Everyone knows what a link is and their importance in the world of SEO. In 2014, Google released a patent where they identified a regular hyper-texted link as an “express link.”
An express link allows the user to click on it so that the user can navigate to a target resource. Google then defines a different type of link called an “implied link.” An implied link is a mention or citation of the target resource, but the user is unable to click on it to navigate to it.
Here’s a decent write-up about it when the patent came out – http://returnonnow.com/2014/05/citations-brand-mentions-implied-links-seo/.
In it, the author concludes that implied links are clearly part of the algorithm and probably have been for a while.
If you do some research on implied links, you’ll read several opinions stating that implied links pass juice. We read an article that went as far as saying that implied links and express links carry the same weight in the algorithm. This is a bold claim. We decided to test this out to see if implied links – just brand mentions, can affect rank.
Five identical test pages were created and indexed. The page in the #3 ranking position was chosen as the experiment page.
Each test page has two keywords on them. One keyword (the ‘product’) that is the same for all five pages and one that is unique to that page (the ‘brand’). The unique brand keyword of the middle ranking page was then mentioned in 50,000 articles across the web, without linking back to the page.
There have been no changes in the SERPs. The test page remained in the #3 spot. With all that’s being said about the value of brand mentions, these results were a little disappointing. There are a few explanations as to why this didn’t work out of the gate. It’s possible that the ‘brand’ is too new. It’s also possible that some express links might be needed to activate the power of the implied links.
In this video, Clint discusses this test and his thoughts on entities and rank.
This test number 63 – Do Brand Mentions, As Implied Links, Affect Rank?
I want to mention the brand, but I don’t want to link to it and will that increase the ranking of the website?
Back when this was done, entities and Tex trazor and Google NLP API, all that stuff, wasn’t even a thought. Maybe it was a thought in the baby’s eye but it wasn’t really published, we did some TDIF stuff and LSI, but we never really thought of entities in the way that we’re thinking of them now.
When this test was done, we’re just going to assume that the brand was just too new and that’s why the test failed. And in short, what we’re doing is instead of linking, we’re doing an article, blah, blah, blah, about something, and then we were mentioning a brand – Nike, and then blah, blah, blah. And the idea was, is this mention enough or do I actually have to have a backlink to Nike – nike.com, in order for it to be considered a link?
As I alluded to earlier, the test failed. This didn’t help or hurt the page, it’s just part of another piece of content. Today, what we know about entities is – first, when you’re a brand new business, essentially you’re not an entity. You don’t have a knowledge graph, you don’t have anything to say – hey, this is a legit business. And then what a lot of small businesses do, and because I primarily dabble in small business is we create our website and then we’re in small business and we’re serving a local community, for the most part, so we create a GMB. And this Google My Business results in a machine readable ID number for your business.
It’s not instant, just because you make the GMB, you’re not going to get the machine readable ID. It takes a little bit of time for those to kick in and then when you do see them, eventually you’re going to get either the Knowledge Graph or the machine readable ID for you.
At that point, now your brand, so we’ll stick with Nike, is an entity inside of the Google NLP sphere, right? So you have a machine readable ID, so now your brand is an entity, and Google is going to either associate you with that GMB or maybe even a Wikipedia listing, etc for the NLP purposes. But at the end of the day, Google knows that Nike is a brand ergo, a thing, ergo, it is an entity – person, place, thing, and event.
When you write about it, the content itself today is actually more on points – like if I’m writing about shoes, I talk about Nike, Adidas, Fila, Jordans. Having those brands listed in that article, say this article is more closely aligned with about the topic of shoes, and will say basketball shoes. So it’s more in line with the topic of basketball shoes because when you write an article about basketball shoes, you’re likely going to mention the brand of Jordans via Nike, Fila, Adidas, etc.
And today, we know that’s how that works. What we don’t know is, because this is a little bit harder now. Let’s say you have 50 pages, your brand, your website, it represents your brand. So your entire website as a whole, represents your brand. So, we can’t say for a fact that these mentions are helping, i.e. these unlinked mentions, we can’t say they’re helping, nor can we say that they’re not doing anything because all it’s doing is establishing inside all those contents is another thing where the machine learning or the AI built into the search results came across Nike, it associated that with this machine readable ID, and identified that this is an entity, and that’s what it did, and because this entity is associated with your website, ergo, more popular, this is a brand, more associated with these things, and here’s the link to that thing.
So if I’m talking about shoes, eventually, over time, Google is going to associate shoes and Nike together. And when I look for shoes, I’m going to see Nike pages, and not necessarily a specific page, I’m going to see pages from the Nike website.
Where this gets really interesting is what if we combine these into a couple things? So we have Nike and we’re doing unstructured citations at the end of the day, it is what it is. So if you don’t know the difference is, unstructured citation is just name, address, phone number, without the backlink and structured citation has a backlink. So we’re just going to do an unstructured citation and we’re going to note Nike, and then we’re going to say Nike, basketball shoes.
If I’m writing a whole bunch of content about basketball shoes and I want Google to associate Nike with basketball shoes, the idea is by keeping these together, it builds that association without the backlink, because this is a known entity. This is a known entity (Nike) and this is a known entity (baseball) and that’s a known entity (shoes). So those entities are all tied together and associated and I have 10, 15, 20, and 30 articles about basketball shoes, and all of them say, Nike basketball shoes, is it more or less likely that a Nike page that has basketball shoes will rank on the search results?
It’s early right now but we’re based off of the reactions of the search results and how entities are playing a part, that I think this is going to work a lot better. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about relevancy, I’m talking about these words being in close proximity to each other. In this case, they’re right next to each other. They’re all entities, and they’re all in a piece of content.
I could be talking about dancing and then this guy was dancing in a set of Nike basketball shoes. Google’s still going to know because machine ID is tied into the Google NLP, is tied into the machine IDs, tied into the GMB, and is tied into the Wikipedia that I’m talking about Nikes, specifically, talking about Nike basketball shoes, I’m talking about basketball shoes, and ultimately, I’m talking about shoes, and it’s going to figure all that stuff out and when it’s deciding the ranking, and it’s still associating this, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in related to content. So it’s really early to call that a win. But with the way NLP is working right now, in my opinion, it’d be really, really smart for you to start doing this. Whether you can get a link or not. In some cases, if you can’t get a link. Let’s say you’re doing a post about your Dallas roofing business and you’re writing about all this stuff and he’s like – I was wearing my brand new Nike basketball shoes and I was putting out some tiles and then I got the stupid tar all over the top of my shoes. I feel like such a moron for writing this, that would be a way of how you’d implement this and you’re just going to mention your brand, your shoes, and your style of shoes and you’re going to associate it and be able to tie those together. So that’s kind of how you would pull that off, really vaguely. Like why was the plumber having a brand new shoes, maybe you’re like areally cool plumber. But you can associate and you can do that with any brand.
Let’s say we’re doing, let’s talk about Digitaleer Web Design in Phoenix built me this great website blah blah blah blah blah, right? So Digitaleer, that’s an entity cause I have a machine ID, web design is not, but the web is an entity – purpose, place, thing, and design, I’m not sure if design is triggering an entity right now, but I know for a fact that Phoenix is, Phoenix is an entity. So it’s an entity, these keywords, and an entity, so ergo, Digitaleer is a place about web design in Phoenix.
Would this help me rank for the keyword – web design Phoenix? That’s what we have to figure out and see if Google is using it to that level or is it because it’s the entire thing about web design, and you mentioned this one place about web design, maybe you get associated with it without the backlinks, and we want to learn that. If they’re doing that, that would be a good way to eliminate the reliance or to reduce the reliance on backlinks by playing with this word association stuff and tying those together and getting the machine to do that versus sending backlinks, which in Google’s case would reduce link spam because now we have a better way to associate those words.
Something to test, something to keep going with on this test, we’re certainly going to redo this one and play with it and do some more stuff in place them with some variations. We’re probably going to have to do this on some live websites versus test sites. Just because we want to play around with other competing factors, versus a single variable where we don’t have a machine readable ID, and we’re set up for failure right from the start because our brand would not be an entity yet.
So we have to play with this and establish brands that have a machine readable ID, that are established entities inside of the Google legal ecosystem to test this and see if it works. But I think it’s a sound plan and it’s a sound idea, since we know that entities are a factor and that we know that Google is using those to determine the quality of content in regards to how the machine or the AI reads it. I think this is a logical next step to continue our journey along the road of entities.