Why You Don’t Need that Link to Get the SEO Benefit from an Online Name Drop: The Power of Linkless Mentions
We talk a lot about links in the SEO industry.
Here we’re going to talk about the absence of links.
How a mention without a link is good for SEO.
What is linkless attribution?
Linkless attribution is the mention of your business or brand without a hyperlink. An instance of linkless attribution is sometimes called a linkless mention.
Links have proven an easy target for spammers. Search engines have made efforts to break the dependence on links as a ranking signal.
The diverse set of clues the engines use to determine a site’s E-A-T (expertise, authority, trust) and relevance include a lot more than links:
- Domain/page age
- Social signals
- Traffic volume
- Internal linking
Examples of linkless mentions include:
- A brand or business named in a news story without a link
- A brand or business mentioned in a review
- Consumers in forums or blog comments
- Podcast and video transcripts
Mentions of your business or brand, even mentions without links, can send signals to search engines. If the mention is positive, good for you. If it is negative, pay attention in case you have an issue to clean up.
And let’s be clear here. I’m not talking about spam mentions. None of that shady stuff. Comment spam is not transferring credibility to your business. Search engines likely use the same quality assessment filters on linkless mentions as they do hyperlinks.
Why Linkless Mentions Are New-Era SEO #Goals: It’s about the Customer Touchpoint
Since the search engines’ crackdown on manipulative link spam, SEOs have adjusted strategy.
Links have always been the means to an end. When Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin published “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Search Engine,” they cited links as providing “a lot of information for making relevance judgments and quality filtering.” Calculating link popularity via PageRank, they argued, “corresponds well with people’s subjective idea of importance.”
That’s a long way to say: The end goal of the search engine is to accurately judge the pages people think are important.
Linking to a business is just one thing people do when we think a business is important. Primarily we talk about the business. Enter mentions.
Gary Illyes’s top piece of simple SEO advice is to get people talking about your business:
“You want to make sure that people know about your website. You want to talk to people about your website. (…) The more people start talking about your business, the more visitors you get and potentially more customers. And they’ll also be more targeted.”
He’s talking about the value of people mentioning you in reviews and in social media.
Here’s another quotable. David Amerland sums it up when he says that people’s comments “help create validation independent of your own website.” Yes and yes.
In similar realms, linkless mentions share a border with the land of nofollow links; neither counts for link juice, and they have similar benefits. A mention is just more subtle than a nofollow link.
Here’s a snip from The Blogger’s Guide to Nofollow Links:
It’s no secret: Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most important forms of marketing there is.
And the majority of word-of-mouth marketing on the internet is done through nofollow links.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to fear the nofollow link or the linkless mention.
The True Value of PR for SEO & Customer Reach
Years ago, using press releases to drive links and boost rankings became a popular SEO work item. Its merit is debated even today. Businesses were built around providing press releases for link building and SEO boost, and the practice still has a dedicated following today.
Search engines devalued links in press releases, but the value of PR is still huge.
Done correctly, a well-designed and executed PR program can yield the exact results you think you seek.
But what if, after all your care and diligence, that article doesn’t drop a link? What if the publisher only links to paying sites (a common practice with the popular big names these days)? What if they just mentioned your name once or twice in the article? No URL, no domain and no link … Was it all for naught?
Relax. There’s still plenty of value in a linkless mention.
All that effort you put into crafting the plan, executing it, reaching out to the right people, answering the questions and so on … it all still helps you.
The next step for anyone reading about you in an article, when there is no link, is to search for you. If they are interested, they’ll search.
Now brand search comes into play for you. How well you rank for your products plays a role at this stage. All those past efforts to improve rank now come into play to secure that new visitor.
Then your UX plays a role to converting them into a customer.
Then your email program steps in to help keep them coming back for more over time.
All of that because you got the mention in an article.
But the benefits don’t end there. If the brand is searched enough, it can become an addition to the predictive search drop-down, potentially furthering engagement.
If the product is new or unique, the same action can happen. These can work to cement your position in rankings if searchers are finding you and clicking through to you.
When you take off the link blinders, you remember to pay attention to marking up your content or products, allowing the engines to start using your content in knowledge panels, including rating data and so on.
The truth is that with repeated, non-linked mentions across multiple trustworthy sources, your business can see benefits.
You might not see direct traffic from sources mentioning you, but the longer term benefits can easily outweigh the short-term traffic bumps.
Linkless mentions are a long-term investment that spreads your name far and wide. The engines can see this happening, and they’ll wonder why your brand or product is becoming more important. Then they start testing you in results to see if you please searchers.
That’s the ultimate goal. Pleasing the consumer. The engine wins and so does the business.
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