Evaluating the Google “Vince” Update


Posted by Paul Williams, Search Analyst (Natural Search)

Google changed its search algorithm this past January in an effort to emphasize search visibility for sites under what Matt Cutts declared as the umbrella of “words like ‘trust’, ‘authority’, ‘reputation’, ‘PageRank’, ‘high quality.’” While it has been stated that Google does not think about brands, several companies found an abrupt hike in natural rankings to Google’s first SERP (search engine results page) for a smattering of generic keywords. When isolated, these recent ranking changes appear to affect keyword relevancy for authoritative public and private manufacturers and purveyors.

Cutts has stressed that this change “doesn’t affect a vast majority of queries.”  In that much, we can be certain – it seems only the very broadest of keywords have seen growth for these strongly branded companies on the same day. Terms such as “beer,” “batteries,” “toys,” airfare,” and “contact lenses” have been identified as keywords that this algorithm update has affected. Performics investigated historical ranking changes, with daily registers of movements, to verify that these keywords and their respective Web sites saw improvement during the middle of January.


Two hypotheses were used to investigate why this was happening. One presumed an association between sites that saw ranking improvements and public trading classifications, while sites that moved down were independent, privately owned companies. The other hypothesis presumed a re-weighting of important SEO elements that benefited strongly branded companies regardless of ownership status – namely, incoming anchor text (measured by allinanchor).

After consideration of both hypotheses, the latter seems to better represent the changes that took place, but neither confirms with certainty the changes that were executed. The changes did, however, promote strongly branded Web sites for broad, identifying keywords with which the rest of the Internet associates them, and it can be assumed that big brands can have an easier time ranking for generic item keywords. Perhaps the “Vince” update was an indication that Google’s algorithm is not perfect, and strongly branded sites that were following legitimate website practices were not properly ranking for their respective keywords; updating certain areas manually was the only way to combat illegitimate practices endorsed by other sites.


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