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Mueller Gives Insights on Brand Mentions

how to improve SEO content writing

Google’s John Mueller recently discussed whether or not brand mentions in SEO content writing help with rankings. He went into great detail about how brand mentions in SEO content do not have any impact on how well a site ranks on the search engine results pages.

Brand Mentions: What Are They?

When a website mentions another site – be it the other site’s URL or domain name – it’s referred to as a brand mention. The SEO community believes that Google treats these mentions like a link. Brand mentions are also known as implied links – a term that surfaced 10 years ago when a Google patent mentioned “implied links”. However, these implied links actually have nothing to do with brand mentions.

Do Brand Mentions Boost Rankings?

A person asked Mueller whether or not brand mentions affect rankings. Specifically, they wanted to know if brand mentions without a link can help improve SEO. It was a good question since brand mentions have never been fully investigated before.

Mueller explained that Google does not utilise brand mentions for any link-related purposes. He also said that brand mentions are unrelated to PageRank or understanding a website’s link graph. Moreover, simply mentioning another brand could be tricky for Google to figure out anyway.

It’s worth noting that Mueller said it was “tricky”. He didn’t explain why it’s tricky until he later said that understanding the subjective context of a website mentioning another brand is challenging.

Brand Mentions Help Build Awareness

Mueller explained that using brand names in URLs may help promote a site’s popularity, and it could pave the way for one’s brand to be recognised.

From that perspective, a business may impact its target audience by directing them to the website after a Google search. If the users like what they see, they might recommend the brand to other people.

Brand Mentions Are Problematic

Another SEO asked Mueller about how Google deals with spam sites that negatively mention other brands. According to them, it is hard to deal with such mentions because these cannot be disavowed, unlike links.

Mueller agreed with this statement, saying that this is part of why brand mentions are not used as a ranking signal. He noted that many spam websites spin malicious content to harm other brands, and Google currently has no way to figure out the real meaning behind such content. For instance, a piece of SEO content may appear to have a positive meaning at first glance, but it may actually be satirical in nature. Overall, Mueller believes that brand mentions are simply too confusing to use as a clear-cut ranking signal.

The Origin of Brand Mentions

Branded mentions have been a topic of discussion for over ten years despite not having research papers or patents to back it up. It is like a concept that came out of thin air. However, when a patent about brand mentions emerged in 2012, the notion took off.

The patent was misinterpreted in various ways by most people at the time. Some SEOs did not read the whole patent from beginning to end; hence, they failed to understand that it was about ranking web pages.

The first paragraph of Google’s patents is typically a statement that describes the purpose of the patent. These paragraphs are followed by pages of detailed descriptions of the technicalities.

The 2012 patent stated that it is all about systems, methods, and apparatus intended for ranking search results, but nobody paid attention to that part. Everyone focused on the ninth page out of 16, which mentioned “implied links”. The term “implied” was only mentioned four times throughout the whole patent, with all four of them mentioned in a single paragraph.

So, when SEOs discovered the patent, they focused on that paragraph to try and prove that brand mentions are significant to Google. To understand the real meaning of “implied link”, one would have to go back to the opening paragraphs where the author mentioned the term “reference query”.

Reference Query

A reference query refers to a search query concerning a domain or URL name. It is not a link, but it is used for ranking purposes like a link. It can be a search query previously submitted and categorised as referring to a resource in a specific group of resources.

If the query has a term that the system recognises as referring to the particular source, then it can also be classified as referring to a specific source.

The patent’s summary, which can be found at the start of the document, states that it is all about distinguishing the independent links to a website, counting reference queries, and creating a “modification factor” to rank pages.

If one diligently reads the 2012 patent, it focuses on those two essential elements: the count of reference queries and independent inbound links. The words “reference query” or “queries” are mentioned 39 times throughout the patent. This means that the patent is focused on reference queries, which are utilised for ranking purposes like a link but are not necessarily a link.

When this patent mentioned the implied link, it’s apparent that it refers to reference queries. It simply means that people use domain names and keywords to search for things.

Brand Mentions Do Not Boost Rankings

Because that patent was misinterpreted, many in the SEO community believed that brand mentions could potentially make or break a site’s rankings. But now, it has all been made clear that brand mentions aren’t a real thing that Google uses.

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