Had a great time at SMX West Tuesday. Thought I might be going into the lion’s den, but I was pleased to see so few hands when Danny asked the audience at the end of the session which of them still thought Google had a brand bias. Was also happy to hear a lot of positive feedback at the end of the session, so thanks to those of you who came up to me afterward.

Wanted to clarify something I said during Q&A, as there were some incredulous comments in Twitter and during the session. If you weren’t there, Tony Wright had mentioned Coca-Cola as a site with high domain authority in Open Site Explorer. This is true. They are also the world’s top brand according to Interbrand– a firm that measures brand equity. However, they often don’t rank in Google for relevant terms, in spite of having high domain authority and high brand equity.

For example, I mentioned the keyword [cola], which they’re on the first page for but not above the fold. Many people remarked that no one searches on [cola], but Google seems to disagree, estimating 122,100 searches per month globally. The more common keyword, soda, has 124,800 searches per month globally, but Coca-Cola is even less visible for the keyword [soda].

In fact, as the above graphic demonstrates, if we were to look at the top non-brand keywords that are highly relevant to what Coca-Cola is, we can clearly see that Coke, by not being returned for relevant non-brand terms, is missing out on an opportunity to connect with a highly qualified audience who has identified themselves as being interested in the product that Coca-Cola sells. In fact, if we use Google’s US Market share to estimate global reach, the total market for just these six keywords annually is over 5 million searches; 3 million in Google alone.

But the point is not only that people search for soft drinks online. The point is that domain authority doesn’t mean much if you’re not getting traffic from highly relevant non-brand keywords. If you’re not getting traffic from highly relevant, non-brand keywords, you could have all the link equity on the planet and you wouldn’t be optimized for search. That was my point. Hopefully the figures here and the lack of search visibility for the world’s number one brand have helped me clarify my position.

If you missed the session, here’s the deck; and here’s the white paper with all the details of the study.