Google’s John Mueller was asked if “unlinked brand mentions” matter in Google’s algorithm. It is apparent from John’s answer that “brand mentions” are probably not a reality in Google’s algorithm, but he also stated that there could be value for site visitors who come across them.
There is a long held idea in the SEO community that Google uses mentions of a website as a form of linking.
One version of the idea is that if someone posts a URL like this, https://www.example.com but without making it a link, that Google probably counts it as a link. This is the idea of unlinked URLs, whereby a published URL can be used as a link by Google.
The idea of unlinked URLs then evolved into the idea that if a website mentions the brand name of another site, Google will also consider it a link. This is the idea of “brand mentions”.
But there was never any proof of this until around 2012 when Google issued a patent called Ranking Search Results.
The patent was several pages long and buried deep in the middle of it was the mention of an “implicit link” used as a type of link, which was different from an “express link” which is described as a traditional hyperlink.
The term “implicit links” appears only a few times in this paragraph.
Google’s John Mueller discusses unlinked brand mentions
Two main ranking factors discussed in the patent
To understand what the authors meant by a implicit link you have to scroll down the page to a section called “Background” where the authors explain what the whole patent is about.
These are the two most important factors discussed in the patent:
- The authors explain that they use independent links to a website as part of the ranking process. They call the site linked to a “target resource”.
- The authors also say they rank search results using search queries that contain a reference to a website, which they again call a “target resource.”
The patent unambiguously explains that this second type of link is a search query that uses a brand name, which the SEO industry calls Trademark Search Queries.
When the patent refers to a “resource groupit refers to a group of web pages.
A resource is a web page or website.
A resource group is a group of web pages or websites.
When the patent mentions a “Resource” these are web pages or websites.
The patent states:
“A query can be classified as referring to a particular resource if the query includes a term that is recognized by the system as referring to the particular resource.
For example, a term that refers to a resource can be all or part of a resource identifier, eg, the URL, for the resource.
For example, the term “example.com” can be a term that is recognized as referring to the homepage of that domain, for example, the resource whose URL is “http://www.example.com “.
Thus, search queries that include the term “example.com” can be classified as referring to this homepage.
As another example, if the system has data indicating that the terms “sf example” and “esf” are commonly used by users to refer to the resource whose URL is “http://www.sf.example. com”, requests that contain the terms “example sf” or “esf”, for example, the requests “example sf news” and “esf restaurant reviews”, can be counted as referral requests for the group that includes the resource whose URL is “http://www .sf.example.com. ” “
The above explanation defines what the authors call “reference queries”.
A referral query is what the SEO community calls trademark search queries.
A trademark search query is a search someone performs on Google using a keyword plus the name of the trademark, the domain of a website, or even a URL, which is exactly what the patent defines as reference queries.
What the algorithm described in the patent does with these “referral queries” (brand search queries) is to use them as links.
The algorithm generates what is called a “modifying factor” which modifies (re-ranks) the search results based on this additional data.
Additional data is:
1. A recount of inbound links using only “independent” links (links not associated with the site being ranked.)
2. Referral queries (brand search queries) are used as a link type.
Here is what the patent says:
“The system generates a modification factor for the resource group from the number of independent links and the number of reference requests…”
What the patent does is that it filters certain hyperlinks to only use unrelated links and also to use branded search queries as another type of link, which can be defined as a link implicit.
How the idea of brand mentions came about
Some members of the SEO community have taken a paragraph out of context to construct their idea of “brand mentions”.
The paragraph begins by talking about the use of independent links to rank search results, as described in the background section of the patent.
The system determines a number of independent links for the group (step 302).
A link to a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource of the group, that is to say a link having a resource of the group as its target.
The statement above is exactly what the whole patent talks about, independent links.
The next section is the part on “implied links” that has confused the search industry for the past ten years.
Two things to note in order to more easily understand what is written:
- A “source resource” is the source of a link, the page that refers.
- A “target resource” is what is linked to (and classified).
Here is what the patent says:
“Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both.
An express link, for example a hyperlink, is a link that is included in a source resource that a user can follow to navigate to a target resource.
An implicit link is a reference to a target resource, for example, a quote to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an explicit link to the target resource.
Thus, a group resource can be the target of an implicit link without a user being able to access the resource by following the implicit link.
The key to what an “implicit link” is is contained in the very first mention of the phrase, implicit link.
Here it is again, with my emphasis:
“An implied link is a reference to a target resource…”
Obviously, the use of the words “reference” is the second part of what the patent is about, referral queries.
The patent talks about reference queries (aka trademark search queries) from start to finish.
In retrospect, some in the SEO industry made the mistake of constructing a whole brand mention theory out of a single paragraph that was taken out of context from the entire patent.
It is clear that “implied links” do not concern brand mentions.
But this is general information on how “brand mentions” have been popularized.
John Mueller on Unlinked Brand Mentions and Google’s Algorithm
Question about unlinked brand mentions
The brand mentions question had a lot of basic information to unpack. So thank you for sticking around for this, as the knowledge is helpful in understanding John Mueller’s question and answer.
Here is the question that was asked:
“In some articles, I see people talking about unrelated brand mention.
I want to know your opinion in this case.
Do you think it’s also important for the algorithm, the unlinked brand mention? »
Are brand mentions important to Google’s algorithm?
The notion of “brand mentionsseemed unclear to John Mueller.
So Mueller, asked a follow-up question:
“How do you say, ‘brand mentions?’
The person asking the question clarified what they meant:
“It’s like another website and an article talking about my website’s brand, but there’s no link to me.”
Jean Mueller replied:
“I do not know.
I think it’s a bit tricky because we don’t really know what the context is there.
I mean, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, just for the users.
Because if they can find your website through that mention, that’s always a good thing.
But I wouldn’t assume there’s like some… I don’t know… SEO factor trying to figure out where someone mentions your website name.
Brand mentions are not an SEO factor
John Mueller has confirmed that brand mentions are not a search engine optimization factor.
Since the foundation of the idea of ”brand mentions” is a paragraph in a patent taken out of context, I hope the SEO community will define the idea that “brand mentions” are a SEO.
Mueller said brand mentions can be useful in helping users become aware of a website. And I agree that’s a good way to think of brand mentions as a way to build awareness for a website.
But brand mentions are not an SEO factor.
It is not because it is in a patent that it is used
A final note on the patent that mentions “reference queries”.
It’s important to understand that something isn’t necessarily used by Google just because it appears in a patent or research paper.
Google might or might not use it. Another consideration is that this is an older patent and Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing.
Watch Google’s John Mueller answer on brand mentions
Watch at 12:01 minutes: