Google has rolled out a new change to their results pages. This noticeable change is that of brand links for certain search queries.
For example, if you are searching for "baseballs", you might get links for Rawlings, MacGregor, Ussa, Easton, NFHS, and so forth. (See image below) If you do a search for snowboards (by the way... it's April 30 and snowing here in Utah) you might get links for Burton, K2, Ride, Forum, and GNU.
I have now seen this on a few occasions and each time the listings tend to appear near the top of the results, just below the ppc paid listings. These "brand links" are not links to the sites of the brands, however, they are links to SERPs for queries that incorporate those brands into them. For example, clicking on "Burton" will take me to a page targeting the search query "burton snowboards".
What this means for ecommerce SEO is a more important focus on optimizing and getting ranked for big for brands. In high school, we used Rawlings and Usssa baseballs. Until I did this search query this morning, I forgot that we used the Usssa balls. If I was going to purchase some baseballs, I would probably click on one of the two brands. If you were a dealer of Rawlings baseballs, optimized for Rawlings baseballs, and showed up high in the SERPs, you might have just got my business.
It is unclear whether these results have been rolled out on a mass scale or if they are just part of a limited test. However, many of the searches I performed this morning had the brand results. Also, no one really knows how to get your brand listed in these suggestions. It is assumed that it is related to how frequent theses brands are searched for in relation to their respective items.
I'll tell you this, when I do keyword research going forward, I will be paying close attention to the associated brands with particular search queries to see if there are any "favored" brands that I can optimize for.