Should we be reporting on more than just links?
Every digital PR will have felt the pain of spending weeks (and sometimes months) planning, producing and pitching a campaign – only to gain coverage which doesn’t include a link back to the client’s site. While every digital PR department will have a tried and tested method for turning brand mentions into links, sometimes there’s just no chance of getting a backlink included in a feature, either due to technical limitations or publication-wide editorial policies.
So, should we still be reporting on coverage which includes those unlinked mentions? And exactly what value can an unlinked mention actually provide for a brand? Read more to find out.
What is a brand mention?
A brand mention, also known as brand citations or non-linking coverage, refers to when a brand, product or service is being talked about online but the relevant website is not linked to. Not only will an accompanying link to the website help direct audiences to the business or brand being talked about, but it will also help to boost the backlink profile of the website in question – the end result we’re all striving for with our digital PR work. However, an unlinked citation can still increase brand awareness, and help the brand appear as an authoritative expert on a topic.
How to find brand mentions
In the same way you would track for linking coverage, you should also scan the web for any unlinked mentions of your brand or client. The easiest (and cheapest) way to do this is via a simple manual search on your search engine of choice (remember to search on Bing as well as Google). When searching on the web, be sure to search for the brand name in question, including any misspelt versions of the brand, to catch any coverage where publications may have spelled the brand name incorrectly. Similarly, be sure to search for keywords which are relevant to the campaign or press release you’re searching for coverage for, and for spokesperson names, to ensure that any coverage which doesn’t include sufficient credit to the brand is also tracked and chased up.
Once you’ve done a web search, you can also use free tools such as Google Alerts, and Talkwalker Alerts, and paid-for tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush to find further mentions. These tools can send you daily updates of mentions of your brand online, and combining them with regular manual searching will allow you to keep on top of exactly where and when your brand is being talked about online.
What is the value of non-linking brand mentions?
While securing a brand mention which also includes a relevant link is the ultimate goal, there are several ways an unlinked brand mention can benefit your client’s business.
- Helps build brand awareness
According to recent stats, it takes consumers on average between 5-7 impressions to remember a brand, so the more frequently you can get your brand featured in publications online, the more likely audiences are going to remember, refer back to, or even search for your brand when they need your product or service. This is particularly true when you are gaining coverage on publications that your brand’s target audience is likely to read, which is why relevancy should be at the forefront of all of your digital PR work.
- Boosts online reputation and builds authority
Getting brand mentions on publications where your target audience are likely to be hanging out will also help to boost the online reputation and authority of the brand you are trying to increase visibility for. In the same way that links from reputable, trusted publications will increase the quality of the link in Google’s eyes, brand mentions on reputable publications will also significantly help to increase confidence in your brand and help them be seen as an expert in their industry. The more your brand is seen as a source in publications your target audience trusts, the more likely they are to view the brand as reliable, and worth buying from.
- The opportunity to build links in the future
While a brand mention might not initially include a link, this doesn’t mean that there’s not an opportunity for a link to be added at a later date. If the comment, campaign or research you’re pitching provides editorial value, for example – if your website provides something that the publication’s readers cannot view in the article itself – then they’re usually more than happy to link back to your website to help direct their readers to the additional information (a sign up page, or full results of a study, etc.). Our top tips on converting brand mentions into links can be found later on in this blog post.
What is the SEO impact of non-linking brand mentions?
Everyone knows that search engines look at and value backlinks as part of their ranking processes, but non-linking coverage is often not considered when thinking about SEO strategies, despite previous insights from both Bing and Google revealing that they do in fact use brand mentions as indicators of authoritative content. For example, back in 2016, the former senior product manager at Bing Duane Forrester confirmed that search engines can identify mentions: “Years ago, Bing figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings as a trial.”
Google’s Panda patent also reveals that ‘implied links’ (ie. brand mentions) could serve as a signal which could be equally as impactful as backlinks: “The system determines a count of independent links for the group (step 302). […] Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both. […] An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource. Thus, a resource in the group can be the target of an implied link without a user being able to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.”
While brand mentions cannot pass PageRank, it’s clear from these indicators that unlinked citations are being noticed and considered by search engines during the ranking process. As search engines become more intelligent it’s not surprising that they’d be looking to boost brands who are naturally being cited and talked about online, versus those who are building random, inorganic links in order to try and manipulate the algorithm. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that brand mentions are going to make even more of an impact on rankings when they’re from reputable publications that make sense for your target audience to be reading.
How to convert brand mentions into links
While some publications will have a no-link policy in place, many will be happy to add a link to credit your client or brand’s research or commentary after a simple follow up. Here’s our step-by-step link reclamation process, to help you convert your brand mentions into those all-important links.
- Find your unlinked brand mentions
As mentioned above, the best way to find unlinked brand mentions is to both manually search the web, and use tools such as Google Alerts or Ahrefs. If you have a well-established brand, or have a campaign which has gone viral and been written about by many publications, you may discover hundreds of brand mentions, meaning you’ll need to prioritise the most relevant, authoritative websites to try and build links on.
- Find the relevant contact details
In most cases, the perfect person to reach out to to ask for a link from will be the author of the article which your brand is featured in. If you have a name (and can’t find their contact details on the publication’s site), you can use Twitter or LinkedIn to search for an email address, or if you use software databases such as Vuelio, Muckrack, Roxhill or Gorkana, you can use these to find the relevant contact details. If you fail to find the email address of the author themselves, it is often equally as effective to contact the editor, newsdesk or corrections department of the publication.
- Get in touch to ask for a link
Using your contact email of choice, reach out to the journalist or publication to ask for a link. Ensure that your email is polite and be sure to thank the journalist for their time, consideration and initial coverage of your campaign. In the email itself, be sure to make it clear exactly which link you’d like including, and why including said link will benefit their publication’s audience. For example:
“Would it be possible to include a link back to the full research so that your readers can read more about the study if they’d like to? The link would be this one: [URL]”
Not every link reclamation email will be successful, but many editors and journalists will be happy to add a link in after the original feature has been published. If you’ve done the hard work in landing the coverage in the first place, you may as well give it a try!
In conclusion, don’t panic if you cannot convert those brand mentions into links. While links will undoubtedly deliver the SEO impact every digital PR is aiming for, brands can still reap the benefits of unlinked brand mentions, particularly when those mentions are on relevant, high authority online publications.