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Google Looking to Review Under-Performing Small Business Websites

submit siteGoogle is giving small business owners a chance to have their sites personally reviewed by engineers on Google's webspam team. If you have a smaller site that you think should be ranking better against your larger competitors, this is your chance to plead you case.

Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts put out the call on Twitter for owners of smaller websites to submit their information via a simple Google form.

If you choose to submit your url, you will be asked to provide details about why you think your site is better – or higher quality – than others that rank more favorably and why you think you should outrank other, perhaps larger, sites.

Google has made it clear that submitting your site for review will not affect your rankings. This is purely an exercise in collecting data, but it could be an indication that Google is taking seriously the complaints of small business owners and webmasters that big brands have an unfair advantage in search results. The request for submissions came after an engineer on Google's webspam team expressed an interest in looking into the issue of smaller website rankings but thought he needed more examples of genuine small business sites than his group could uncover themselves. In an effort to provide more data, Cutts agreed to help out.

For several years, since what has been dubbed the Vince change, Google has been giving added weight to trust and authority in search results. Controversy over Vince began in 2009, when a WebmasterWorld thread developed around a discussion of changes people had begun to observe in the results for generic terms like “coffee” or “laptop.” Webmasters noticed that searches for broad, non-targeted terms like this were consistently returning results that gave top placement to large, nationally known brands. People began to speculate about “brand push,” wondering whether offline or online factors were the cause for the shift in placement. Some even wondered whether publicly traded businesses or those listed in the Fortune 500 were getting some sort of preferential standing.

Matt Cutts eventually addressed these concerns in a video, claiming that the adjustment shouldn't even be seen as an update, but rather as a “minor change.” The change became known as the Vince change, aptly named after the engineer who developed it. Cutts claimed that Google was not pushing bigger brands to the top of the page, but was rather beginning to factor in items like consumer trust and online authority when returning results for generic queries.

However, bigger brands by their nature have more on and offline authority than their smaller competitors. To be fair, much of this trust was built over time and with great effort, a lot of marketing dollars and a good product. But that still leaves the question: How do smaller businesses, which will necessarily have fewer likes, mentions, shares and links than larger companies, compete and build authority online?

Webmasters and SEO professionals continue to search for answers to this problem. One thing that has become very apparent is that shortcuts and cheats will not work in the long run. Google really is looking for value, and they have become better and better at weeding out sites that offer little to visitors. But if you believe your site is adding value and does deserve to rank better, this is your chance to take it directly to Google.

There is evidence, based on discussions and tweets, that Matt Cutts is looking at some of the sites personally. And, surprisingly, he claims he has only had a few hundred submissions so far. So while submitting your site may not directly affect your ranking, it could help Google understand how to address the big-brand authority gap that is so frustrating to smaller sites. The more data points they have, the better they will be able to understand – and possibly correct – the issue.