get more and more of a strangle hold.

    It will be interesting (well, kinda scary actually) to see how much they’ll use this power to try and shape opinion online like other large online media corps do, eg Gawker.

    1. Hey David,

      Good to see you here!

      Yeah, that really stood out to me as well and probably the most worrying apart about it all.

      I’ll definitely be watching to see the future direction of About and whatever else Hearst plan to roll out.

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

    2. This reminds me of the big arguments about net neutrality, and the impact of FCC relaxing regulations that would have allowed telecom firms to favor some sites over others. Money talks, and with governments being either agnostic or favoring such firms, I can only imagine what would happen to smaller website despite better content/features.

      We have just started to build up SEO efforts at our financial platform, and such news is discouraging – one can only hope that good, smart content and irresistible features still pay off (if people actually get to see it).

  2. Wow that’s an awesome, somewhat depressing post. I can’t help but think when the giants start to own the top few posts by spreading link juice across their assets, surely Google will one day try to make things difficult for these guys, which makes things difficult for us since we employ the same techniques though on a much smaller scale.

    1. There are two things that all business owners need to know in order to survive. 97% of consumers are looking for the products and services your are offering online. If you are looking for the most effective way to grow your business you have come to the right place.

  3. Hi Glen,

    Interesting Post! In the footer of BestProducts there is a anchor text with “auto” which is german for “car” and the page is linking to bestproducts.com/cars/ . Maybe they want to try out some german words 😉

  4. Great Post

    Its interesting to see the results vary (back into sellers) and away from these media brands the minute search terms omit words like review, best, etc

    ……so as always the battle for businesses seeking people that transact rather than tyre-kicking / browsers is to find the right mix of SEO techniques that make the business seem relevant but not so relevant as to be penalised by Google etc in its drive to encourage PPC growth

    And doing all that whilst achieving an ROI, never easy!

    Stuart Haining
    MD
    Seriously Helpful Online Marketing
    UK

    1. I think they have enough funds to lobby against that, at least in the US.

      France are currently making them do quite a few things they don’t want to.

      1. Great post Glen as always, my friend and have been following the same changes for a few years now.

        Google lost his mind when it comes to ranking the sites that matter, like you said they need to make money for their shareholders.

        But this is all screwed up right now, search results are Bought* these days not deserved*

        I like that you mentioned the France, the same thing is going on with facebook advertising, they manipulate our budgets for the ad campaigns, and facebook is afraid so much that they give you a question ” Are you from France” before even setting up your marketing campaign.

        My $1 is not worth the same as the one from Switzerland for example.

        But France will not succeed on it’s own to fight Facebook and Google, we all need to help.

        One step at a time.

        We all chase the profits of the first pages, that’s for sure, but what’s happening right now with Search Results is just a fight between small businesses who are trying to survive and big corporations who are winning the game.

        And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google sold those positions on the first page to those corporations and big media companies. (not talking about ads)

        Have a great day and keep up the amazing work.
        Dado

        1. You guys sound like a bunch of communists talking about “helping France”. Google is a private company. It does what it wants with it’s search results, which are it’s properties. It’s up to marketers to play their games to what works and what not, etc.

        1. Vini, we all know Google will do what they want but it bothers me that they meaning Google puts up articles telling us the little people not to put up site after site with links to our main site as they are tracking the owner or host or what every they said they will track to see if one person owns them all and stop us from doing that.

          How is it right for a multi million dollar corporation to get away with exactly what Google tells us not to do? I could understand if they were paying Google but they are not, so will Google again change up there algorithm to fight this kind of dominance or do they even care.

  5. Hey Glen,

    Love seeing the in-depth research. Great article.

    Interesting to see this, as I’ve been working on a post for my site about analyzing the results for the keyword “SSL Certificates,” in which eight of the top 19 sites are owned by two different companies (5/10 sites are on the first page of Google).

    How to rank for competitive keywords:
    1. be a mega brand OR
    2. be a secondary site launched by a mega brand.

  6. Wow Glen, that was incredible! I wonder if the big G, or world Governments, will ever look into this… These huge companies could monopolize stupendous amounts of SERP results giving customers no real choice.

    This post has got my brain spinning.

    Cheers,
    Josh

  7. Fascinating insights. The only aspect that frustrates me slightly is that if I were to try and replicate this type of footer linking strategy, I would almost certainly be penalized.

  8. Hi Glen!

    I´ve nearly read every blog post you´ve wrote, but I´ve never wrote a comment. So it´s time now!
    Really interesting to see the results and how these brands dominate the search results… I am really pumped up to read your Fight Back Strategy! 🙂

    Best regards,
    Flo

    DE

  9. Newspapers, radio, music labels, TV stations – all of them went the way of mergers and consolidation under a few huge corporations. Seems like SERPs are heading in the same direction.

    The interesting question is: how soon until a search engine is released that only links to non-corporate sites? Could be something useful.

    Great research, Glen!

    1. All I could think of by the end of the article is quickly developing a browser extension or a script that would remove the mega sites from SERPs.

      1. Actually, there’s a Chrome extension by Google called Personal Blocklist. It can be used to add domains to your personal blocklist.

  10. Great post Glen! I don’t think people realize the power of these brands. I encounter a similar situation but slightly different in the web hosting space: https://www.google.com/search?q=web+hosting Out of the top 10 not including paid, on average 7 of the sites ranked are hosting brands owned by EIG or Endurance International.

    If you Google reviews in the space, they don’t own the properties, but you can see they have pretty good dominance there too.

    If a brand ranks well, or competes in the affiliate space, they have been known to buy them.

  11. Hi Glen,
    Firstly good to get your mail and read your next informative post. I’ve been looking out since Jan. The insights from this was worth the wait!
    Congrats on a deeply insightful investigative piece revealing how the BIG big gets bigger and dominate so extensively and quickly because they have the resources, huge brainpower and manpower to strategise the loopholes and move quickly to implement and conquer….nothing wrong with that…hope it shakes Google a bit that this loophole strategy is now out in the open….and they may have to think harder to manage ramifications….
    A thought…if you could create your insights into an infographic, I bet that would get pinned like crazy… I recently saw Visual capitalist.com.. Pretty strategic too with their business model…
    Lastly I did notice the purple eharmony link being clicked….is that’s what you’ve really been busy with all these months
    Hey keep up the good work, and THANK YOU for this intelligent insight…
    Cheers, CL

  12. Hey Glenn,

    Does this mean that combo of PR + sitewide links with aggressive anchor text spread on major media guarantees results in specific vertical?

    I am asking because for my site http://www.getkisha.com I’m ranking for keyword “umbrella” on 2nd page purely on organic PR – no anchors whatsoever – does this mean if I get into 30-50 top level sites with exact anchor I would rank on page one?

    So far we have (totally organic) around 200 referring domains, including some major publishers like Telegraph, Wired, Gizmodo…

    Any advice is most welcome!

    Thanks

  13. Glen,

    as I said on Twitter, this is great article and kudos to you for this huge amount of research you went through!

    Is there any tip we can take and use in our businesses? Is going vertical and interlinking across the whole network the right way? Could be this the approach to dominate SERPs in other languages, where this gigants aren’t ranking?

    It definitely keep my brain spinning, so thanks for that!

  14. This is an eye opening report for me. I was familiar with the dominance of Pepsico in beverage world and the likes of P&G but never thought the same could have been true for organic results.
    I can’t help relating to the dominance of Endurance International Group in the world of Hosting. Their acquisition of Several key web hosting brands is something I find very similar to this study.

    Keep the good stuff coming. And might I ask the author’s name and Twitter handle? I can’t really see a bio here, on mobile.

    Cheers

  15. This is one of the best post I have read in a long very long time. You have put in days of research to collect so much data. I am still going to go back to this post years from now to see how things have changed. What’s happening in search is just crazy. Those sites will stay ahead of most competitors’ websites unless Google changes its algorithms. Thank you very much for this great post.

    1. “this will always be in the back of my mind when I do a google search”

      Haha yep, this kind of ruined things for me also 😉

  16. Glen,

    Fantastic post! Makes me wonder if many other acquisitions that are happening are for the digital real estate to continue to propel their other properties on the SERPs. I’ve been following some local developments with some convenience stores and the same thing is happening at the brick and mortar level as well. 7-11 has gotten on a buying spree and at least here is Texas, is aiming to dominate aka Walmart in the convenience store niche.

    There was an article post in the San Antonio Business journal just a few days ago about yet another battle for some acquisitions between 7-11 and Circle K… big players with lots of cash to throw around.

    Thanks for the great post. I’ll be sure to read your follow up next week.

  17. Never seen such a blog post. It really needs attention and hope it reaches someone’s eye. Very in depth blog post and I believe this is very unfair.

  18. So how does the average guy, a non-corporate conglomerate get ranked against the Google BS that’s happening? I guess I may stop using Google as a search engine and browser.

  19. Google punished us for using keywords, the are now opting for brand name and domain authority… 16 companies are enjoying the fruits others are wallowing damn!!

  20. Hey Glen! First the bankers now the marketers. The world is really control by a select few. For me: “I’m just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.” – Jango Fett. Great post shows the power of good links. The question I have for you and Diggy is how can you get a few of these sites to use instead of PBNs?

  21. Glenn,

    This article came at the right time for me, because after being lost in SEO world for past few months confused by all the guru shits and there tips.

    This article has proven that the only way is through HQ backlinks. The part about 50,000 content and then the power of backlinks proves it even more.

    Thanks for the article man.

  22. Glen, WOW!

    That post took a TON of time and work – such value!

    Thank you SO much for sharing all your collected data and research with us.

    I subscribe to the “why rank one when you can rank 10” mentality when working online, but sadly, the “little folks” like me tend to get NAILED when attempting to pull off backlinking like these big dogs do.

    Like you, I have zero problem with a web property linking to other web properties it owns/controls. To me, it SHOULD be done that way.

    I want to go back and read all this again (and probably again) – it really feeds my Google SERPs Geek brain cells.

    Again, THANK YOU! This post took a boatload of work, time, and effort, and I know I am not the only one who really appreciates you sharing.

    Jennifer
    ~PotPieGirl

  23. Really appreciate the time you took to discover all of this info.

    I keep thinking how amazing it is the power that Google has over the success of a business, and how there are no laws governing its use/misuse. Truly a new era.

  24. Hey Glen, awesome article and very eye opening.

    Thats definitely documentary material here (hint) : )

    I pretty much unlearned everything i new about SEO in the 15 minutes it took me to read this piece. Very enlightening and thought provoking..

    moving forward do you think that without building similar (albeit smaller) types of site networks the little guy has any chance of competing with this growing oligopoly?

  25. I feel the same is happening with real estate. I almost always see the same 3-4 domains at the top when it comes to property listings…Zillow, Trulia, etc.

    And Zillow owns Trulia, of course!

  26. Great post Glen,

    I think guest posts on authoritative sites is way to go (thats if you can get or afford them)

  27. Great post, Glen.

    They’re going to start calling you the Edward Snowden of internet marketing if you keep blowing whistles 😉

  28. This was so damn insightful. It’s becoming very clear what’s going on these days. These guys are just buying out the entire internet as we know it. What chance do individual publishers have in a world like this!!

  29. Hi Glen

    Isn’t this why they introduced Rankbrain to put less emphasis on links over time.

    Rankbrain will collect data on serps for a few years, then slowly introduce 1000’s of new ranking factors, factors that are so small it would be impossible to tell.

    Will these companies still dominate, more than likely but it might slow down their ability to get massive amounts of organic traffic to a brand new site.

  30. What an amazing work. The time and effort you put into writing this one is really appreciated. Looking forward to your article on link building.

  31. Wow, that was incredible! I wonder if the big G, or world Governments, will ever look into this… These huge companies could monopolize stupendous amounts of SERP results giving customers no real choice. This post has got my brain spinning.

    P.S. I love the new design of this site 🙂

    Cheers,
    Lorenz

  32. Great write up Glen. Thanks for your time. Im guessing none of these big guys are playing with automated seo tools. Just focusing on building authoritywith pbs? Or whats their main seo practices.

    1. I believe Hearst are using Wordsteam in their CMS (it was one of the brands, can’t remember exactly which one now – there are too many 😉 – but they did an interview on it.

  33. Is this partly an anti-Amazon and other big box store thing?

    Certainly the SERPS are a way to cut your advertising and marketing costs and capturing a big chunk of the consumer’s dollars to your income sheet can’t be bad.

  34. Great research.

    It makes you wonder if we will see more SEO firms get bought up by publishing brands, in the effort to duplicate the success some of the brands you mentioned above have had.

    I work with a client in a particular niche who has recently learned the benefit of being able to use the DA of their multiple web properties in order to give new sites a boost. They are now looking at the benefits of deploying sites across multiple verticals, by leveraging their existing network of sites.

    I imagine we will only see more of this consolidation in search rankings as things go forward.

    Kevin

  35. Glenn, thanks for sharing your research. Didn’t Google tell us (last year or the year before) that they would rank Brands above anything else in the future? Those 16 companies have taken advantage of that and it is good to see it revealed like in your post. Kind of tying the ends togehter. Good work, mate.

  36. I actually don’t mind for *some* of the keywords. The big companies have funds to hire quality writers and editors to put out genuinely good content. Of course, not saying all are great (ie Demand Media).

    If I were to generalize, many of the marketers online trying to rank for the example kws you posted are affiliates with, at times, biased reviews based on the commission they will make.

    Even the the arbitrage sites – Its the marketers killing the browsing experience. When I want to see the 20 best performances of Britney Spears, I don’t want to have to click through 20 single pages that are surrounded by ads.

    Even on Amazon. Knowing what I know about private labeling, it sometimes takes me 30 minutes longer just to research a product to make sure it’s not some cheap re-branded product…analyzing the copy, looking at reviews, checking alibaba, etc.

  37. This is most disconcerting thing that i have seen today. I think this trend is quite obvious when it comes to ecommerce sector. Do a google search with a product and you will realize that 70% of the SERP is ruled by big brands. What small business owners are going to do then?

  38. Hey Glen,
    This is the free market. I have seeing this trend going on for a while. It’s almost impossible for the little player compete with this big brands; specially since we have to battle Google too (penalties, updates, etc). Can’t wait for any upcoming post. Great article as always.

  39. Does this provide an opportune time to create specialist websites that may get bought out by one of these big publishing companies?

  40. 1. new site gets hundreds of thousands of links very quickly
    2. Footer links
    3. sitewide links

    Where is panda or penquin algorithm? and manual deindex site Network ?

    Google not concerned with search results because Google guideline is not apply for Big Brands.

    This is very clear, Big Brand is dominating SEO so easily. It’s ironic, but this is fact

    Great post Glen!

  41. Wow Glen.

    Incredible job on this article and the amount of time you put into your research!

    I have no doubt that big brand dominance isn’t going away anytime soon.

    – Gotch

  42. Hi Glen, amazing post! It’s scaring to realize that most of the search results for lucrative terms are under control of a dozen of brands but it’s also fascinating to see how they did it. Obviously, you can’t replicate them step by step without being able to invest millions to get authoritative domains in the first place but there is still a lot that can be applied for smaller budget campaigns!

    Can’t wait to see your next post!

    Daniel from RK.

  43. Great write up as usual! Not all is lost though. We can use the same tactics to gain an edge. We can look at internal pages ranking and go after terms in a similar fashion. Terms that are less competitive will rank fast and when you get a couple dozen articles say on an alreay healthy dropped domain you can bring the traffic. 😉

  44. Thanks for all the research, writing and putting together. A lot of work in this one!

    What I find particularly interesting is that they are linking from the footer(hello sitewide) with hard keyword anchor texts(hello penguin). And maybe there is also a strategy behind changing the anchors every few weeks. Maybe not just testing out which ones work well, but to get rankings for all these keywords they are linking with, similar to link ghosting.

    1. I think if you remove a link it will still give power for 2 month. So by changing alot they can perhaps give much more power. Just a theory.

  45. That’s a massive post, Glen! And it’s a masterpiece considering how it takes your fight against Google’s Internet hegemony to the next level. Can’t wait to share it with my colleges who think Google is making the world a better place.

  46. Great post man. This really annoys me! Double standards by Google or what! In effect is this not just one massive PBN? Also are they not breaking Amazon TOS by listing price etc? I’m sure they will have their account closed down lmao!

  47. I’m so happy you wrote this post. I noticed Purch doing this about 12 – 18 months ago and was kind of amazed how they got away with it. Like you’re saying, they are their sites, so do with them whatever they want, but the fact Google was A-OK with the mini authorty link wheel that was created was a bit mind-boggling. Looks like the other bigshots have taken notice and followed suit.

  48. Great article!
    I am shocked! Firstly, on the Footerlinks and secondly about the big brands in the market. On occasion, I will set up a similar study for Germany and compare them with yours!

    My conclusion from your article:
    Even more aggressive steps: Links are kings!

    Thanks and best regards from Germany!
    Christoph

  49. That’s a great piece of content you wrote man.
    It is really not a new concept however you probably the first to dig into this like that.
    I’m a bit surprised by reactions where some say it’s unfair. Why is it unfair???
    It is BUSINESS with a big B, period.
    Eitheir you dominate or you go home.
    I dont think anyone would complan having 10 sites on page one, would they!

    Let’s learn from this and start to dominate our own markets.
    It is a learning lesson, hopefully people will take it like this.

    Thanks Glen for the good work.

  50. Interesting, so the sitewide link dofollow keyword optimized is still good if you have enought authority ! Not the case for small players… thanks for this detailed post!

  51. It’s kind of scary to see this Glen.

    And I think it’s going to get more tough to rank our site.

    By the way Great post.

    Thanks
    Shubham

    P.S – Waiting for your next week article.

  52. Hi Glen,

    Thanks for a great article.

    I ran across bestproducts.com a couple of weeks ago when a fellow blogger mentioned that he liked their site.

    I did a bit of digging around and came up with similar, but less in depth findings than yourself. The results from semrush shocked me and then digging around with whois made me want to pack my bags and head for the seo cemetery!

    My conclusion was that the shareholders of the big players inc Google are probably all members of the same “Gin and tonic mafia” and are working together to limit choice and make Google results similar to a walk in Mandy’s Moreofthesame Shopping Mall.

    Same Big players, same narrow selection of choice, but with the illusion of a wide range of vendors. In effect an oligopoly.

    I have now moved my focus to social media to drive traffic as I feel that I have more of a chance of being seen in this arena.

    RIP diversity in Google serps.

    Phil

  53. Crazy, isn’t it? I couldn’t help but write that Reddit article when i noticed this because it’s fascinating, and a bit disappointing. I’ve been researching this stuff as well and it just makes me feel like a crazy conspiracy theorist at times.

  54. Oh and also, I’ve noticed this for years but more so in recent months (6 months) mainly from Purch & Hearst, prior to that it was iAC, and About.com who purchased ConsumerSearch all those years ago for about $30 million.

    It’s also worth noting, as I mentioned in my article that it’s not just that these companies are beginning to realise how powerful and easy it is to leverage their network to launch new sites but also how non-competitive it is in the ‘best xxxx’ and ‘xxx review’ type of world and how much money can be made from affiliate marketing.

    A few years ago these companies were completely ignorant to affiliate marketing, they couldn’t care less because they were making big bucks from their display revenues. However, todays a different world and DSPs have made things significantly different, driving down CPM revenues, whilst their clients have also questioned the effectiveness of display and their competitors have begun trying to create more effective/measurable types of display advertising to appease their clients demands.

    Basically, these media companies have realised they needed a new revenue model and figured affiliate marketing might be it – they tried it and obviously it was a big success.

    Now they have the power, the money and the technology to completely dominate the SERPs and they’re all jumping in on it.

    I am massively tired as I’ve just flown back to the UK from South Korea, so if this comment doesn’t make complete sense don’t blame me 😀

  55. I predict a CompanyRank entity that will be spawned from Freebase, etc data and that would solve this issue pretty quickly when incorporated into ranking factors.

  56. Great article!

    This same type of thing happened back in 2007 with forum based sites. Two companies started buying up any site that had a Vbulletin forum running on it. One brand even bought out Vbulletin. http://mashable.com/2007/07/10/vbulletin-acquired-by-internet-brands/
    Another group has bought every forum it could get its hands on, from Doberman forums to Motorcycle forums. Take a look http://www.verticalscope.com/about-us/press-releases.html#

    Looks like the future will have one choice – Taco Bell 🙂

    http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–acgjVmwX–/694299962879075731.png

  57. Brilliant research Glen. I’ve been suspecting something similar being afoot not because I’m as informed as you are, but know just how much power and influence major brands have. The age of the mega-corp is full on top of us (as conspiracy nuttty as that sounds) and just like that documentary which I also watched, the notion of choice and being informed is an illusion.

    A while back I noticed how people were getting their news from Facebook and Google services that people liked, doing some digging on that topic showed me how this practice results in the subscriber getting a very distorted view of reality because all they get fed as “news” is only what they “like” and hence reinforces their beliefs and worldview. Over time, anything that they wouldn’t “like” is filtered out, and thus effectively censoring their perceptions to where “their” news is the only reality they know and believe is true. Nothing that can challenge or conflict with what they understand and know shows up in their feeds, making them unable to carry a actual informed conversation because their worldview is so biased.

    At any rate, I am on the edge of my seat in anticipation as TBH, though expected on some level, you revealed just how heavy that hand is against which my own SEO struggles must contend with. Though deeply depressing to have it confirmed to this extent, I value what you have shown us greatly and look forward to your advice.

  58. Thanks for the insightful post, Glen. As always your research gold. I think it’s naive to think that big brands don’t leverage a bit of shady SEO to get them that extra bit of exposure, after all, like you mentioned it all comes back to shareholders and profits.

    The SEO SERP race has never been more competitive. However, on the bright side, increased competition allows us as marketers to grow and become even more creative and innovative with our strategies. Marketers and SEO who don’t adapt quickly will get left behind and the ones who do preserve will be rewarded.

    Looking forward to your state of link building 2016 report.

  59. Very good price post! Goes to show how important the domains authority linking to you is. Google said the hell with the algorithm when they saw all these trusted da sites giving the new site juice

  60. Wow, I can’t believe I read the whole article but it was really interesting. I now do think the game has changed for national/organic search results, and like most things the power goes to the huge companies with deep pockets. Thanks for sharing

  61. Wow Glen, this was insanely interesting and really captivating!

    While I always new big brands dominated the search results (and rightly so), I was thinking of “Big Brands” as individual brands that are exceptionally strong… meaning if we put in the effort to build up our own brands, we could theoretically stand a chance. I didn’t realize though that so many of these big brands were all owned by the same media companies. Very hard to compete against them in these verticals I would think.

    I’ve actually given up (lost interest) in all my content websites (sadly), mainly because of the amount of work required to keep them going, and even then it’s hard to make enough money to make them viable, but your findings really do make me glad that I’m no longer barking up that tree… BTW: You were the reason I originally started building content websites many years ago… LOL

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the small guy can’t be successful with a content website if he puts the work in and persists, but I’m just saying that it isn’t for me as it turns out.

    Thankfully I’ve found easier ways to make money from websites that don’t require being a huge powerhouse media brand…

    As always you’re a legend for uncovering this, and thank you for all the hard work you put into researching it.

    Cheers

    B

  62. Thanks for another amazing article that for me, besides being so informative, just inspires me to want to write articles like you always do. I appreciate it, Glen!

  63. With the amount of time it me to read the article i can only imagine the amount of research and time it took you to write it up, great work to show us what really is happening and how bad it is going to get for small bloggers like myself in the coming days, would love to read a post on how we can counter or handle these biggies.

  64. Great post Glen. Personally I find this depressing as hell. Why? Because it seems to be part of greater economic and political trends towards concentrations of power and wealth inequality.

    Insane amounts of money and thus power are being concentrated at the very top, and so the illusion of choice presented by Food Inc companies and media companies is just part of a clever plan to keep people pacified, believing everything is balanced and they do have free choice.

    In actuality, (from an American perspective) power is concentrated in the hands of a very few corporations and the politicians they donate to, media to a few billion dollar companies, food, telecom companies, automotive companies, clothing… everywhere I look I see monopoly and oligarchy.

    Is this anything new? Perhaps not. Back in the day Vanderbilts, Rockafellers, Rothschild, dominated. Now there are different faces playing the same game of monopoly. Perhaps this is just capitalism on capitalism on capitalism.. the aim is to consolidate.

    But where does that leave everyone else? I like seeing Vox pop up in search because they hire good writers, however they can’t hire everyone. In a day where everything is dominated by the few, what is the average working Joe (or average Amazon affiliate marketer in this case) supposed to do? Work for bestproducts.com?

    Super depressing post Glen, but great nonetheless. I didn’t realize online media was so consolidated and I’m gad I do now.

    Keep them coming!

  65. Incredible Post Glen.You just nailed why you are viperchill again so this post tells me that I should focus on local location based results and niche influencers to make certain growth to happen in small business.Thanks once again for the work you put in this to make certain things clear.
    P.S-I read every word of your post.

  66. Amazing article, If you will look the search results in India, most of the top positions are occupied by ndtv, jagranjosh, Indiatv, abplive and so on…..

  67. Amazing job, Glen! Thank you for the in-depth research and sharing with us. Your finding is very solid and thought provoking. So much more substance than those so-called “gurus” out there “cough” Moz “cough”. You should be extremely proud of yourself because you put them to shame.

  68. Hi all,
    What a great article, I have ever read.So I got so many new things about google page rankings and other things around google, Thanks for sharing this fantastic article And I’ll waiting for another one .Thank you.

  69. when a proces becomes naturalised or commonplace accepted, it creates the environment for disruption. disruption can only occur when any given thing is normalised.

    if we accept that this is the new [possibly currently nacent] normal, then an opportunity for disruption is just around the corner.

    i dont really know how you can apply this concept here, but it seems appropriate therefore i share…

  70. Hi Glen,

    First, I would like to thank you for sharing such a detailed and much informative post with us. This post took my 20 mins to read it completely. God knows how much time you invested in drafting this post!

    Also, you have stated in your post “Side note: If anyone has the skills to make a similar graphic with the brands I covered here I would include it”

    How about if I give a complete infographic on this? Would you publish it on your blog? If yes, I will design one and send it to you.

    Once again for such a great post.

    1. Hey WeDig,

      Thanks so much for the comment.

      I already had one person create a graphic for the post so I don’t think any more are needed. Thank you for the offer though!

  71. Great post man. Whilst I sort of thought this was the case I never really saw any evidence to suggest it. For me it goes deeper, Food Inc is a great example.

    Is there anything the media and the banks don’t control?

    Further reading: anything by Noam Chomsky

  72. If the same trend continuous, then these huge brands will block all sources of traffic to newbie bloggers. They are not leaving any niche for others.

    Thanks Glen for your great work, I can understand how much work is there behind this post.

  73. Great post. There is a way to use this information to your advantage when deciding how to build authoritative links.

  74. Glen,

    This is an interesting post. Throughout the article, I kept on wondering about the articles I read about Google penalizing websites for paid linking or manipulative linking. These links were not paid but they were not that relevant and yeah they were manipulative. I am also wondering like you that Google was not able to detect it.

    -Nitin

  75. Oh the research…. This gets better than investigative journalism. 😀

    In all of the years I’ve been studying and practising SEO, it’s the first time I see something like this! When you think about it- given the slow rate of change in Google’s quality algorithm, and moreover the barrier of entry for new sites to compete in popular verticals- this was inevitable.

    Gonna share this all over the net

  76. “dark souls 3 review” – lol high five – love that game 😀

    Great article – has really helped inspire me with a challenging situation I am in with a certain website…

    1. Hah. Being honest I don’t play games at all. Just mined their top keywords to see what they were ranking for.

      Thank you Davro!

  77. The same goes in australian market where realestate (dot) com (doy)au dominates half the serp for most of the search queries related to real estate.

    1. They definitely do have the real estate market.

      I wonder if other niches in Australia have large oligopolies dominating as well. I don’t see most of the websites mentioned in this article in the Australian serps

  78. Great post, Glen. For me this goes back to 2012 when Google basically said: “we can’t stop these pesky little guys from gaming our results so we’ll only return the big brands for the important spots in the results because they’ll presumably have decent content.” And they didn’t think that the big brands would eventually be 10x worse than the little guys for their users.

    I find Google really crap when I’m looking for something specific or technical that I know some independent blogger would answer really well but instead I get bland general stuff from big brands.

  79. It’s kind of funny how some big sites can just come in swinging because they have the authority. Most Google updates really are flawed. Great post by the way, was a good read. Just found this blog actually and I was thinking the other day I needed to find some new blogs to follow.

  80. Hi Glen,

    Really interesting post, I wonder if these big brands will ever get penalised for these tactics – would Google even dare penalise this big brands? Probably not!

    It’s scary to think how easy these big brands are cornering the SERPs, from using a tactic that should really be snuffed out by Google. It seems just like a high powered private blogging network to me.

    It will be interesting to see if any smaller brands try this method and see similar results as the big brands, or if they in turn get penalised.

    Thanks for the great post!

  81. Great post. Best one I’ve read in 2016.

    Anyway, there is an easy fix for this. Pagerank should not flow between domains registered by the same company. about.com and verywell.com is both registered to “Registrant Organization: About, Inc.” for example.

  82. Wow! I’m just short of words! I knew Future owned alot of Tech related sites (T3, Techradar, Gameradar.. etc) But I NEVER knew about this interlinking and gaming Google by big companies. This would most certainly give small time/ individual bloggers a huge spacing in the competition. Oh well…

    Thanks for the article though, interesting read…

  83. I am afraid to link from one of my blog to my other website thinking I would get penalized even if I think it is relevant, and look at this big brand doing it. Especially, About, that they put the link of Verywell in their footer, and it is appearing on all their pages. When I check their url through MOZ, saw they 12000 plus newly discovered link, most of it from About

  84. I think that Google has awful double standards. Their methods of evaluating websites are completely non-transparent. Furthermore, just try to talk to somebody at their products forum. I have never seen more arrogant and aggressive representatives or the so called “top contributors”. The last thing you should expect there is seeing professional attitude.

    I also think that the most valuable thing for Google are people who use the search engine and the business that pay to reach these people. However, Google seems to forget why they became so big – because people love them. Things are changing very fast nowadays and I won’t be surprised if Google’s paranoid behavior and double standards for big and small companies soon or late turn against them.

    Personally, I stopped using their search engine. I got enough results from only huge brands. Let’s admit it – Google doesn’t give a *** about somebody else but those who pay them. A lot. Period. And I had enough with their double standard policy. I use http://www.duckduckgo.com now. Well, sometimes the results are not that great but I am trying to understand how can I find what I am looking for.

    1. Same here. But I haven’t noticed a difference in DuckDuckGo. Maybe I don’t care what is the most popular products (according to SEO). I’m concerned about what products meet the definitions I decide to use. Then I look for any negative comments on social media myself.

  85. So I’m not going crazy! Thank you for doing this. It is so revealing. Now I know when I’m doing research for my nutrition sites I keep getting the same wishy washy crap over and over again. I’ve actually taken to clicking onto page 10 of google and working backwards to find real information. Google never seems to bring up the exact keywords I enter, just what it thinks I must want. Pisses me off frankly. Thanks for this Glen.

  86. And this is exactly why we need to stop listening so hard to what Google “says” is right or wrong when it comes to link building. We are told no PBN’s – no exact anchor text and all this other “do or die” tactics we should not be using. But here they are REWARDING what even they would consider are grey hat tactics. I have always been on the fence about PBN’s — this just makes me think I should start one. Great post — just makes me think Google has no clue what they want. 🙂

  87. Great, insightful read Glen. As you stated, I don’t fault companies for doing this, I think it’s a smart and logical tactic. With that said, being an affilate marketer in some of those above mentioned niches can be a pain in the ass because of the monopoly of keywords/phrases some of the companies have online.

    I’ve gotten into the Rank and Rent method because of you. Shit, If I ever throw up enough niche related geo service sites using R&R that have some decent authority/rankings I’ll do the same as these 16 companies, why not…

  88. Have to say this is one of the most interesting articles I have read in quite some time. I knew of purch and how many sites they owned. But didn’t quite realise the extent of the other big companies having a hold on things.

    Thanks for taking the time to put all this together, must have been a lot of work.

  89. Great article and something I have noticed as well.

    I do think the same thing is happening in social media now a lot of the sites algorithms are going to be based on whats popular rather than real time. Twitter/Facebook etc can manipulate the results so the big companies will dominate and therefore….the rich stay richer

  90. I am very impressed with the amount of information that you have in this article! Wow, it is such an interesting read. I am glad I read it all the way through. I am sure this will help people understand the importance of the strategy to get your links to rank higher. You really did your homework here. As obvious by the amount of data that you researched and committed on. Thanks for all the hard work! I really enjoyed reading this!

  91. Awesome post Glen! Like anything else you carry more weight base on your affiliation and influence. That’s how the game is played most of the time. But there’s a lot of takeaway information here that I can use to my advantage. I’ve learned so much, impressive research and very insightful. Thanks!

  92. This is best Google-SEO related article I’ve ever read. Thank you for digging so deep to figure out the relation between brands and the giant company behind them. Hope Google might change their ranking strategy about cross referencing sites from huge brands to prevent Google itself from becoming next low-trust media. Thanks again Glen.

  93. Google has at least 2 patents that should not allow this to happen. Supposedly links from your own web properties should be worth very little (to limit voting for your own stuff). That’s one reason PBN’s hide ownership.

    Additionally, multiple links from affiliated websites you don’t own should be devalued too to a single link (to prevent a single entity over-voting for a site, so that sites with many independent links are pushed up).

    Apparently, Google’s web property affiliation detection algorithm is shite.

  94. Wow. You have done a TON of research on this one!! Awesome read. I only wish that I had control over big massive brands’ sites so that I could dominate the world as well. 🙁

  95. Great article and thank you for the work you put into it. Footer and site wide links are not an issue if they come from an authority site, especially those named in this article. If we look at verywell, the sheer volume of content it kicked off with would have taken a while to get fully indexed, the 301’s from about would have gone a long way to speeding that up and adding the domain authority required to rank.

    Interestingly if you look up about.com on 123-reg.co.uk you see this

    Whois Server Version 2.0

    Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
    with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
    for detailed information.

    ABOUT.COM
    ABOUT.COM.MORE.INFO.AT.WWW.BEYONDWHOIS.COM
    ABOUT.COM.ZZZZZ.GET.LAID.AT.WWW.SWINGINGCOMMUNITY.COM
    ABOUT.COM

  96. Oh my lord. I actually just stumbled upon this article from a *cough* certain webmaster forum (not mentioning any names), and after first glancing over everything, then going back to read it all, all I can do is let out a surprised, girly gasp.

    I honestly had no idea how many websites were owned by the same companies LOL.

    I have to say, I’m very, very surprised. Although at the same time, it makes sense. Much like the offline world, large companies dominate every aspect of commercial life. So naturally it would follow online.

    It’s a shame really, but what can you do. We, the little guys, just have to strive that much harder!

  97. I have actually been monitoring this myself for a while. BestProducts.com is the Goliath to my tiny David site as they’re demolishing the searches that I dream of ranking for.

  98. And don’t forget that these brands are spending millions in Adwords. When you spend so much I am sure any misunderstanding (read penalty) can be sorted out.They probably have several Google people on speed dial…

  99. “Hearst’s New Site for Recommending ‘Best Products’ Is Called BestProducts.com”

    Wow! Could they be more transparent about writing a post purely for SEO purposes?

    Great post as usual, Glen! This whole brand/trust ranking factor with Google really irritates me, both as a webmaster and a searcher. I guess I’m the exception, but when I’m searching for something, I couldn’t care less whether or not Google sees a site as a brand and/or trustworthy. I’m looking for an answer to my question and don’t care where I get it from. If I do, then I’ll go directly to that site.

    I’ve never paid much attention to most of my searches, but I know I definitely get crap results when searching for phrases related to food/nutrition and music. When I search for something food related, I get mostly magazine-style sites (most of which you highlighted in this post) and they’re all the same. Generic (at best) content, in list form, spread out over multiple pages. Not surprisingly, I use the back button a lot with searches like that.

    Music related searches are even worse. Lots of similar content (artist/album content from the AMG database) and in some cases, no content. It’s just an ad/crap-filled page that says something like “we don’t have anything for this artist yet, click here to add something.” Gee, that’s helpful. How does Google not categorize that as a soft 404?

  100. I like your article. What do you think is the most important strategy if you are a small business? Then do you know that you have Authority to do tactics like this? Or you have to have a lot of luck?

  101. As always Glen, you never disappoint!
    So let me get this straight.
    Google – “PBN’s are very bad, skew results,game the system etc etc…”
    Google – “Of course this does not apply to large corporate companies, then it’s perfectly fine”
    Am I missing something???

  102. Hey Glen,

    Great Research!

    If these companies continue on this track, I see why it can be scary for smaller companies. But, I also see it as a motivator, suggestion or strategy that we can all use.

    Built a strong, authoritative site- then create brands/sites based off sub niches in your authority site- and do what these companies have done- shamelessly announce and launch new site on their main site. No?

    I was thinking about selling my main site in January, but this article has me second guessing that.

    Or we can all just run away screaming lol.

    What do you think about that?

  103. Hey glen

    Great post.. so true unfortunately.

    I know i have come across toms hardware and toms guide consistently stealing my cheese with rankings against my software and gadget niches..i give them some credit… but no credit for thier questionable grey to shady link practises they could be associated with

    Cheers
    Jeff

  104. Really enjoyed reading your post. Best Products is really interesting in that previously that domain name would probably have been classed as far too vague and generic for online marketers or affiliates to build out. Wonder what will happen now to all the niche specific drilled down product domain affiliate sites. I think I can guess.

  105. Glen, I love reading your post, as soon as they reach my inbox, I leave everything else and read your post. Glad to have people like you in this industry who do so much research and come out with such excellent posts. I am sure Google team must be reading this post, lets see if we have some new updates coming up soon 🙂

  106. I think it is now time, based on this information, to think tank again, there must be something we can do about this.

    This post simply blew my mind and this has set me up to start a new series of experiments and discover how I can ever mimic this.

    I know it sounds like its impossible but some ideas have come to mind.

    What is also very interesting is that the links that give you the mega juice are coming from the WHOLE site (because of the footer). So it does not seem to be only just the main domain.

    It also gets me to think about the whole idea of link velocity… we are always scared about that but reality is that if something goes viral these days you can get tons of links instantly which is actually part of the things that Google wants to detect and rank for these days…

    I have made sites rank with ZERO links above Wikipedia just based on MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF TRAFFIC that google can detect… Im not talking about 1-2 clicks per day but over 30k clicks per day to the webpage…

    Like I said … I have to test many things now… it is almost absurd what we think we know but dont know really LOL 🙂

  107. Again great story Glenn, interesting to see what’s happening. Looking forward to your 2016 link building strategy post.

    Djordi

  108. “why is this link purple glen?”

    LOL! this was very interesting and was useful information. Thanks for all that you do!

  109. Great article Glen.

    We as marketers just have to try to replicate this by creating “branded blog network sites” , treating each site like a real business.

  110. Glen, I literally stumbled upon this post doing research for a sales letter I am writing about Domain Authority and how it affects everything you do with Google today.

    I’ve been standing on my soap box shouting out how this is happening.

    But you! Have organized it and wrote so eloquently all in one place explaining what is really happening beyond Domain Authority and Brand Domination.

    I immediately wrote a post on my blog http://www.slicktimesavers.com/blog and sent it off to my mailing list to immediately read this post and see how someone else understands what is happening in Google all because of what Google considers a change called Vince’s Change (not an update)

    It really should of been labeled Google’s dirty little secret similar to a magicians way of sleight of hand of redirecting you to focus on something else and not what really matters.

    I have to admit Google successfully pulled this off with very little to do about it and kept you focused on the latest updates of Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird etc…

    Studying this update in detail, Google even called out the damage control squad with Matt Cutts in control down playing it all the time.

    Well Glen glad to know someone else is paying attention

    I promise you have a dedicated reader of your blog, one of the few out there that can think for themselves and not afraid to say what matters.

    Good luck with your blog, you’ve got my attention

    Ed

  111. Great article. I’m not a fan of reading but I went through all of this and absorbed it all. A thought did occur to me. Google has been actively taking out website networks, but apparently, it’s only bad when the sites in the network aren’t giant names. Basically, they have their own link network that can augment any new domain and bring it forward. It sucks, to be honest.

  112. This is to me the best piece of investigation you have ever done.
    How prevalent is this serp takeover in local search? ill have too investigate also

    thanks again your a legend!

  113. OMG…. it’s amazing, very interesting article, buy links to rank is very expensive to hope rank on Google on competitive keywords like this sites…

    The lot of contents and links… to create this big sites, they must have a lot of money….

    To rank on this keywords is possible ? 🙂

  114. Good stuff here, though there are far more doing this than the ones you’ve identified. TripAdvisor and Zillow both employ similar ‘business crowding’ techniques. I talked about this practice in mid-January.

    http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/acquisition-seo-and-business-crowding

    And the aggregating of many domains and pushing them all into one is essentially the model Wayfair and Hayneedle used. One is doing better than the other but both are clearly a success.

  115. I am going to chime in one more time because I still don’t think that most everyone reading this really understand what is going on

    Yes Brand is given preference but here is something that I have not seen written anywhere

    This has to do with the knowledge graph and authority

    The knowledge graph is about how text related information is now categorized and grouped into things

    I even proved this myself to see if I was considered a thing yet and I am

    So it’s true the knowledge graph is about things, details of my test is out of scope for the point I want to make

    So let me see if I can make my point clear

    Dieting for example, there was a time when anyone with the right SEO and content could climb to page one,

    I know because I dominated #1 spots in this niche along with many many other single word keywords or just two to three for many extremely hard to rank keywords I dominated everywhere at one time

    Now Dieting if you really look into what is happening these days its about lots and lots of the rankings going to Experts, Doctors, hospitals, professionals who work in this field

    I know I have done very detailed work in this niche

    Forex another big one, who do you see now financial institutions, banks, stock companies, professionals that do this day in and day out, not someone who has a one hit wonder for content and SEO

    Lets look at Cooking anything related to it

    You will see professional chefs, television cooking networks etc… I hope you can see where I am going with this

    Today because of the knowledge graph you will never see sites that have not been assigned as a thing where it counts

    Products are assigned to organizations that sell products, not affiliate websites like we use to see dominating page one of Google

    Here is two quotes from very well known sites that prove what I am saying

    Quoted from SearchEngineLand
    “In 2008 Google’s then CEO Eric Schmidt said, “Brands are the solution, not the problem,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.” In 2009, Google made an algorithm update named Vince’s Change which favors brands”

    The original quote was from AdAge with more details
    “We don’t actually want you to be successful,” he said. The company’s algorithms are trying to find the most relevant search results, after all, not the sites that best game the system. “The fundamental way to increase your rank is to increase your relevance,” he added.

    This has all come about what Google claims to be a change in it’s algorithm and it was not considered an update

    Well B… S…

    I think this is one of the biggest updates in Googles history bar none that has gotten by everyone with very little notice after 2009

    Google has kept us busy with the better publicized updates such as Panda, Penguin, hummingbird, etc…

    It was even marginalized by the famous Matt Cutts and how it would affect the long tail

    He said it is not really about pushing brands to the front of the Google results but more about factoring trust into the algorithm for more generic queries and it would not impact the long tail queries.

    If you believe it did not affect the long tail think again, the SERPs prove otherwise how Brands Dominate.

    As this quote from SearchEngineLand put’s it “Google’s Vince Update Produces Big Brand Rankings; Google Calls It A Trust “Change”

    This is what is happening Glen brought to the front how these Brands got the point and capitalizing on brand preference by Google

    The Brands even tried to get the laws changed for pay for entry to do business on the internet

    Glen did a great job here on bringing all of this to forefront

    But there is a whole lot more going on here than just brand preference

    Some of it was justified

    For example

    If you had a medical issue wouldn’t you want relevant advice from a Doctor, hospital or professional than a one hit wonder great with SEO

    Google was legally obligated to clean up the results where it counted especially medical related keywords, can you imagine taking medical advice from an SEO wonder and getting sued over showing irrelevant results which Google claims does

    Investing, wouldn’t you also want great advice from the professionals who do this day in and day out

    cooking advice from all the great chef’s of the world

    so there is a positive side to things about this brand preference

    What Glen is pointing out is how these huge Brands use their power to dominate and not give anyone else a chance at making money because of their greed

    I know I sent a story to Glen to show I experienced this first hand how I was put out of business with a brick and mortar business making great money until a huge conglomerate put me out of business in less than a week for a niche I dominated selling to half of the United States

    Glen keep up the great work, I really glad I stumble upon your blog

    you got my eyes on what you have to say next

    Ed

  116. Excellent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too excellent. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is actually a tremendous site..

  117. Well, as you nearby pointed out somehow with the foodcompanies – Google shows exactly what companienetworks looking like in a neoliberal capitalistic age.
    It`s not Google. It`s the system.. again 😉

  118. One thing is for sure–the days of the 5-page keyword-targeted niche site are long gone. Domain authority is all (and I mean ALL) that matters. Just like the sites you listed above dominate content-based searches (how-to’s, tips, etc.), Amazon, eBay and other mega-retailers dominate product-based searches for the most part. I started noticing this about a year ago, and it slowly dawned on me that small players were eventually going to get completely crowded out by the 800-lb. gorillas of the Internet world. This whole theme of “content is king” is pretty much a bust at this point. Again, it’s all about domain authority. I’ve seen black-hatters use hacked pages placed on .edu domains to rank things that are completely unrelated to anything the school would offer, including Louboutin red-bottoms. Google’s algorithm appears “smart” until you see how they’ve geared it so heavily in favor of authority domains that quality of content is just an afterthought. Great post and insight.

  119. This is a very in depth article from a very fair and noble perspective, I have been in seo and marketing for many years, and yes, I can agree with you and see how interesting it is to watch proof of how it works, but so much faster for the large companies, but more than that is how they are starting to have the ability to control the media even more now with information which makes us subject to dis-information. How many people will know to question what they search for and read in the results, I pray that we dont jump to believe the data just cause its on Google and continue to discern the information thats out there even more. Thank you for this great info and insight.

  120. Another one to look into is MODE media fka GLAM media. They own Ning & others. They also seem to be connected with Hubpages, though the only connection I can find is the badge on Hubpages in the bottom corner, and this page about advertising with Mode: http://www.thalamus.co/ad_partners/mode-media-group

    Hubpages used to own a lot more SERP real estate, but they have been slammed over and over by updates and I doubt buying and absoring Squidoo really helped them much.

    So what did they do? They’ve diversified. They’re moving their content out from Hubpages to niche websites and redirecting search engine traffic to these sites. I’ve found at these 21 properties that appear to be part of their new network, and if you look in your rank checkers, you’ll notice the most recent Google updates have been very kind to some of these fresh unpenalized new domains that are borrowing traffic from Hubpages,.

    ReelRundown.com
    LevelSkip.com
    https://holidappy.com
    https://kindredbond.com
    https://howtheyplay.com
    soapboxie.com/
    https://bellatory.com
    https://wanderwisdom.com
    https://toughnickel.com
    https://delishably.com
    https://turbofuture.com
    https://spinditty.com
    https://pethelpful.com
    https://marinascats.com
    https://tatring.com
    https://caloriebee.com
    https://axleaddict.com
    https://exemplore.com
    https://feltmagnet.com
    https://letterpile.com
    https://dengarden.com

    Just something to look into, if you’re still doing research into this media consolidation thing.

  121. Awesome article Glen, it shows what really matters: Money. It’s not about great content, it’s not about happy visitors, earned links, low bounce rates, excellence or the stuff Google always propagates. It’s simply about having the deepest pockets, something Google paraphrases as being a brand. The rest is just the cesspool fighting for the crumbs that fall from the table. Exaggerated? A bit…maybe.

  122. Hey Glen you mentioned that the VeryWell site started with 50,000 content pages. I need to understand how much time did it take to write 50,000 content pieces

    OR

    Was it the same content that was hosted on various sub-domains of About.com and when this content was moved to the new domain and links (permanent redirects) were pointed from old sub-domains to the new domain the entire ORGANIC traffic was sent to the new domain.

    But then in that case SimilarWeb would have shown this traffic under referral traffic…. Is there a way to show SimilarWeb ?

    But I m still stuck at 50,000 content pieces before launch. HOW???

    Manuj

  123. It’s not surprisingly. Look at offline where big companies create network of their offices/stores/productionstuff places. It is not only McDonalds, KFC, etc. Samples are in different niches.

  124. Glen, thanks for this heads-up. A really good read!

    Sure, if you think about it this is a natural move for the big brands. I guess we would all do similar stutt if we had the authortiy sites to do so. But I did never really think about what you are laying out here. As others have pointed out, I do think this facts will force Google to change their algorithms somewhat. Will I be happy when they do? Probably not. It would affect the ranking of a lot of seo’d sites for sure. And that could be spooky. Let’s see how this will play out 🙂

  125. Thanks for sharing Glen. There is a lot to take away from this. I cant help thinking that the fact that ‘money talks’ is influencing Google search results is going to be the 1 reason that may be able to bring Google down. If the same domains keeps coming up in every search result and they dont speak in my language. I simply would have to find alternative right?

  126. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog. I’m hoping to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own site now 😉

  127. Wtf this is really a shocking & interesting one.Internet is driven by these big companies either directly or indirectly therefore they are the true money makers of this digital era ,only a people with smart & little money will be sustainable here I guess .while rest will be flushed off …

  128. Great stuff!

    I have been playing vs the big guys in the auto industry since 2002. The real changes in that niche probably started around 18 months ago.

    As for the tech rankings when I see a verge or a cnet article I skip over it in the listings. Don’t really trust either of them. That’s just me.

    Thanks again for the info.

  129. Hey Glen,

    Truly fascinating. Just hammers home the imprtance of links!!

    When are you planning on finishing off your epic Facebook series? The first article was awesome and you promised several more articles months ago!

  130. The Reddit article you’ve linked to here is gone.

    I didn’t delete it, and no reason was given, so one can only speculate…

    How deep does this go?

  131. Unfortunately, Google’s algo is tailored to big companies.. The SEO blogs of today are tailored to big companies.

    I recently got into a debate with a “content marketing strategist” on GrowthHackers, who suggested it to be easy to spend 50 hours on one piece of content and then promote it – Erm.. No, Mr Average Joe who runs a local business isn’t going to spend 50 hours with a Word doc open, nor is he going to ever be able to effectively promote it to get organic backlinks, nor is he going to have the $10k/mo minimum budget spends your agency require.

    At the end of the day, whoever has the most money to spend on effective SEO campaigns will win because Google appreciates “authority” too much, it’s also why parasite SEO still works and probably will for a while.

  132. Time to change strategy? Apparently yes for small players.

    I guess some options are

    -rely more on subscribers that trust/like your content
    -be very niche, so niche that these brands have no interest.
    -local content where you are kind of an authority (of course not writing about things that can be automated content)
    -artisan related stuff: selling or writing about some kind of thing created by you or artisans that cannot be found anywhere else
    -…

  133. Hey Glen,

    That’s how corporate companies conquer in every part of the life. They already have such a vast networks with authority. So it’s a matter of the time they increase it 10X.

    For the small publishers, they can focus on collaborations to move above SERPS.

    One thing I observe is, Recently one of my articles got published in the PBS, within a couple of days, a lot of websites started linking back to my site.

    It’s more like content syndication with authority level.

    That’s a good read for sure.

    Cheers
    Suresh

  134. Glen, as always crazy insightful. As you were relating your findings – I immediately thought of Food, Inc. and then saw you made the same link! 😀

    Here’s where my curiosity and dare I say anarchist black hat comes out –

    Assuming the logic of DA and important valuable links is what is pushing these new properties immediately up in the SERPS and that Google is not hand manipulating the results (i.e. the algorithm is truly determining it)…

    Would it hold true that if the new properties were deliberately, consistently and in mass linked with spam links with a whole variance of spam anchor text that it would have the typical negative SEO results?

    Not advocating neg-seo just curious if this would be a possible way to combat the potential Big Corporation dominance?

    1. Negative SEO doesn’t tend to work very well on big brands that already have a lot of solid links pointing to them.

      Thanks for the comment, Allen!

  135. Hi Glenn,

    I only wish you had written this content 5 years back and analyzed some biggest networks.

    I’ve bookmarked this content, printed it and hanged on the top of my whiteboard.

    I’m reading this everyday now.

    Best,
    Naman Nepal.

  136. Nice to see your blog post.. I really enjoyed by reading your blog post. Thanks a lot for sharing this with us.. Keep on sharing like this informative post.

  137. I must thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own, personal blog now..

  138. Thank you for sharing this very thorough and insightful research.

    Its a sad day indeed that Google has allowed this. Compared to 18 years ago, the Internet is no longer a place where small business (Mom and pop type businesses) and big business were on an equal footing – i.e. if you produced good content and had a good site, you were rewarded with reasonable rankings. Thanks to the way the big G has changed over the years, the Internet now seems to belongs to Big Business, much like everything else in this world. Sad.

    Looking forwarf to your next post.

  139. Wow! Great work! Made me rethink many things.
    The little guy just got permanently, completely, irreversibly, cosmically screwed!

    There s a way for Gooogle to be more fair to all of us.

    Those top ten SERP results is everything.

    Here’s a way for them to make it 100 NOT 10 that gives everyone of the top 100 a decent chance:

    http://css-resources.com/Search-Engine-Optimization-SEO-Google-Privacy-and-Anonymity.html

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if the big G actually did this?

    Let’s all push them to adopt this, OK?

  140. Good reasearch and like you say, it’s easy to frame this as Google (the people and business) catering to big corporations.

    What really is happening is Google setting and algorithm, and big businesses having the resources to feed it the data Google (the search engine algorithm) wants.

    Sculpting site authority has been a common practice for at least a decade. We know that linking out to a site “leaks SEO juice” to that site. These companies are doing what many of us have done, cross linking at first, and more sophisticated strategies that involve choosing winners and losers before sites are crawled.

    Of course big companies have an advantage. they can buy smaller sites with authority, and now are learning to borrow authority from corporate cousins.

    When they decide to add new value with a new site, they tell everyone in their circle. The reason it’s not a Panda penalty is due to the content not being shallow and designed for search bots.

  141. This was a really insightful post, you’ve obviously done your research. Awesome job! It’s interesting that in the industry most of my SEO clients are in, 2 companies are always at the top of the SERPS – they both have the same owner. If I could just slip a tiny little link into their footer…

  142. I see what they did there! Is it fair? According to the current rules, yes. But is it moral? No way.

    The thought struck me, link juice is good, and usually gives a fair reflection on site quality. And the way things stand, more link juice = more traffic, but suppose there was a ceiling placed on it? That way small quality sites have an even chance with the big boys. It would be easy for Google to do, just place a maximum on ‘link juice value’ in the algorithm, and use some other metric (time on site?) to sort out rankings. But perhaps Google makes more profit from the big boys.

  143. One of the best SEO pieces I’ve read recently.

    Do you think it has something to do with the fact that the penguin update isn’t active in the last year and a half? Will it still work when penguin goes live and real time?

  144. Wow… great post, very true and informative. But what can you do against all those big company’s, all their trying to do is to earn more money. And in SEO big money talks.
    This just the same as a big corporate buys start ups just to dominate some niche market.
    Facebook -> Instagram. Microsoft – > LinkedIn etc

    The only way to fight them is to keep producing great and real content.

    Cheers

  145. Absolutely fantastic report.

    Just goes to show what a total SCAM the SERPs are. The whole idea is that Google is “supposed” to find the best quality search result. Your excellent research proves beyond doubt that Google’s algo can no more detect quality than it can smell a rose.

    Google is not catering to the big corps. Google just suck at recognizing and ranking quality content. They are supposed to be serving quality results, not just the results of those with the deepest pockets. The whole idea behind search engine ranking was that it was supposed to be a meritocracy – delivering the best quality, most relevant result. Having the best quality article or whatever should get you to the top of the results. Sadly, Google has created / enabled a situation where there is more money to be made gaming the system than there is delivering merit. And they wonder why people do it. In parental tones they will say “Now now children, always play by the rules, never cheat.”

    What’s left for the small business owner? Not a chance of competing with that kind of muscle. I’m so glad I got out of SEO and focused on social media. Small business owners can still rock a big Facebook page.

  146. Glen,

    Great article and well done. It’s funny how big G says one thing and what works is another. I gave a talk just last week to a room of local business owners stating much about what you are showing here, now it’s nice to see this data backing it.

    It’s important for the local businesses to be diverse in their SEO and drive traffic from multiple sources.

    The part that stuck with me was, the part about these sites changing out their anchor text several times, that was very interesting. I was under the impression this was (or could be) a red flag, but maybe that was just false data.

    Nice work.

  147. Hi Glen,

    Amazing post! It’s scaring to realize that most of the search results for lucrative terms are under control of a dozen of brands but it’s also fascinating to see how they did it. Obviously, you can’t replicate them step by step without being able to invest millions to get authoritative domains in the first place but there is still a lot that can be applied for smaller budget campaigns!

    Can’t wait to see your next post!

  148. This article, wow, sent chills down my spine. Working as a webmaster for both a personal website and a company, I wonder what it takes and what should we do to get up there in the search results….and fighting amazon and other humongous companies that use their online influence to spin out content and websites is not going anywhere…

    And now this. Wow. I also noticed that more and more results are being owned by the big companies, and many articles are written NOT for the user but for the search engine….and one big website links to another website to pull its rankings up….

    When will the new google, with voice search, contextual search, social search, and more updated human-looking-like and human-centered search engine be ready? I think it’s time to rethink the purpose of the search engines, the way we search, what we search for, etc – because the google search as it is right now, as good (not great) as it is, can be gamed! 🙁 🙁 🙁

  149. Hmmm, doesn’t sound very organic although I can see how they have gamed Google to make it look organic.
    I thought the days of mininets were long gone.
    🙁

  150. The travel sector is also one that seems to be dominated by the same 3-4 big brand domains that are almost always at the top for tours and travel searches – Trip Advisor, Viator, Lonely Planet, Expedia etc.

    Trip Advisor own Viator (leading online seller of tours) and actively push their tours on their site. And Lonely Planet and some other guide books seem to only sell Viator’s tours on their websites.

    I am shocked to see IAC mentioned as owning/previously owning Trip Advisor & Expedia (not sure if they still do according to Wikipedia) showing the potential scale of this pyramid.

    But in this way the diversity of finding real local tour operators in other countries is replaced with a few selected operators very quickly, dominating the travel results for most tour, travel, cruise type of searches.

    Anyway really enjoyed your detailed study and making us question the big G.

    Unfortunately the range of results seems to be only getting narrower and narrower!

  151. good article though comes as no surprise to me. Google need to evaluate how they return searches.
    In shopping terms rather than information, these should be the priorities:

    Firstly and foremost it must be relevant to the consumers search.

    Does the content match the search terms used and is it an authority on the search term. ( Image, Content, a decent selection for ranges or generic terms.)

    Next. What do other customers think of the product. Does the product have reviews on the site.

    Finally what are the customer service reviews like?

    Links are not relevant to the searcher.

    The above we feel is the only true way forward that Google ultimately will have to prioritise as they challenge all old established SEO thinking which in my view has been for the most part about ranking rather than providing a better consumer experience….

  152. We too have noticed how the ecommerce company that dominates our market in the UK called Lovehoney.co.uk are linking to themselves to the tune of nearly 50% of their backlinks. For example, of their 165,000 backlinks, 65,000 approximately are from 5 of their own country specific websites i.e. in the US it’s.com, Canada it’s .ca, then .de, .fr, .eu and .com.au. The topbar on all these sites link to ALL the other country sites – dofollow. These country specific sites carry the same products and content right down to product descriptions so are all identical for the english speaking sites and the only different for France and Germany are translation differences. otherwise they are all the same.Majestic counts them all as being backlinks – so every page on every country site is a backlink to the equivalent page on every site they own. So in one fell swoop by having these 7 sites with aroundd 10,000 pages each with sitewide backlinks to each other, they just gave themselves approximately 70,000 backlinks. No way is this natural link-building or earned backlinks. This has not stopped Google ranking them above everyone else. Looks like we need to create a few country specific websites of our own i think.

    Gail Storm at

    Sinfulthrills.co.uk (and soon to be .com, .com.au. .eu. .ca and more) 🙂

  153. Wow, excellent analysis. This article does a great job of explaining the current state of Google’s search and how a select few B2C companies are exploiting the current environment.

    I was curious and spot checked the search terms you included on some other search engines such as DuckDuckGo.com and Bing.com. The results are dramatically different – BestProducts doesn’t do nearly as well. This behavior appears to primarily be an associated with Google search.

    Also, what’s interesting is that we’re seeing some of the same strategies used in B2C search now being applied to B2B. These strategies will no doubt impact B2B. While there are a lot of differences in the marketplace, strategy does cross over.

  154. Wow.. This is an awesome work. All those Search engine result page will be obtaining with more useful post. These tool will provide some niche to avoid some of the valuable section

  155. Great article and thorough research but this isn’t really that new…What’s also interesting to see is that many media companies are using social media the same way. Once they have a large enough following one Facebook page that they use to drive traffic to a website, they start using that Facebook page to drive traffic to another Facebook page or another website, and so on.

  156. Great stuff here Glen!

    I’ve seen something very similar happen in the real estate vertical over the last few years. Huge aggregator sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin as well as big authority websites like Realtor.com started dominating the SERPs, leaving most realtors fighting over scraps.

    I had one client who persistently would show up on the first page in his city. Know why? He paid $100K per year to sponsor his cities NFL team, in turn getting a sitewide link from their main website and links from the many other websites they owned. The large majority of realtors don’t have a large budget for link acquisition, so where they end up putting their budgets into PPC. Google for the win!

    Thanks again for the awesome article.

  157. Great article, for me it brought home the fact that these were a result of an SEO strategy, that is what most of us are doing. Always great to see the results of a well constructed seo campaign.

  158. I’m a bit surprised myself. I would have thought the big G would have looked at the site a but more than just backlinks. It does make it feel a bit US vs THEM, but if I was them, I’d most likely do the same, especially if its working!

    Great article! Thanks for taking the time.

  159. Hi Glen

    I knew it all along but you nailed it big time with this awesome research!
    Now I caught that line where you write google can’t catch on to this yet
    However I have a ‘conspiracy theory’ about what’s happening here:
    google places the ‘big guys’ at the top on page 1 so that the small guys feel pushed into spending more cash for adwords. Since there are million times more small guys, google can make way more money this way, exploiting the small peasants 😉
    also pushing the big guys up on the search results makes the results ‘more relevant looking’ as the avg joe who doesn’t know anything about SEO would recognize the big brands at the top….
    never mind google showing stuff you aren’t looking for and don’t want….
    who said google is a search engine anyways 😉

  160. This is no surprise really, I mean if I found out that my website could make me an additional 10 million a year ranking a new website I’d do it in a heart beat!!

  161. Everyone knows big brands own Google. I am not surprised to see this kind of practice getting great results. Google will only penalize small joes, as far as big guys, they get away with so much, that would be seen as pure blackhat seo tactics.

  162. Very interesting article, but the Big 16 (Jason) graphic mixes up Future and Purch properties. Also, IDG (who I work for, I disclose) should include PCWorld.com and Macworld.com among others.

  163. very informative article, for me it brought home the fact that these were a result of an SEO strategy, that is what most of us are doing. Always great to see the results of a well constructed seo campaign.
    Thank you very much

  164. Is putting sitewide links is still important? It seems yes… This articles explains easly how big brands are getting bigger and small brands smaller. We have the same on polish market. Big publisher getting in all subjects on thiers own subdomain, they are putting some sitewides and overranking all good webistes with profesional expertise.

  165. Hi Glenn,
    I quoted a part of your article :
    “Here’s some of the data I managed to uncover on when each site first linked to BestProducts (I bolded those that linked on the same day).”

    Would you mind telling us how you can get this data from (what date a website linked to others)?

    Thanks in advance,
    Jeffry Alexander

      1. oh I see.. I guess you’ve done quite a lot of work there. LoL..
        Thanks for the post and your analysis. It’s a top notch 🙂

  166. Am not surprised with what you shared here because i always know that anytime i land in any of your post i always learn something new there.
    Thank you very much for this wonderful post.

    Am trying to do my site seo because in the next 6months i want to dominate my niche in my location. i want to read all your post that talked about seo.

    Coming back soon.

  167. This exact formula, well almost exact is used by one other, a SINGLE Dutch developer who has one editor and one assistant, he created over 12 sites so far each selling for multi-million range with 500K-1M daily visitors and around $225,000 in PPC revenue a month all built and finished within 12 months. He has a feature on http://TheHustle.co if you go to their feature section its called the ” The Dutch Formula”, creating these large scale websites with tons of authoritative content and then ranking them for highly competitive keywords, same exact strategy he just sells them whereas Hearst keeps them in quasi giant PBN.

  168. Wow. I read this 1 month ago and keep thinking about it constantly and check the SEMRush rankings for BestProducts.bs. Now it is double, up to $2M and basically any article they seem to write gets automatic #1 spot in Google. I’ve always built quality links to the /page itself but I am guessing just by the mass of authority they have from their other sites linking to their /Category links that this makes it so any post under the /Category doesn’t need to be linked to individually, it just falls under the DA umbrella.

    My next question and sad thought is, then in 1 year from now we can expect this company to compete against itself and have 10 ‘best products.com’ websites to dominate the full 10 organic SERPs. And it kills the ‘niche’ sites too because once you get the big hard competitive keywords hundreds of smaller long tail get ranked easily for it too. Yes, super niche will always be around but now I’m just a little hesitant with the review sites I have been rocking.

    Great article but it makes me sick inside to keep seeing them grow leaps and bounds

  169. has anyone checked the history of those companies? There’s more behind hit, so dig deeper! They are not controlling only Google, they dominate entire media space, almost everything we buy daily, online and offline. Now take amazon in, what if amazon has a similiar practice?

    Today you have to be smarter than these brands, you cannot compete with them anymore.

  170. The only way to stop these larger brands is to build a crapload of high authority PBNs to your money site. You may or may not get slapped – it’s a gamble…but it’s the ONLY way to compete with them. You can do as much on-page optimization and “high quality content” as you’d like, but it won’t help. I would say 70-80% of it is links, and authoritative links at that. But even building high authority links slowly – this won’t get you anywhere b/c these massive brands are building links at the same time. The only way to do it is to use a LARGE PBN network. You may get slapped – you likely will. But if you don’t do this, you sure as shit won’t rank. And you are right – it will only get worse over time.

  171. A really well researched article it seems to suggest that if you can build domain authority you can get away with almost anything and therefore highlights the need to just keep building links to your root domain

  172. MAN! You are just great…………I am now fan of yours and that was first article read on the viperchill.com and you got my attention
    Seriously your article blown my mind

  173. Wonderful post Glen. All of us heard about large corporations dominating the SERPs, however the instance with Very Nicely was greater than fascinating

  174. Hey Glen!
    This is indeed a useful research. It solves a lot of questions in the process of developing a strategy for our brand.
    Getting to know what goolge is doing with their algorithms is always a hot topic that many people talk about. It’s great to read this post from you. Thanks!

  175. Been reading ViperChill for about 5 years, and only just stumbled across this one. Not sure how I missed it before – great read Glen thanks!

  176. There is no doubt that big brand dominance isn’t going away soon.
    amazing job on this article. The amount of time you put into your research is fantastic! Keep going!

  177. Thanks for the blog post.

    My two cents are this, they will dominate a handful of keywords but there are plenty more keywords still available that anyone else can dominate on.

    Plus at some stage an “elephant becomes to big to dance or even run” I.e. their size, skills and money at their disposal at some stage will count for nothing or even against them. So the small guy still has a chance or even a better one to rank.

  178. Very well written and eye-opening post, I can tell you really took your time with this and it is something you look at very seriously as well as many of the people who have responded in your comments section. Great job on this on and I look forward to reading through so of you other work, keep it up!

  179. This is an interesting topic and it’s not just Google that does it. Amazon is taking over the retail industry forcing many physical stores to be shut down and an estimated higher number of malls closing down in the next few years. They are getting more involved in food delivery and now buying Wholefoods and the way goods are bought with basically no staff. They are using the same model of shipping items and letting you try them on, use them and if you don’t like them you ship them back and only pay for what you keep. It’s tough to compete with them. Is the alternative to join them and just sell through their platform…who knows, but it is important to foresee the changes that are coming most likely sooner than later and prepare for them now.

  180. Just a giant web of referring domains that would seem to violate Google’s terms of service but they keep them all as legit sites so it is more of a conglomerate.

  181. Great post!
    High authority links work, PBN links work, but if they are high quality sites you don’t really have to hide your true identity. Spam backlinks in short amount of time are fine if are from high authority websites. Sitewide links are fine if it are from high authority websites. Overkill anchor repetiion is fine if it’s from authority websites. SEO is so simple 😉

  182. always a pleasure to read your articles Glen very informative, I just sit back with a coffee and read away, I actually already went through this article when it was published but someone on this page got mentioned in a group earlier today and it lead me back to this article which i just read again as a refresher 🙂 🙂

  183. This is really scary. I am getting the idea that Google traffic is harder and harder to get and we can get better and easier results from social media. This also means that Google suppresses content from other websites and you have no choices any more when you search. I just recently wrote a whole article about this on my site. I like Google very much, but it is starting to become a monopoly.

  184. Thank you. Excellent analysis, indeed! The common thing that these companies share is that their good reputation is the result of hard work and long-term ROI. Their teams also create a great amount of good content. I am running my company’s website, the lesson learned is to keep producing great content. But will we be able to beat those big companies? How much effort do I need?

  185. This is an awesome post and shocking at the same time.
    It is a rare SEO experiment. I included a screenshot on Very Well on my website.
    At the same time I am a bit sad, because of the monopolization of Google search.
    It tells me that we should not rely on Google as a primary source of traffic.

  186. Hmm. They really own google at their strategies. Now they are that big that does own the search engine. A good article about best companies in a search engine.

  187. 1. new site gets hundreds of thousands of links very quickly
    2. Footer links
    3. sitewide links

    Where is panda or penquin algorithm? and manual deindex site Network ?

    Google not concerned with search results because Google guideline is not apply for Big Brands.

    This is very clear, Big Brand is dominating SEO so easily. It’s ironic, but this is fact

    Great post Glen!

  188. Thanks for the highly informative article Glen. It’s truly amazing how these 16 companies pretty much control the world market. That’s why the success story of facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram is even more amazing. These companies rose out of scratch and built their dominance over the world. In today’s world people following is the biggest strength. You control social media, you control the people. Social media can be used to topple regimes anywhere in the world!

    Cheers,
    Jay

  189. Honestly, I don’t care what they do…

    How I see it, Google Search Engine is nothing more than a platform (and medium) I use to help drive more customers to not only MY website, and my clients as well.

    EVERY major company will align itself with certain partners who it shows favoritism for. That’s just how it goes.

  190. Great article! for me it brought home the fact that these were a result of an SEO strategy, that is what most of us are doing. Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed article.

  191. nice post and good blog, thanks for sharing your research. Didn’t Google tell us (last year or the year before) that they would rank Brands above anything else in the future? Those 16 companies have taken advantage of that and it is good to see it revealed like in your post. Kind of tying the ends togehter. Good work, mate. keep in post btw 🙂

  192. Hey Glen, Awesome post . I learned alot, although it was a length post i read the whole thing! Also i did subscibe to your case study and hope to pick up my firrst client!
    Regards,
    Tom

  193. Hey GLEN,

    wow, so many comments – just shows how much you know what you’re talking about, and how many people are hungry for this content. By the way, I’m in agreement. Time to fight back 😉

    Joe D.

  194. What an outstanding post. I’ve seen this somewhere on youtube, about the big companies that own the world’s supplies these must be the same ones that own google results as well. Getting suspicious here haha. Must be the Rothschilds. Thanks for the great lengthy post, kept me reading for some time. Keep it up.

  195. Your post speaks a loads of information. Great post. Implementing an every points you mentioned in the article.This is an awesome work. All those Search engine result page will be obtaining with more useful post. These tool will provide some niche to avoid some of the valuable section

  196. It shows that with mega budgets – one can easily manipulate search engines and dominate the first page for massive money generating keywords ! very good read …

  197. This is classic post, that still gets good read now because it’s even more relevant to what going on across multiple large volume searches. It’s interesting you used to be able to leech authority off a web 2.0 outside of YT, I’m seeing those lose to these big brands too.

  198. Well researched and written article, really in-depth. That’s what I call quality content. Again, this is proof there is more than 1 way to the top of the search engines.

  199. Great article. This seems to be the way of the world. Whoever is in control and can maintain control will generally keep control. Also with companies like this having the ability to bank roll and buy whatever and whomever they need, they can quickly become unstoppable. Just like 1000’s of years ago, whoever had the bigger army generally won, nowadays, whoever acquires the larger number of assets generally wins. Thanks again for the article, I’ll be back for more.

  200. The real takeaway from this is that Google’s algorithm can be gamed if you have a large network and a lot of money to launch a new website. In the article Glen talked about a new website being launched and being at the top of the listings almost immediately.

    What you need to remember when this happens for a competitive term is that this brand new website has pushed out an established website for that position. A website that could have been publishing articles for over a dozen years.

    It’s worrying because a lot of the content being pushed by these large networks is garbage.

    Mashable is a good example of this. Some of their articles are nothing more than a YouTube video and a two sentence description of the video. However, due to the following they have on social media, that crappy video share that took a minute to post will get thousands of shares and be ranked higher for key search terms than more worthy alternatives.

    I am not saying that a large network should not be able to push a little bit of juice to their new websites. Clearly they can and will. Though it is concerning how easy they are gaming the system.

  201. So this are literal PBNs. Yet SEO advice says not to link your PBN sites to eachother since it’ll give away the “trick”.

    Do you think this means that if you have a high quality PBN, with good “inter”linking, you can (and should) use it to pump new sites?

  202. This is a very interesting post do you think it’s happening in all SEO sectors and do you think Google should do something about it, for example, set up a new algorithm that prevents this. it’s very frustrating to see because a number of people in the SEO industry focus on a white hat strategies (good SEO strategies) when other bigger companies are getting away with using Shady strategies)

  203. I doubt that you ever scroll down the page up to my comment since it’s would be about 400th in the row, but I’m the one who faced such injustice in December of 2016. Being a sole person, not a company, I owned a website, which received 200K visitors a day (about 6,000,000 per month). In addition, I had 800,000 subscribers. The reason of my success was a unique web project, never seen before.

    I have never purchased even a sole backlink. All the data on my website were 100% original. I played the game according to the key rule — the original & exclusive content. I had backlinks from NYT, WSJ, Forbes, etc. All of them were obtained naturally. My project was living for two years.

    Eventually, in December 2016, Google punished my website without a reason. Today I have about 500-1000 visitors a day. My revenue dropped 200-400 times.

    Instead, Google has encouraged a group of websites described in your post + PMC (Penske Media Corporation).

    Unlike others, PMC’s websites spread quality content. But all the rest don’t know how to work in my niche. As a result, they spread fake news.

    I have undertaken a broad study in my niche and figured it out that I was not alone. Unlike me, some media conglamerats that owned over 500 websites in their network and have lost them all.

    If you’re interested in the results of my study, please contact me using the e-mail I left in this form. Otherwise, anyway, you made a serious job. I was excited while reading your blog post. Today I know that I’am not alone who dig deeper in such an issue.

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