In the past few years, There has been growing concern about the control that a few companies have over Google search results. Glen Allsopp’s recent research has shed light on this concerning trend in the digital world: a small number of companies control a diverse range of websites in Google search results. This is much like how only a handful of companies control the products we see on supermarket shelves, as seen in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Food Inc by filmmaker Robert Kenner.
Allsopp’s report identifies 16 companies that own and operate at least 562 individual brands, which collectively receive an estimated 3.7 billion clicks from Google monthly. These companies typically publish English-language content across various niches, including Pets, Tech, Food, and Sports.
The companies identified in Allsopp’s report have a significant degree of control over a diverse range of websites in Google search results. This control is reflected in their financial success, which is partially attributable to the high traffic they receive from search engines such as Google. Their websites are present in 84% of the 10,000 product-review keyphrases Allsopp checked, indicating their widespread reach. There are still 16% of keyphrases where these companies do not rank at all, indicating some degree of competition.
Alisopp’s research revealed numerous interesting findings on the topic, including the following:
- The 16 companies ranked on the first page of 8,421 (or 84%) of 10,000 terms where affiliates are ranking.
- These terms cover various niches, including home, beauty, tech, automotive, cooking, travel, sports, and education.
- In 3,999 of 10,000 search results, the 16 companies claimed five or more of the top 10 organic rankings.
- DotdashMeredith emerged as the most dominant brand, with their websites appearing in 4,936 search results, followed by Hearst (4,304 search results), Future (3,724 search results), and Red Ventures (2,704 search results).
- One of the 16 companies’ websites was present in 84% of the 10,000 product-review keyphrases checked. This means that 16% of the keyphrases did not have the rankings of any of the 16 companies’ websites.
The control that a few companies have over Google search results can have far-reaching consequences. This control impacts not only businesses but also consumers, who may be subject to biased or incomplete information. It also raises important questions about the balance of power in the digital world and the role of government regulation in ensuring fair competition. The research conducted by Alisopp underscores the need for businesses to be vigilant about their SEO strategies and to explore new and creative ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded field. By studying the strategies and insights of big brands, businesses can gain valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t in the digital landscape.
Alisopp provided two takeaways from the report: one is to find it discouraging that few companies have such a strong grip on Google search results that it could hinder one’s own SEO-focused ventures. The second takeaway is to find it motivating to learn from the strategies and insights of big brands and determine what’s possible for one’s own projects.
If you want to explore this topic further and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issues at play, you can read the original full analysis here. The article provides additional insights and perspectives on the control of Google search results and its implications for businesses, consumers, and the broader digital landscape.
The list has piqued our interest, and so here we will examine the domain name selection and overall branding strategy of the companies included.
Fandom, Inc. (previously known as Wikia, Inc. until 2019) is a privately owned Delaware-based for-profit company founded by Jimmy Wales (the co-founder of Wikipedia) and Angela Beesley in October 2004. In 2018, Fandom was acquired by TPG Inc. and Jon Miller through Integrated Media Co. The company provides a wiki hosting service that mainly focuses on entertainment topics like video games, TV shows, movies, and celebrities. Fandom wikis are primarily hosted under the domain fandom.com, but some wikis that deal with topics other than media franchises were previously hosted under wikia.org until November 2021. In late November/early December 2021, all remaining wikis that were under the wikia.org domain were migrated to the fandom.com domain. Its then-current name, and the homepage of Wikia.com was moved to wikia.com/fandom.
Based on Crunchbase data, Fandom has procured a total of 12 major brands since its inception, with the most recent acquisition being announced last year. On October 3, 2022, Fandom acquired seven entertainment and gaming brands from Red Ventures, including GameSpot, Metacritic, TV Guide, and Comic Vine.
During the 2000s, Fandom (then known as Wikia) faced accusations of unfairly benefiting from a perceived connection with Wikipedia. Despite being dubbed “the commercial version of the non-profit Wikipedia” by the media, both Wikimedia and Fandom employees consider this label inaccurate.
Fandom, known initially as Wikicities before 2007 and later Wikia until 2019, derived Fandom was initially known as Wikicities before 2007 and later Wikia before 2019. The term Wikia comes from the word wiki wiki, which means fast in Hawaiian.
The history of the company’s rebrand started back in 2016 when Wikia launched a new entertainment news site named Fandom.
On October 4, 2016, Wikia.com was renamed “Fandom powered by Wikia” to better associate itself with the Fandom website. Wikia, Inc. remained under its then-current name, and the homepage of Wikia.com was moved to wikia.com/fandom.
Starting from November 2020, Fandom initiated the process of transferring Gamepedia wikis to the exact brand match domain Fandom.com for better search engine optimisation, which continued until 2021.
It seems like the decision of Wikia to rebrand itself as Fandom is a smart and effective way to reinforce the company’s values and vision “to be fans’ first choice for the community” while also distinguishing itself from the similar-sounding popular online source, Wikipedia. By adopting a distinct and memorable name, Fandom was able to avoid confusion among its users and establish its own identity in the market.
As the world’s largest entertainment and gaming fan platform, boasting over 350 million users worldwide, it is no surprise that Fandom Inc. secured the top spot on Alisopp’s monthly searched traffic list.
Red Ventures was formed in 1999 and focused on sites that dispense news, advice, and reviews. The company has grown into an international presence with more than 100 brands (such as Lonely Planet, CNET, ZDNet, The Points Guy, Healthline and Bankrate), 3,000 employees, and operations in the United Kingdom and Brazil.
The Verge provided an analysis of the company’s business model in 2023, describing it as centred around generating content that is optimised to rank high on Google for “high-intent” search queries and then profiting from affiliate links. According to the report, the company appears to focus on financial content, such as credit cards. The characterisation came after Futurism discovered that several articles published by Red Ventures properties, including CNET, were produced using an artificial intelligence software. The articles contained numerous inaccuracies and cases of plagiarism.
Red Ventures has a strong understanding of the potential of powerful domain names and branding strategies, which is not surprising considering its origins in digital marketing. The company has accumulated an impressive collection of domain names, including the exact brand match, RedVentures.com. This is a testament to the business’s focus on branding and recognition, as well as its commitment to standing out in the digital landscape.
Accelerate360, LLC is a major wholesale distribution company in the US that offers a range of products in the general merchandise and wellness sector that has a broad portfolio of services, including program development, distribution, merchandising, market research, and marketing, making it an ideal partner for businesses and brands. Chatham Asset Management, owns the company along with A360 Media, LLC (formerly American Media, Inc.). In August 2020, both companies merged, resulting in AMI’s renaming to A360.
This is a transformative event that significantly reshapes Accelerate and American Media into a new type of media and marketing company with an unprecedented reach all the way to the sales floor.David Parry, CEO and President of Accelerate360
Under the leadership of CEO and President David Parry, Accelerate360 has made strategic investments and acquisitions to increase revenue, while expanding its extensive distribution network.
Accelerate360 owns over 30 media brands including US Weekly and Men’s Journal.
Accelerate360 owns and operates on the exact brand match domain Accelerate360.com.
Brands generally prefer to refrain from using numbers in their domain names as it can cause confusion among consumers. One reason is that people might type the digit or type out the word, leading to incorrect URLs and potentially lost traffic.
Digital Trends is a website that covers tech news, lifestyle, and information. It offers a wide range of content including news, reviews, how-to guides, videos, and podcasts related to consumer electronics products and technology. The website is owned and operated by Digital Trends Media Group, a media company that also runs Digital Trends Español, a website aimed at Spanish speakers worldwide, and The Manual, a men’s lifestyle site. With its straightforward reviews and engaging content, Digital Trends Media Group reaches over 125 million unique visitors every month across various platforms and partners and has partnerships with several major syndication partners, including Apple TV, Android TV, ABC News, Roku, Oath, Fire TV, and DailyMotion. Digital Trends Media Group has its headquarters in Portland, OR and has additional offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Toronto, and Chicago.
The popularity of Digital Trends has experienced a significant surge in recent years. In September 2015, the website reported a 100-per cent increase in traffic, with over 24 million unique readers globally and more than 13 million in the U.S. As of now, the company has a monthly reach of approximately 30 million readers, who collectively view over 100 million pages each month.
Digital Trends Media Group owns and operates many premium names, including the exact brand match DigitalTrends.com.
Hearst Communications, Inc. is a massive American multinational conglomerate that operates across various media platforms. The company’s roots can be traced back to William Randolph Hearst, who founded Hearst as a newspaper owner. Today, the Hearst family is still actively involved in the ownership and management of the company.
Hearst’s extensive portfolio includes newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle, as well as popular magazines like Cosmopolitan and Esquire. It also holds a 50% stake in both the A&E Networks cable network group and ESPN, which are in partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Hearst also co-owns Complex Networks with Verizon.
Apart from the media industry, Hearst also owns several business-information companies, including Fitch Ratings and First Databank, expanding its reach into other sectors as well[
In 1895, Hearst acquired the struggling New York Journal, which was on the brink of collapse. He implemented a rebranding strategy and transformed it into a thriving publication. Hearst became an appealing employer for journalists, paying higher salaries than his competitors and providing page-one bylines for his writers. He also cultivated a reputation for being courteous, modest, and patient, valuing talented individuals regardless of their background or disposition.
Similar to the majority of the companies on our list of personal names as brand names, Hearst operates under the exact brand match domain name Hearst.com. This is a common strategy major brands use to improve their online visibility and simplify the process for consumers to locate them on the web.
14 entries operate on the .com extension. The popularity of .com is partly due to its ease of use and widespread recognition, making it a trusted and familiar option for internet users.
One company operates on the .io domain, which has gained popularity recently, particularly among tech startups. Country domain codes offer more freedom of choice but come with certain risks for businesses.
One company uses the .net extension. The .net top-level domain (TLD) was created in 1985, the same year as .com, and intended for network-related organisations such as internet service providers and infrastructure companies. However, over time, it has also become popular with businesses and individuals who were unable to obtain their desired .com domain name.
Out of the 16 companies on the list, 12 operate on exact brand match .com domain names. Having an exact brand match domain name is a great approach to building trust and credibility online, which are essential for making lasting connections with customers and gaining an edge over the competition.
None of the companies on the list has included a hyphen in its domain name. One of the downsides of using a hyphen in a domain name is that adding it to your domain name makes it harder to reach when typing.
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Premium domain names are a valuable asset for businesses looking to build a strong, professional brand. If you’re interested in purchasing a premium domain name for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information and assistance.
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