Many factors go into achieving effective search engine visibility, so a good SEO strategy must be comprehensive.
Naturally, you need to optimize your website for the keywords you want to rank for and see that your layout is easy for visitors to navigate. And building a healthy collection of quality backlinks is essential, as well.
But what about all those times a blogger, journalist, or influencer simply mentions your brand without actually linking back to your website?
Are those mentions still valuable from an SEO standpoint, and how can you make the most of them as you pursue your business goals?
Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.
What are Brand Mentions?
Also sometimes called linkless backlinks, brand mentions are pretty much exactly what they sound like — instances a brand is merely mentioned or otherwise discussed online.
Simple brand mentions do not come attached to backlinks, so they won’t add to your backlink catalog. However, you shouldn’t assume this makes them useless.
Search engines like Google and Bing are getting smarter. SEO is also evolving with the times and changing right along with the way people use the internet.
That said, today’s top search engines fully realize a brand mention, with or without a link, is worth paying attention to.
What is the Impact of Brand Mentions on SEO?
Although the exact formula Google and other search engines use to rank websites and brands isn’t known, we know quite a bit about what they do and don’t consider important.
Among other things, it’s understood that both Google and Bing now see brand mentions as powerful ranking symbols, and with good reason.
While actual backlinks are still considered more valuable, mentions are considered nearly as beneficial.
They are evidence that people are talking about a brand, which is more than enough to make it relevant.
In fact, Google has filed a patent that refers to linkless mentions as “implied links,” so it’s understood that they’re important.
There’s also strong evidence that Bing began associating non-linked mentions with SEO clout some time ago, as well.
Of course, as with standard backlinks, context is still crucial with brand mentions.
Google does examine the type of content surrounding the mention and the niche the originating website occupies to determine the value of the ranking signal.
The more reputable the website and the more compatible the content is with your niche, geographic location, and industry, the greater the positive impact on your SEO.
What are the Best Ways to Track Unlinked Brand Mentions?
Naturally, if linkless backlinks are this important, you’ll want to add tracking yours to your ongoing SEO strategy.
Thankfully, there are some fantastic tools out there that take most of the guesswork out of finding and categorizing your growing catalog of unlinked brand mentions.
Here are a few examples to keep in mind.
Google is famous for creating functional, hassle-free tools that take a lot of the confusion out of managing your business and SEO campaign, and Google Alerts is no exception.
You can use it to keep an eye on how many times any phrase associated with your company is mentioned daily, including the name of your brand or key product.
And like the rest of Google’s tool suite, Google Alerts is free, so you can leverage it to your heart’s content without hurting your bottom line.
BuzzSumo is similar to Google Alerts in that it makes it easy to track your mentions across many types of popular content across the web.
Use it to scour the web for mentions of your brand, team members, products, taglines, and more, as well as view data attached to each example.
You can also tweak the settings to exclude results from certain domains or that include specific keywords and phrases.
SEMRush is a terrific tool for streamlining your SEO process, in general, but its brand monitoring feature can also be used to track and identify your brand mentions.
This can be done across the entire web in much the same BuzzSumo offers. It’s also reasonably easy to organize, sort, and customize your results.
You can export your findings as a convenient CSV, as well — great for assessing each potential opportunity on a case-by-case basis.
Ahrefs Content Explorer can help you get on top of your online brand mentions, as well.
As with other tools, you can easily refine your results to exclude specific phrases, domains, or keywords if desired.
You can also perform queries within queries — another great way to finetune your searches as you go.
Although any tool like the above example would make a reliable way to find out who’s talking about your brand online and in what context, you may want to consider using several.
It’s the best way to ensure you’re not overlooking any golden opportunities to establish new collaborator relationships or even turn your brand mentions into traditional backlinks.
How to Turn Unlinked Brand Mentions into Links
Of course, while unlinked brand mentions are valuable just as they are, it may be worthwhile to see what you can do to get those mentions upgraded to backlinks in some instances.
Good candidates to approach about this are:
- Relevant, as links from unrelated sources aren’t valuable for SEO and may even be harmful in some cases.
- Trusted authorities, like top-tier news publications and other quality sources.
- Potentially capable of sending you high-quality traffic.
- Attached to a high page rank, meaning a backlink could allow you to share in their clout.
Once you’ve identified some candidates that meet these criteria, consider the following tips for successfully turning your mentions into nice, powerful backlinks to boost your SEO even more.
1. Plan your outreach efforts
Once you’ve compiled a list of quality links to the brand mentions you want to pursue further, it’s time to reach out to the original publishers.
Sometimes content authors will include some form of content information at the close of the content itself. But if not, check out their author pages, social media profiles, or personal website.
If all else fails, you can always drop the person a message on social media.
However, if the person expresses a preference for how and where to contact them, you should respect it. No one is obligated to link back to you when posting about your brand, so a little politeness goes a long way.
2. Let them know what’s in it for them
The fact that someone cared enough about your brand or products to talk about you in the first place is a pretty good sign that they wouldn’t mind hearing from you.
However, you should still always start outreach mail and messages by thanking the person for the mention and letting them know how deeply you appreciate it.
You want to build a friendly rapport from the get-go.
Keep in mind that many writers and publications receive a lot of emails.
Much of that mail is nothing but asks for freebies and other favors, so set yourself apart by letting your target know what’s in it for them if they help you.
Explain that adding a backlink to you would make their content more relevant, as well as make it more useful for their readers.
3. Make your target feel valued
The more pleasant and polite you are, the better.
After all, you never know when a simple request like this could turn into an ongoing partnership with potential benefits for both of you.
That said, after opening with a sincere “thank you,” follow with a couple of details that show you actually read and enjoyed their post from start to finish.
Don’t force things or lay the flattery on too thick, though. Writers, journalists, and editors who have been doing what they do long enough to be successful at it know a fake when they see one, and they won’t appreciate it.
However, everyone likes to feel valued and to know others genuinely enjoy their work. Sincerity is the key to success here.
4. Get to the point
Resist the urge to write your target a veritable novel when pursuing a backlink. Again, these are busy people who likely receive a lot of contact attempts and asks.
Also, the average modern person’s attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s, so an email that’s too longwinded runs the risk of losing the recipient’s attention.
So after a couple of lines of niceties, launch straight into your point.
And be prepared to respond with courtesy and appreciation even if they decide not to give you the backlink you asked for.
Some publications and websites have strict links policies, so it may not even be up to them. But even if it is, the correct response is a gracious “thank you” before moving on to the next opportunity on your list.
Wrap Up: Brand Mentions and Backlinks Are Only Part of a Mature SEO Strategy
The internet is ever-evolving, as are the various ways people use it, so it only makes sense that the same goes for search engines like Google and Bing.
That means your SEO strategy also needs to evolve if you’re serious about meeting your ongoing branding goals. Backlinks and brand mentions are a big part of that, but they’re still only part of the bigger picture.
Our quick SEO maturity assessment can help you figure out where you stand as far as your current campaign goes.
Identify what’s working, zero in on what’s not, and get the information you need to take your SEO campaign to the next level!