What are unlinked mentions?

Unlinked mentions are mentions of your site, brand, or related product and services on a published site that does not link back to your site, representing a missed SEO opportunity. 

What Are Unlinked Mentions?

Unlinked mentions — also called fresh mentions or just brand mentions — are textual references to your name, website, or anything directly related to your brand, on a website that doesn't link back to your website. Unlinked mentions are an indication that your name/brand recognition is growing (or already high), that you’ve done something newsworthy, or that you are relevant enough to other websites and audiences that they are talking about you. These can all be great for your marketing and branding efforts, but for them to really benefit your SEO, these mentions must equate to links.

Though similar to nofollow links in that they are not passing the full equity of a standard link, unlinked mentions are not hyperlinked whatsoever. This means your brand equity is growing, but your site is not receiving any link equity. Links play a large part in Google’s search algorithm — some would say they are one of the most important aspects of ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs). While internal links can help send semantic signals to search engines about the context of content on your site, backlinks from other domains can help build authority for your website. Link-building can take time and effort, as content creators must convince site owners that their content is worth putting on their site. Creating unique, linkable content can help open the door, but still typically requires manual outreach and promotion to entice other sites to host links to the content. The benefit of unlinked mentions is that people — or other sites — are already talking about your brand. Outreaching these sites to turn such mentions into backlinks can be a powerful, effective way to earn more links.

Why Are Unlinked Mentions Important?

Unlinked mentions are missed opportunities to earn valuable backlinks. Although Google may give value to a mention even if it is unlinked, links provide a greater amount of search engine optimization (SEO) value. When Google implemented its Penguin update, the algorithm targeted manipulative link-building tactics, making quality inbound links more important than ever. Links from relevant and trustworthy domains are extremely important for SEO efforts. 

Google stresses the importance of website quality according to the E-A-T concept:

  • Expertise: Is the creator of the content an expert on the subject?
  • Authority: Is the content and evidence accepted by most authorities in a field?
  • Trustworthiness: Does the creator provide honest and true information?

The recognition from websites that follow the E-A-T concept will lend credibility and authority to your website. Likewise, your own site will be following the concept by gaining these quality backlinks. Additionally, by securing quality backlinks to your site, you are helping guide potential customers directly to your website.

When Shouldn’t You Seek Out Unlinked Mentions?

While backlinks are an important ranking factor for SEO, some mentions could be potentially harmful to your site:

  • When sites talk negatively about your brand: Above all, site owners want to maintain a solid reputation for their site. Linked mentions that talk negatively about your site could undermine those efforts.
  • When sites ask you to pay for links: This tactic is considered black hat SEO, as search engines strictly ban the buying and selling of links as a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
  • Private Blog Networks: Also considered a black hat SEO tactic, private blog networks are a series of authoritative websites used solely for link building which aim to exaggerate the number of links pointing to a website. 
  • Link Farms: Similar to private blog networks, a link farm is a website or a collection of websites developed solely for the purpose of link building, trying to exploit the number of backlinks to a particular site. 

It’s important to avoid obtaining backlinks through these means because Google could penalize your site, either by dropping rankings or even deindexing the entire site.

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Types of Mentions

Not all mentions are explicitly brand mentions. There are many types of mentions to watch out for, including:

  • Unique products or services;
  • Brand representatives;
  • Company representatives;
  • Slogans;
  • And anything else related to your brand.

Finding all relevant mentions of your brand can help send semantic signals to search engines through keyword-focused content.

How to Find and Convert Unlinked Mentions

Unlinked mentions can be hard to find, however, there are some convenient ways to get started. One way is to use advanced search modifiers in Google search. By doing a site search of your brand name, you can easily find pages that mention your brand’s name and check whether it is linked or not. Another way to find unlinked mentions is to use a backlink service like Buzzsumo, Buzzstream or Moz. These sites can automatically find mentions on a site and tell you if they are linked or not. 

After you’ve found unlinked mentions, the next step is outreach. To convert unlinked mentions into quality backlinks, you must reach out to the site owner and convince them to link to your site. This is typically done over email and can be a tricky practice that takes patience and communication skills. 

Tips and Best Practices for Outreach

Outreach can be tricky, but there are some effective outreach tips and best practices to help make it a smooth process:

  • Don’t be pushy if the site owner doesn’t want to link to your site;
  • Try to offer additional value to the site owner;
  • Word your request in a way that would benefit the site owner;
  • Be polite when asking for the link;
  • Compliment their site and thank them for their time;
  • Follow up after a few days if you haven’t heard from the site owner;
  • Track your outreach efforts in a spreadsheet to maintain relationships.

Unlinked mentions can be an easy way to earn valuable backlinks to your site. By putting in the time, effort, and patience to reach out to site owners who mention your brand, you could gain crucial SEO value that could affect your rankings.