It’s been 10+ days since Google added ‘domain stacking’ or ‘brand stacking’ to their algorithm. In case you don’t know what brand stacking is: Go to Google. Do a search for ESPN basketball. I see six results from espn.go.com. Use a proxy to search for ‘Trek bikes’, and you’ll see six results from www.trekbikes.com.
Note: I prefer to use the term ‘brand stacking’ over ‘domain stacking’ because I’ve heard from many clients who thought ‘domain stacking’ meant you could get stacked results for any query. Use whichever term you like. 10 years from now we can all argue about who came up with which term.
In this article, I’m not going to try to explain why Google’s doing this. I’ve already donned my tinfoil hat a few times in this column – I don’t want to sound cynical. Ahem.
Brand stacking has some huge implications for reputation management. If you can get stacked results for your own brand name, that makes it harder for an angry customer’s negative review to show up in the top 10 positions. Google’s latest algorithm tweak can help you bury bad press.
The problem is, not all brands get the stacked treatment, and Google isn’t saying much (surprise!) I’ve been reviewing search rankings for a variety of brands (because that’s what a good search nerd does in his/her spare time), though, and have a few pointers that may help you stack results in your favor.
A look at the results
I researched 24 sites across 24 brands – not exactly a statistically significant sample, but enough to see some patterns. For this article, I’ll use Trek Bikes and Schwinn Bicycles as my examples.
Looking at Trek Bikes again, the top ranking www.trekbikes.com pages are:
The Schwinn brand doesn’t stack, though, showing only 3 results from two domains:
Here are several tips to help your brand appear similarly in search results, based on what I found:
Have a lot of unique inlinking domains
Much of the brand stacking algorithm seems centered around authority. Higher-authority domains are more likely to get stacked results. I know – duh.
But there’s a subtler message that a lot of folks miss in link building. What matters most here is the number of unique inlinking domains, not the sheer bulk of links. Several of the sites I looked at that did not get stacked results, had in the millions of links, but only 30-40 domains generating those links.
Focus the link love
Do a Google search for your brand name, using the inurl operator, like this:
[brand name] inurl:www.yoursite.com
That will show pages on your site, ordered by relevance (I hope) for your brand name.
Take the top 10-20 of those pages. Those are the ones that are most likely to show up in a stacked result, if you can get enough of the right signals to these pages.
The first signal: make sure you’re linking to these pages from within your own site, and make sure those links are ones a reasonable surfer would click. In other words, burying a link in the footer won’t help. In every case I saw, the pages included in stacked results were either in the top level navigation of a site, or heavily linked from body content on the site. No pages linked purely from footers or sidebars made the cut.
Optimize around your brand
Put your brand name at the end of every title tag on your site. At the end, not the beginning. You don’t need to hurt your other optimization efforts. Make sure your logo features your brand name in its ALT attribute.
And, since you’re already putting your address on every single page, make sure your brand name is there, too.
Use your brand name + keywords
Google does some semantic analysis. If all Trek wrote on their site was ‘Trek’, the big G would have one less way to distinguish between Trek bikes and Star Trek.
But Trek has ‘Trek Bicycle Corporation’ in the footer of every page on their site. Schwinn has ‘Schwinn’. Now, for an old fart like me, Schwinn is synonymous with bicycles. But they also make exercise equipment and other products. So Google has a harder time figuring out whether a specific page on the Schwinn site is relevant to bicycles, or something else.
Don’t count on brand-only stacked results
As a follow-on to #4, understand that very few brands will get stacked results for their brand name alone. ‘Trek’ doesn’t yield stacked results. But ‘Trek bikes’ does. ‘AMNH’ doesn’t. ‘Exhibitions at AMNH’ does.
Don’t count on brand stacking to defend you if all folks search for is your brand name. Instead, use the stacking algorithm to help you control rankings for common searches around your brand. Take a look at your analytics data, and see what brand + keyword searches bring you the most traffic. Then apply the above steps for those phrases.
For example, if folks search for ‘[YOUR BRAND] support’, make sure you have a ‘support’ page. Make sure it mentions your brand and the word ‘support’. Don’t count on Google to figure it out – make it painfully obvious.
Get external links for sub-pages
Simply shunting authority around within your site won’t do the trick, either. You’re going to need to get some external sites linking to deeper pages on your site. Every brand-stacking instance I saw used pages with at least 20 unique domains pointing at them.
One grain of salt, please
It’s very early on in the life of brand stacking. I’ve based all of the recommendations in this article on one part common sense, one part hard data, and one part intense contemplation of the wall opposite my desk. Please take these tips with a grain of salt, and comment below as you learn more.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.