Competing Against Brands & Nouns Of The Same Name

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Crafting and nurturing a brand has perpetually posed itself as a dual endeavor demanding both effort and resources, predating the digital era.

However, the internet has notably shrunk the global landscape, intensifying the occurrence of brand clashes.

Over the last year, inquiries regarding these conflicts have surged in my inbox and during conferences, surpassing any previous frequency in my SEO journey.

When a brand shares its name with another entity, be it a brand, a geographical location, or a common noun, Google faces the task of determining the primary interpretation of the user query—or at least, the most prevalent interpretation among multiple possibilities.

Conflicts between nouns and brands typically arise in the following scenarios:

  1. During a rebranding process, when the research overlooks existing business names, neglecting the broader context of user search patterns.
  2. When a brand selects a word in one language without considering its usage or connotations in other languages.
  3. When a brand name coincides with a common noun, such as the name of a town or city.

Examples of such conflicts abound, including Finlandia, which denotes both a brand of cheese and vodka; Graco, representing both a line of commercial products and baby products; and Kong, shared by a pet toy manufacturer and a tech company.

User Interpretations

Based on discussions I’ve had with marketers and SEO professionals grappling with similar brand conflicts, a recurring theme—and a potential root cause—revolves around how Google interprets user intent.

When a user inputs a query, Google undertakes a process to identify recognizable entities within that query. This mechanism aims to enhance the relevance of search results, a principle delineated in its 2015 Patent #9,009,192. Moreover, Google endeavors to furnish related and pertinent results, along with various SERP features.

For instance, a search for a specific film or TV series might yield a SERP feature showcasing relevant actors or news items pertinent to the media in question.

This underscores the significance of interpretation in Google’s algorithmic workings.

When Google processes a query like “Nike,” it must accommodate various common interpretations and intentions within the search results. This holds true even for widely recognized branded entities.

A search for “Nike” yields a diverse search results page, comprising branded web assets like the official Nike website and associated social media profiles, the Map Pack showcasing nearby stores, Product Listing Ads (PLAs), the Nike Knowledge Panel, and listings from third-party online retailers.

This diversity in search results aims to address the array of interpretations and intentions that users may have when conducting a simple search for “Nike.”

Brand Entity Disambiguation

When examining brands like Kong, which share a name, Google’s entity and reference checks against the Knowledge Graph and other knowledge base sources often yield two prominent matches: Kong Company and Kong, Inc.

The search results page reflects this duality, with a notable presence of product listing ads (PLAs) and ecommerce results predominantly related to pet toys. However, the second organic result—highlighted in blue—leads to Kong, Inc.

Additionally, on the first page of results, references to a restaurant bearing the same name (specifically in UK-based searches) can be found. Moreover, in the image carousel, Google prominently showcases the (King) Kong film franchise.

This indicates that Google perceives the primary interpretation of the query to be associated with the pet toy company. Nevertheless, the SERP is diversified to accommodate secondary and tertiary meanings of the term “Kong.”

In 2015, Google acquired a patent outlining methods for distinguishing between entities sharing the same name.

This patent suggests potential strategies, including the utilization of annotations within the Knowledge Base. These annotations may involve adding a specific word or descriptor to aid in disambiguating entities with identical names. For instance, entries for individuals named Dan Taylor could be annotated as follows:

  1. Dan Taylor (marketer)
  2. Dan Taylor (journalist)
  3. Dan Taylor (olympian)

Determining the “dominant” interpretation of a query and subsequently ordering search results, along with the types of results displayed, often relies on several factors gleaned from experience:

  1. SERP Interaction: Google monitors which results users are clicking on when they perform a query, analyzing SERP interaction to gauge relevance and user satisfaction.
  2. Entity Establishment in Market/Region: The degree of establishment of the entity within the user’s market or region influences search result prioritization. Established entities may receive higher visibility in relevant searches.
  3. Personalization: Google considers how closely the entity is related to previous queries the user has searched, employing personalization to tailor results to individual search histories and preferences.

Moreover, from my observations, there appears to be a correlation between extended brand searches and their impact on exact match branded searches.

It’s important to note the dynamic nature of this process. If a brand suddenly garners a significant volume of mentions from multiple news publishers, Google will take this influx into account and adjust the search results accordingly. This adaptability ensures that search results align with users’ evolving needs and potential interpretations of queries at any given moment.

SEO For Brand Disambiguation

Establishing a brand isn’t solely the responsibility of SEO experts. It demands collaboration across the entire business, ensuring clear definition and alignment of brand identity and messaging.

Nevertheless, SEO professionals can play a significant role in this endeavor through various facets of SEO, including technical aspects, content creation, and digital PR.

Google’s comprehension of entities hinges on the principle of relatedness, gauged by how entities co-occur and how Google categorizes and distinguishes them.

We can impact this through technical SEO by implementing detailed Schema markup and ensuring consistent use of the brand name across all online platforms and mentions.

This aligns with how we portray the brand in our content and the frequency of the brand name appearing alongside other entities.

To strengthen this approach and enhance brand recognition, it’s essential to complement it with digital PR initiatives aimed at securing brand placements and reinforcing topical relevance.

A Note On Search Generative Experience

Considering that Search Generative Experience appears to be emerging as the future of search, or at least as an integral part of it, it’s important to acknowledge that in our tests, Google has occasionally encountered difficulties in generating accurate snapshots for brands, especially when multiple brands share the same name.

To assess your brand’s visibility, I suggest querying Google and generating an SGE snapshot for your brand along with reviews.

If Google is uncertain about which brand you’re referring to, it may include reviews and comments about companies with similar names. While the snapshot does clarify that these are different entities, if users are skimming through and only viewing the summaries, this could inadvertently create a negative brand impression.

Original news from SearchEngineJournal