In February 2011, Google released changes to its search results ranking algorithm. The change was named Google Panda, after the last name of the Google engineer that developed the algorithm (also the coolest last name I’ve ever heard of). Panda’s goal was to correct the folks who were gaming the system and creating backlinks that were irrelevant and often fake. Part of Panda’s correction was decreasing the rank of “low-quality sites” and placing high-quality sites near the top of the search results. Marketers were convinced that the best way to gain page rank was to secure links with high-quality sites. No link? No search love. No bueno. PR people freaked out. Now, in addition to securing client coverage with a high-quality outlet like The Wall Street Journal (no small feat), clients also wanted us to convince these outlets to include a link to the client’s website.
Fast forward to March 2014 and Google’s been awarded a patent for its Panda algorithm. The patent filings revealed some details about how Google defines what counts as high-quality, independent links to a website. The paragraph below is pulled from the filings. Give the last two sentences a good read:
“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.”
When I read the final two sentences about implied links, I jumped for joy. So what’s an implied link? An implied link is a reference to your website (media coverage of your company, products, services) that doesn’t include or embed an actual link to your company’s website. Google has publicly confirmed that when a company or product is mentioned in media coverage, with or without a link, it positively affects a company’s search rankings. Don’t get me wrong, PR can’t be the only tool in your SEO tool box. After all, there are over 200 different factors that play into Google’s search algorithm. BUT, Google has confirmed that media coverage, even if there are no links, plays a big role in SEO.
So, what can you do to maximize your PR team’s efforts? Make sure your team has access to your list of keywords and phrases. They’ll want to make sure that’s incorporated into relevant outbound messaging (press releases, pitches, company backgrounders, etc.). Also, when working with your team on announcements or other campaigns, make sure you have indicated a specific, relevant page on your site where you want to direct traffic. When an outlet, or your press release, does include that link, you want to make sure the readers can easily find to the correct information and don’t bounce from your site.
Want to learn more about the Google Panda patent? Check out the latest from The Moz.
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