There has been an on going discussion on whether Google indeed has made an update so that search queries return results dominated by brands. For example if I search for a generic keyword, say online learning, the result would display more sites that offer online learning like schools and universities and less of sites about online learning guide, review of online education providers and so on.
Aaron Wall has claimed this is happening by showing us some evidence of several generic keyword phrases whose results show brand websites showing more prominently than before. He also thought that the non-trivial statements of Google CEO Eric Schmidt about brands and word relationships should offer valuable hint to SEO people on what needs to be done to improve search engine visibility.
Matt Cutts responded in the video that he refers to what most noticed (more prominence of brands) as a change, rather than an update. Such change happens on a small portion of the whole search scenario and shouldn’t be construed that Google thinks brands automatically gets Google’s favors.
Cutts said, “Inside of Google … we don’t really think about brands. We think about trust, authority, reputation, PageRank, high quality”, and that Google continues to use the criteria used in the past to evaluate websites for Google rankings.
The change most of us noticed is just part of 300-400 changes Google makes in a year, Cutts continues. Maybe most are not noticeable and this is among the most prominent among the whole bunch.
Here’s a video of his explanation:
So to answer the question posted in the title, Matt Cutts says, “No”.