Many online marketers have long speculated that backlinks will soon carry less weight in Google’s ranking algorithm. 

Google released a patent a number of years ago that gave us some insight about how they determine the authority of a website. More specifically, this patent mentions implied links and how Google might use these in the future.

Within this article, I will give you a quick summary of the patent in question, and I will also talk about what implied links are and if they carry any SEO value.

What is an Implied Link?

Implied links are references or mentions of a brand without an external link to the brand or website in question. These are also commonly referred to as unlinked mentions or brand mentions. 

For example, here's an article on the SEOptimer blog mentioning Monday and Asana. Note, we didn't link to these brands with an external link to their websites, so these are examples of implied links.

example of implied links

What Does the Patent Say About Implied Links

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.

Can You Build Implied links?

Unlike with traditional link-building, you can’t build implied links outright.

Implied links come by having an established, well-known brand. Therefore, if you want to add this to your marketing efforts, you'll need to implement a PR campaign in order to expand awareness of your brand.  

Sure, you can probably buy brand mentions through guest posting, but then you might as well get an actual backlink from them to make it worth your while. 

Do Implied Links Have Any SEO Value?

In the long run, they might carry some value, but they will never be the number one ranking factor in Google, nor will they carry more weight than regular backlinks. 

The reason for this is obvious, with implied links it’s 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. But then again, why not just get the website mentioning your brand to link to your page?

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 these implied links work.

Here’s Matt Cutts take on how Google determines popularity from authority: