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Google is understandably secretive about the algorithm it uses to decide how to rank web pages in its search results. But a recent patent filing may offer some clues – and some encouraging news for PR professionals.
In US Patent application 8,682,892, Google seems to indicate that the mere mention of a brand name or keyword may count towards a site’s ranking in the search engine.
It is well known that Google considers a large number of factors – more than 200 – to determine how “authoritative” a site is. It then uses this information to determine how it will rank the site on its search engine results pages (SERPs). Though unconfirmed by the search giant, it is widely accepted the most important factor in this algorithm is incoming links.
In one section of the recently filed patent, Google shares how it identifies high-quality, independent links to a website, and this is where PR and SEO practitioners alike must take note. The patent makes a distinction between “express links” – the anchor text links with which we’re all familiar – and a new concept of “implied links,” which are merely references to a brand, product or service – without an actual link.
Here’s what the patent says:
“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.”
What this says is that Google looks at mentions of a brand or related terms to determine a site’s ranking potential. The implications are enormous. If what Google describes in this patent holds true in its algorithm, then PR activity and media placements – even if they don’t lead to an “express link” – have SEO benefit.
So, what should you do with this new found information? Our advice is to continue find ways to generate buzz and grow brand mentions. As ever, this will continue to help with brand awareness – but for now, we believe, it will also help your search engine rankings.