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I have a website setup through WordPress on a custom domain that I control. It is registered in the Google Webmaster Tools, and pages will show up on Google, but not in the order I'd like.

I am working with others in the organization to include links on their websites to this main one to try to help. I have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, and many pages show the green circle, indicating great SEO on the pages. I even have the sitemap loaded to Google.

When I search for the company directly, it's not even on the front page. If I search for the company with no spaces in its name, then it shows up near the bottom of the first page. What can I do to increase its recognition based on its initials, or at least the company name spelled out properly with spaces?

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Okay. You are asking for several things that are fairly representative of common misconceptions in ranking a brand within search.

I am at a disadvantage not knowing what your domain name is. That being said, I will try and explain things the best I can.

The first thing you need to know is that a fairly new site will not rank as a brand no matter what you do unless that brand is already well known globally such as Bayer, IBM, GSK, Google, etc. This is highly unlikely.

To repeat what you have asked for.

You are expecting that your site would be found using your domain name without the TLD, as terms found in the domain name, and as initials for the brand name.

There are a few things you need to know.

First, Google, at least, will see your domain name in three different ways.

  • exampledomain.com
  • exampledomain
  • example domain

There are more, however, let's stick with these.

The first, the domain name, is one of the primary keys used within the search engine (SE) index. Everything, as far as your site is concerned, revolves around your domain name. The second primary key are URLs. But we will save that for another time.

The second does not make sense. It is not something someone would search for. As well, it is not a known dictionary term or brand (for the sake of argument). We will get back to branding.

The third are terms. Fairly common terms.

Do not expect exampledomain and example domain to be the same. These are two completely different animals.

I will explain it further.

Google is a semantics based search engine. It uses n-gram techniques to locate terms within a string that does not have word boundaries within it. For example, any sentence has word boundaries we recognize automatically; Sentence case (capitalization), spaces, and punctuation. It is a simple matter of extracting terms from a sentence. For exampledomain however, using techniques to extract the terms example and domain becomes important to know what the site is about. Hopefully.

There are several general truths we can count on. One is that we, as humans, are well trained to know what is important. The domain name, the page title, the header, etc. We seem to understand these in order of importance without being told. As humans, we try and communicate efficiently when required and often do this well. Given that, most domain names describe what the site is about. But not always.

Using semantics, Google tries to extract the meaning of a domain name in the hopes that it describes the site. In most cases, this works well. But not always. For example, evergreenpinegrowersassociation.com (my apologies if this is a real domain name) has several terms contained within it; ever, green, evergreen, grower, growers, row, and association. There is an important distinction here between ever, green, and evergreen as well as grower and growers. Using ontologies which are rather simple structure databases that represent dictionaries, thesauruses, names, fact links, etc., Google can see that growers is plural for grower and that evergreen and pine are related. In all cases, plural versions of terms are ignored so that growers drops from the list. As well, because evergreen and pine are related, ever and green are also dropped. The remaining terms are evaluated using algorithms and scores assigned to each term. As terms are related topically, the scores are higher. For terms that are not topical, scores are lower. For example evergreen, pine, and grower will score high because they are related topically. Association and row will score lower. Because there are many algorithms and ontologies along with a long history of term usage, the term association would score high while the term row would not making it all but dropped. This is because it is possible that there are other grower associations to build term relationships from and the term row has no relationship with evergreen, pine, grower, and association.

Google never makes keyword matches. Google uses semantic scoring to try and match the search intent with content. For this, Google relies upon semantic scores. RankBrain, while semantics has always existed for the search query to some extent, takes semantic analysis of the search query full scale. The semantic scoring of the search query is matched to the semantic scores of the content within Googles index. While this is conceptually simple, search engines apply many algorithms to the process. For any site to be found based upon terms within a search query, the content semantic scores must be high enough for a match to occur. Domain names are an important signal. However, for search terms to be matched to a domain name, the content must support this or it will never happen.

Now let's take some well known domain names; Sears.com and Walmart.com. Here, semantics does not help or help much. From Sears we get the term sear and from Walmart we get the term mart. For Sears, sear does not describe the site. However, for Walmart, mart does describe the site to a small extent. These are brands and as you and I see them, they carry unique and well recognized understanding. In the case of these two domain names, term recognition does not help, however, brand recognition does.

Google stores recognized brands into an ontology. Though brands are not always dictionary terms, they do have meaning and building an ontology of brands does make sense. It helps brand based searches where the brand does not carry semantic weight.

For any domain name, it must rank one of two ways; as recognized terms and/or as a brand.

Let's dig deeper.

Assuming your domain name is a series of terms. What happens? For any site that is new, you are competing against any other site for these terms. If the terms within your domain name are not supported with well executed search engine optimization techniques, your site will not rank as well. Even then, any new site with well executed search engine optimization techniques would still have an up-hill climb before it will compete with sites that have already established themselves. It is not realistic for any new site to expect to compete well for terms found within it's domain name. It is a matter of time, search history, click-through rates (CTR), time spent on site, time spent on page, bounce rates, etc. Competing in search for terms is not automatic. Google uses a sites performance history to gauge users satisfaction for the search term results. The more people who are satisfied with the search result, the more that page ranks for the search terms used.

Assuming your domain name is not a series of terms and is intended to be a brand. This is a much more difficult thing to achieve. Brands have traits of which the absolutely required primary signal is users searching for products or services using the brand name.

Lastly, you mentioned initials.

This gets a bit tricky. Part of branding initials is long standing. Many of the brands entered into any ontology using initials have existed for a long time. The search engine brand ontology (assuming there is only one brand ontology) is built from several source ontologies. One source is human edited. Another uses AI (artificial intelligence) computer learning to discover brands. The last uses known and trusted non-brand ontologies as sources such as Wikidata from Wikipedia. The human edited ontology likely has brands such as IBM already in it. These ontologies existed before search engines. Any ontology from trusted sources will come from a variety of existing ontologies likely fact link based. The AI based ontology is completely different. This ontology is derived from search history and 46 signals (my count) that Google uses to automatically determine a brand.

Putting it all together.

Let us look at GSK, GlaskoSmithKline, Glasko Smith Kline. Here you have the trifecta of branding; intials, terms without word boundaries, and individual terms. You will notice that their domain name is GSK.com. Looking further, you will see the home page title tag is Home | GSK. Their description meta-tag begins with GSK (GlaxoSmithKline). You will also notice on the Contact Us page the extensive use of Schema.org JSON code to mark-up their locations. Why did I mention this last one? Because there is heavy branding clues in this mark-up that both use GSK and GlaskoSmithKline.

I cannot get into all that GSK does well for branding. It is a case study and a primary example for anyone to follow. Well worth a look. GSK extensively signals it's brand as GSK and as GlaxoSmithKline. Taking it a step further, Glaxo, Smith, and Kline are names that exist within an ontology. In this, the GSK brand can easily be found in a variety of ways.

In this answer, I list some of the branding signals you can send: Local TLD vs. .com and .com/nl vs .nl There are more things you can do, of course, however, these are the most important and easiest to do right away. Here is another short list: google excluding site for queries for it's exact name

You can also use the pipe character (|) at the end of your title tag with the brand to follow just like the GSK example. Using the GSK example, the result would be GSK: Home. I do not agree with GSK using the term Home within its title and h1 tags. I recommend you use this opportunity to expand your search potential. Please do keep in mind that any title tag should not be longer than 55 characters if you intend to brand your page titles.

Also remember a brand is not a brand unless search users search for information using the brand name. This is where traditional marketing and social media come into play. You have to build brand awareness the old fashioned way. Waiting for Google will never get you there.

  • Wow, lots of information! For reference, it's BCMD, BC Mainland Division, at bcmainland.ca. I wasn't sure if linking the real site in the question was allowed – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Apr 13 '16 at 15:00
  • @CanadianLuke I had to make up for the confusing comment! ;-) I wrote this in the middle of the night. I will try and make it better when I actually do wake up. Go to GSK.com if you are familiar with HTML and SEO and poke around. It is such a classic case study, I should actually do a case study. Cheers!! – closetnoc Apr 13 '16 at 15:57
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You could create a Google+ Page for your company, (or claiming an already existing placeholder page if there is one) and adding the link to your on that page.

This seems to boost the ranking of pages too

  • I'll work on that tomorrow and report back if it makes a difference – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Apr 13 '16 at 5:39
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    @CanadianLuke Any changes you make will not be reflected by Google instantly. It could take some time for Google to actually change where and how your site appears in SERPs. – Analog Apr 13 '16 at 5:43

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