The fastest answer to this question is ‘No, not at the moment.’
But fellow SEOs, let me tell you that unlinked mentions aka implied links are certainly gaining in power each year.
Why am I Even Bothered?
Years ago Google released a mathematical algorithm called ‘PageRank’. This PageRank metric evaluated the quality and quantity of backlinks to a website URL. This evaluation helps Google to determine a score for the URL’s authority and importance. However, like everything, people have manipulated this massively over the years.
Big websites like Wikipedia, Forbes and many others have made all their outbound links ‘nofollow’ because of so-called ‘black hatters’ spamming their system to gain link juice. However, would Google just completely discount the big sites’ backlinks from the link graph because they are nofollow? I don’t believe this is the solution.
In a recent post here it was an ask me anything to Google’s Gary Illyes where this question was asked – “mentions are picked up, but not counted as links which makes sense. What is something these mentions might be used for?” And Gary responded “Entity Determination”.
Entity Determination is becoming very important with Rank Brain and unlinked mentions are an essential part of entities within SEO.
There is an entity database. To save Google having to process the top results every time a query is run, a database exists that simply stores entities and their connections. Think of it as a link database, but for entities.
For more information on utilising entity within your SEO Strategy have a read of these articles:
Test Sites and Results
So a while back I thought it would be good to test this on my own personal branded websites (no before anyone starts asking I will not share my money sites).
Obviously, during this time I built a mix of dofollow, nofollow and unlinked mentions.
My results show pretty clearly that dofollow backlinks work very well as I am sure nearly everyone knows. But since many updates in the past 18 months, I have started to see websites of mine jumping constantly up whenever there is a new update that has more implied links or nofollow backlinks within the backlink profile.
So it got me starting to look into this more and there has been a clear pattern. Yes, 100% dofollow links are the holy grail and give the most power. But why not start grabbing yourself a diverse backlink profile of implied links and nofollow as well?
Do Social Signals Matter?
Do not even get me started on this subject because it has been an argument between digital nomads and growth hackers for a long time.
However, I am starting to warm to the fact that you need social signals for the justification of backlinks.
I think over the years people have tried to spam social and get millions of likes, shares, comments. Then when this does not directly impact higher rankings, they say it does not work.
However, from recent masterminds, we have seen examples of social creating a buzz around an article to help it rank directly. The discussion related to this was ‘Is it the social signals that actually helped the site or the referral traffic from those social platforms?’.
It seems crazy that Google would integrate Facebook into its algorithm. Remember Google is a business which makes money from paid advertising. Their biggest competitor to this is Facebook ads, so including their biggest competitor as part of their core algorithm has been the argument some SEOs have been fighting back with.
But from personal testing, I have seen direct rank increases in the SERPs when I boost my social signals that drive real traffic to my website. Again this could be the engagement from the traffic causing these jumps or it could be the social signals. But as part of my company’s standard operating procedures now we make sure to try and get real social shares that drive real traffic. I say real because friends who have tested the bulk social signal packages and fake traffic sources have had mixed results so get them real to future proof your SEO.
No one can predict exactly what Google is going to do in 2019 and beyond exactly. Even they will not know everything which lies in the future.
But something I would say for certain is to try and start getting your backlink profiles as natural as possible. This includes a mix of social, implied link and nofollow because it will give your pages more trust in my opinion. This will allow you more to play with on your dofollow backlinks going into 2019.
As the nofollow attribute is completely taken out of the link graph it is clear something should emerge from Google about this. Google is getting much smarter to understand the content. It’s able to work out if the wording is a positive, neutral, or negative write up. So references to your brands where the tone defines the reputation of your site could be important for the future of SEO. This reputation along with the unlinked mentions could easily be integrated into the algorithm.
Supporting Articles for Implied Links Helping
Gary Illyes who is Google Webmaster Trends Analyst talks about the importance of brand mentions here:
“If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding, crap like that. Then you are doing great.”
Duane Forrester who worked as a senior product manager at Bing saying how unlinked mentions are as strong a signal as backlinks:
“Bing figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings as a trial.”
Alternatively, you can visit Google’s Panda Patent where it says implied links can have the same weight as backlinks.
Reputation Management is Key
Be sure to track the reputation management of your brand. If Google is starting to understand a positive, neutral, or negative tone to content then you need to be on the ball tracking your mentions. There is an app called awario which can monitor brand mentions.
Make sure people say good things about your business. But if there are some issues, try to solve them to show that you care about your customers. This has obvious benefits for your brand to be resolving any issues. However, it also eliminates any bad press being picked up by Rank Brain or Google’s artificial intelligence.
Ahrefs have an amazing guide on turning all your mentions into backlinks. Check out this video on best ways to do this:-
00:00 In today’s video, I’m going to share how to find hundreds of unlinked mentions in just a few minutes. Stay tuned.
00:13 Hey guys, it’s Joshua Hardwick here with Ahrefs. Now before we get started, let me briefly explain what an unlinked mention actually is. So, an unlinked mention is a mention of your brand or something related to your brand on the web that doesn’t link back to your website. So you can see an example of this for Ahrefs on this webpage. The mention of Ahrefs doesn’t link back to ahrefs.com and it’s the same story on this post from Search Engine Journal. They mention AHREFS, but don’t link back to ahrefs.com. Now, how do you find these unlinked mentions? Well, there are a few ways to do this, but in this video, I’m going to share a super simple workflow for finding hundreds of unlinked mentions using just two tools. Ahrefs Content Explorer and Screaming Frog.
00:56 So first up, the Content Explorer. So for those of you that don’t know, Content Explorer is like a mini search engine within Ahrefs. It’s powered by a database of nearly a billion pages and you can use it to find mentions of anything you like across the web. So let’s search for mentions of Ahrefs and I’ll also exclude results from Ahrefs.com by appending my search with -site:ahrefs.com, so this just excludes any results from ahrefs.com appearing in the search results. You can do the same for your domain when searching. So let’s just hit search on that and see how many mentions we’ve got. So we’ve got over 15,000 mentions of ahrefs.com, of Ahrefs rather, which is a lot of mentions, so we need to narrow that down and I’ll start that by adding a language filter so that I’m only seeing English speaking pages.
01:47 I’m also going to add a domain rating filter so this just filters out any webpages on websites with a domain rating of less than 30 and I’ll also add an organic traffic filter because really we’re only interested in pursuing unlinked mentions on webpages that actively have some value and have some traffic. So I’ll just add an organic traffic filter so that we only see pages with 50 or more visits per month. As you can see, that narrows down the search quite a lot. We’ve now only got 564 results.
02:17 So what we need to do then, is we need to export these from Ahrefs Content Explorer. So let’s just do a full export and export those results. As you can see, within a few seconds, this file is available to download in the download section. Now, the reason we’re exporting this is that some of these pages probably actually do mention and link to Ahrefs.com and Content Explorer can’t tell us whether or not these pages do or don’t link to Ahrefs. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to grab all of these pages from this export and we’re going to use Screaming Frog to check for unlinked mentions.
02:52 So basically, we’re going to use the search functionality, the custom search functionality, in Screaming Frog to do this. So first up, go to Configuration, Custom, and then Search. In this first drop, down you want to select this Does Not Contain option, now in this search field, you want to end some regex code. Now, this regex code is available to download and copy and paste from the full post on the Ahrefs blog, which you can find at ahrefs.com/blog/unlinkedmentions, but I’m just going to copy and paste this in from a text file.
03:23 So this is what the regex code looks like. You can see that it doesn’t really make much sense unless you know regex, but that doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that you can change this part here, the ahrefs.com part, to your domain when doing this, and that will allow Screaming Frog to actually search for unlinked mentions to your domain, rather than ahrefs.com.
03:40 So once you’ve done that, just click Okay, and then we need to set up the crawler within Screaming Frog, we need to just make it a little bit more efficient, so it’s not going to take too long. So to do that, just go to Configuration and go to Spider. In this basic tab, you want to just make sure that all of these are unchecked as you can see they are now. So if any of these are checked, just hit uncheck them and we’ll be good to go.
On this Limits tab, you want to just make sure that this Limit Crawl Depth box is ticked and you want to make sure it’s set to zero. The only other thing I recommend is ticking this Always Follow Redirects option. So once you’ve done that, open that export from Ahrefs Content Explorer, I’ve already got that open just here and you’ll see that there’s the column containing the content URL. So you’ve got all of those URLs from Content Explorer, all of these URLs listed just here.
04:31 So what we need to do, is we need to copy those and then we need to paste them into Screaming Frog, which you can do easily just by going to Upload and Paste, and you’ll see that it finds 564 URLs, which is the same number that we’ve got here. So once we’ve done that, just click OK and Screaming Frog will start crawling all of those pages and checking for unlinked mentions. So that should take a few minutes to run, so I’m just going to pause this video quickly and I’ll pop back when that’s finished. Okay, so a few minutes have passed and you can now see that Screaming Frog has finished the crawl.
So now all we need to do is navigate to this Custom tab. If you don’t see that, just select it from the drop down here and then you need to select This Does Not Contain option, followed by the regex code that you entered before from this filter drop down, like so. As you can see, we’ve got a big list of webpages here and all of these webpages contain unlinked mentions. So they mention Ahrefs in this instance, but they don’t link back to ahrefs.com. You can see from the filter total that there are 2018 webpages here, so out of the 564 that we entered, 218 don’t link back to us, which is around 40%, I’d say.
05:40 So now, all that’s left to do is to actually reach out to these sites and request that they change that mention, that unlinked mention, to a linked mention and you can find outreach advice in the full post, ahrefs.com/blog/unlinkedmentions along with five other ways to find unlinked mentions liked these. So thanks for watching guys, and don’t forget to hit that subscribe button for more actionable SEO tutorials like this one.
Continuing to build dofollow backlinks is what is going to get you the most value for now. If you are unsure on exact practices to follow here then I strongly recommend hiring a link building agency to carry this out for you.
But as part of your systems and processes for your team then maybe look into integrating an implied backlink campaign, nofollow blend of links and social signals which generate you real traffic throughout your websites.
Although backlinks are still the core algorithm along with content then I am seeing this shift year on year. Traffic, engagement and trust signals are starting to grow further in value. Start to integrate this into your SOPs now to be one step ahead of the game.
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The full list shows the various backlink strategies for ranking higher in Google SERPs.
- 1 Why am I Even Bothered?
- 2 Entity Determination
- 3 Test Sites and Results
- 4 Do Social Signals Matter?
- 5 Backlinks for 2019
- 6 Supporting Articles for Implied Links Helping
- 7 Reputation Management is Key
- 8 Guide Turning Mentions Into Backlinks
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 All Link Building Related Posts