Many online marketers have long speculated that backlinks will soon carry less weight in Google’s ranking algorithm. While everybody is talking about brand authority and brand citations, Google just released a patent that gives us an insight about how they determine the authority of a website.
Within this article, I will give you a quick summary of the patent in question, and I will also talk about what are implied links.
Implied Links and Brand Citations
So, what is so special about this patent? It is important because Google recognizes for the first time that they are using brand citation and mentions as a ranking factor. The most interesting and relevant part of the patent is this one:
The system determines a count of independent links for the group (step 302). A link for a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource in the group, i.e., a link having a resource in the group as its target. Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both. An express link, e.g., a hyperlink, is a link that is included in a source resource that a user can follow to navigate to a target resource. 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.
So Google calls brand mentions, “implied links” and the regular backlinks, “express links”. Still confused? Let me give you a real example.
For instance, if you own a website called RedCat.com, and your brand is being mentioned on other websites as, “RedCat” or “RedCat.com”, once somebody is typing your brand name in a search query (after or without visiting the article in question), a connection is being made in Google’s eyes. Google stores this information and will consider that you earned an implied link.
Can you build implied links?
Implied links are not just brand mentions. At first glance, you might think that it’s easier to game an algorithm that uses citations as a ranking factor. Sure, you can buy brand mentions, you can build them through guest posting, or simply build numerous infographics. But, remember that implied links are being considered only when somebody types your brand name in a search query.
Are implied links the future for rankings?
In the long run, they might carry some value, but they will never be the number one ranking factor in Google. Why? Because it’s too complicated and much easier to trick than the regular backlinks. It would be almost impossible to be penalized for over optimizing your anchor texts, or building too many citations.
Should you integrate implied links to your SEO strategy? Yes, sure you can. Having your brand mentioned on a popular website is great by any means. However, right now, there are no successful case studies to claim that brand citations work.
Here’s Matt Cutts take on how Google determines popularity from authority: