The illusion of choice is a powerful sleight of hand in marketing. Those who are in the know are better positioned to adapt and survive.
For search engine marketing, it’s the Google search results rankings or SERPs of our clients we have to worry about. A new report by SEO firm ViperChill shows that, while we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, there’s still plenty businesses can do to improve their search game.
Today, we’ll look at how a small number of companies control most of the space within top Google search results, what lessons we can learn, and how to use that knowledge to your advantage.
Parent Companies and Their Sites
It’s well known that a handful of parent companies — CBS, Disney, GE, News Corp., Time Warner, and Viacom, own most TV news outlets. Similarly, most of our supermarket choices are all owned by a small number of parent companies — Coca-Cola, Danone, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Kellogg’s, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever.
What’s surprising for web marketers, though, is that this situation largely holds true for many of our favorite websites. Just 16 parent companies own many of the world’s top internet properties:
- CBS: Cnet, Chowhound, Last.fm, Metacritic, 247Sports
- Condé Nast: Wired, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Reddit, Epicurious, Bon Appetit
- Dennis: MentalFloss, ExpertReviews, BuyaCar, CarBuyer
- Evolve Media: DogTime, CatTime, ModernMom, Momtastic, EverydayFamily
- Future: TechRadar, GamesRadar, MusicRadar, CreativeBloq, Business News Daily
- Gawker: Gawker, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker
- Hearst: Cosmo, Elle, Redbook, Esquire, Seventeen, WomensDay
- IAC: PlentyofFish, OKCupid, Match, About, Investopedia
- IDG: TechWorld, MacWorld, PCAdvisor, TechAdvisor
- Meredith: AllRecipes, Recipe, EatingWell, MarthaStewart, BetterHomes
- Purch: Space, LiveScience, ActiveJunky, ShopSavvy
- Scripps: TravelChannel, CookingChannel, FoodNetwork, HGTV
- Time: People, Time, InStyle, Essence, Fortune, FoodandWine, SouthernLiving
- Verizon: AOL, HuffingtonPost, TechCrunch, CrunchBase
- Vox: Vox, The Verge, SBNation, Eater, Curbed, Racked, Recoded
- Ziff Davis: AskMen, Geek, ComputerShopper, PCMag, TechBargains
Why It Matters
As you can see, many of these big brands are buying multiple domains within the same market niche. Look at IAC, which owns three of the top US online dating websites. An internet search for “online dating” is likely to turn up multiple search entries on the front page that are all owned by IAC. For a recipe search, Meredith’s web properties will likely dominate.
If your small business also occupies one of these popular industry niches, you’ve got stiff competition from some very well-situated mega-corporations. What’s revealing about the ViperChill report, is that your recipe site isn’t fighting for a top ranking against several separate sites, like AllRecipes, Recipe, EatingWell, etc. You’re fighting a whole team of Meredith websites which are working together in concert.
How These Sites Rank at the Top of SERPs
It turns out that some of these big corporations are working together to improve their SERPs. The ViperChill report details how Hearst was able to earn 600,000 organic monthly uniques for a new review site called BestProducts.
Without getting into too much detail, Hearst used best practice SEO standards, including linking to their new site from the footers of their many existing sites, to quickly gain authority for the new property. The report also noted that the way Hearst linked to its new site was tweaked over the span of a couple months, likely improving their rankings further.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Rankings
There are several takeaways from this report that can help you improve your own website rankings for Google search results. For example:
- It’s clear that domain authority helps. If you’ve built up a popular domain name with an established reputation for authority in your niche — that is, your content marketing is valuable and easy to navigate and other high-quality sites link to your content — then your site will rank better in the SERPs.
- If you introduce a new web property and have existing high-authority subdomains in the same niche, it can help your new site’s rankings to redirect those existing subdomains to content on your new site.
- If you have a single web property, focusing on acquiring organic backlinks can also have an impact. This, of course, means you need great content that gets shared, talked about, or that you guest-publish on high-authority sites. It suggests that thought leadership might once again be the key to improving your SERPs.