If you remember about 5 to 7 years ago the category meta tags pretty much died off. DMOZ also pretty much became a thing of the past. As Google got more advanced the need for things like these human created categories disappeared from SEO’s opinions on how to optimize and their priorities. The reality is that even though Google no longer needs you to tell it the category your site belongs in (my favorite was the Google PR meta tag, not to get off track lol), that doesn’t mean that Google does categorize the content and the brand of your site. It just means that Google thinks it is smart enough to do it on its own. My niche sites dominate any relevant term in their niche and optimize quickly for new products without an issue. They also sometimes index and rank without the keywords even existing on them. The reason I believe this is true is that even though I create brand extensions and new categories I keep them all in the same main category with proper links, content and partners.
Google Brand – The category that Google recognizes you are a part of. You may get categorized through content rich backlinks, copy and authority.
If you think about how you search and what you like, Google tries to predict what you would want to find. If you are always reading about blue widgets and love shopping for blue widgets, pink widgets probably aren’t going to do it for you. Google is also smart enough now to show you sites that feature blue widgets. Because those sites focus on relevant content to blue widgets and build links from other sites about blue widgets as well as get backlinks from news sites talking about blue widgets, Google categorizes it as the authority on Blue Widgets. That brand is now set with Google and if it is broken can be extremely damaging. If it is kept in tact it can dominate blue widget product lines and extensions as well as get long tail search terms much easier since Google recognizes it is where people go for Blue Widgets.
Now you get tired or think you have maxed out your potential for blue widgets so you decide that pink widgets are the perfect option for a second section. Although it may make sense to you, especially because you are now passionate about pink widgets, so you decide to go for it. The problem with this is that pink widgets and blue widgets may not categorize perfectly inside Google like you have in your mind.
Suppose you run a site about Las Vegas (Blue widgets) because you love the shows and enjoy talking about the variety of shows, local news and the touristy things like hotels, the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and everything else there. A few years later you get tired of writing about Las Vegas tourism and develop a love for the game poker. Because you know about Las Vegas and know that many people that go to Las Vegas like to play poker, it makes an obvious fit in your mind. Most people would probably agree with that statement as well. The problem is that Google doesn’t have a brain and cannot associate the two like you did. Something that it can associate are the online poker sites, which aren’t kid friendly and may be illegal, with the other part of Las Vegas sites that are for actual online gambling and Poker. Your site may now start to lose some of its authority and traffic because where it was once very family friendly in the indexes, it now looks like an adult oriented poker and gambling site. Because of the cross over into the new category it may appear to Google that the site has a new owner or you got indexed into a new category. Where you used to show up for a ton of terms because you were family friendly, you are now falling because you lost your family friend travel category for adult oriented gambling.
The reality is that your brand does count but probably won’t be the end of your site or thing that kills your traffic if you screw up. If a few hundred or thousand backlinks off of words like gambling would kick you out of a search engine or change your category then all your competitors would have to do is buy or build them and you would be gone. Google is a bit to smart for that. If you already have large penalizations and you end up losing your Google brand, that is when you may find your rankings falling and a loss of getting long tail and new keyword phrases easily when you add new pages. Try to remember when you are adding a new section to your site that Google cannot think on its own. Google can only know what it is programmed to know. Las Vegas is a city with travel and entertainment. Gambling is something that is illegal in certain states and something that is Adult oriented. Even though people gamble in Las Vegas, a spider or bot without a brain cannot know the difference or associate the two like you did on its own. Be careful with your Google brand because when you end up with enough penalizations, the loss of your categorization and brand can be what kills your site.