Implied Links in 2024: The Future of Measuring Website Authority

Implied Links

Fifteen years ago, the simplest indicator of a domain’s authority has been the presence of a large number of links pointing to that domain. The logic is simple: if you have a decent website, people will link to it, generally to share with their followers or to cite it as a valuable resource. So, measuring backlinks is an indirect way to measure the quality of a site. In a perfect world, this would be okay. But this isn’t a perfect world. In the world we currently live in, SEO experts make things complicated.

In this scenario, the entire idea of utilizing links as a quality signal has been compromised. There’s no method to verify whether a backlink was included because a user truly likes the content on the other side, whether the owner of that page paid for the backlink, whether they paid for the post, or whether the backlink wasn’t placed by the owner of the source website, etc. There are a many different ‘gray hat’ and ‘black hat’ techniques that the integrity of a link is compromised, and that makes links much less significant overall. Links were still important for a long time and remain so today, albeit much less. The unfortunate outcome is a decrease in the value of any given link.

Do you understand why so many people still concentrate on .edu and .gov links? Because those domains are generally managed by educational and governmental institutions, which are much harder to incentivize to add links.

Implied Links

A while back, Google filed a particular patent that set the SEO world on speculative fire. Everyone was trying to guess when and where it would be implemented. These days, general consensus seems to be that it’s a part of Panda, although a smaller part than many suspected from the outset. This patent gives Google a method for identifying implied links via brand mentions.

The idea is, if I mention that I like but don’t link to their domain, there’s no way for Ahrefs to benefit from that—at least, there’s no measurable way. My comment might influence someone who reads this post, and that someone might later see Ahrefs and decide it’s a little more trustworthy than they initially suspected, but that’s hardly traceable. With implied links, Google can see that I mentioned Ahrefs—or whoever—and tie that into Ahrefs’s search ranking. “It looks like a lot of people are saying they use Ahrefs, more than the number of links would indicate. Let’s boost their domain authority.”

For big sites like Ahrefs, this will hardly have an impact. They’re already dominating their niche; they don’t really need the help. However, implied links can work the other way as well. For example, Google might take a look at a site and see that they have a heck of a lot of incoming links from some domains that, while not implicitly bad, are skirting the line of reasonable quality. Google then does some investigation and finds that the linked site’s brand has virtually no mentions elsewhere on the Internet. No one is talking about them, let alone in a positive light. Even the websites linking to them are just linking, not mentioning. Google can take a look at that evidence and decide that the links pointing to the linked website aren’t necessarily all that valuable.

Essentially, the implied links work as a quality control mechanism for actual links, helping to filter out the black (and gray) hats. This is going to be increasingly important moving forward, as Google gets better at sorting out the whole semantic meaning behind a post, ranking the quality of information on a site, and filtering out different spam techniques relying on the machine nature of the algorithm.

Taking Advantage of Implied Links

With any new development in SEO, it’s a good idea to get in on it before it gets corrupted by SEOs who, as mentioned earlier, make everything uneccessarily comlicated. As I said before, implied links are mentions of your brand name or your website that are not connected to a link. Think of them as branded keywords that, when used on other sites, benefit your site.

The biggest downside of implied links is that there’s almost no way to track their effect. It’s hard (but not impossible) to monitor your brand mentions throughout the entire web, and it’s hard to measure their actual impact on your website. You can use social listening tools like Mention or Hootsuite to track where and how often your brand is mentioned online. Additionally, set up Google Alerts to receive notifications whenever your brand is referenced.

And of course, whatever you are doing, for the time being don’t ditch traditional link building.

Recent leaks have confirmed that links remain an important ranking factor for Google. Legitimate backlinks, earned backlinks, are still valuable. As long as the source of the link is a quality website, the link will very likely benefit you. Even a nofollowed link might count as an implied link moving forward. That said, the link also needs to be from relevant content to relevant content.

Work on strengthening your online reputation and E-E-A-T. Do this with an emphasis on your brand name. Try to get people to refer to you by your brand name when they mention you. When you post on other sites, use your brand name—even without a link—in author bios and similar fields.

Create content for your users, not for search engines. The more people like you and your brand, the more they will talk about you. Essentially, building implied links is just like building word of mouth. You’ll gain benefits when people talk about your brand, even if they don’t link to your website.

Don’t stress out over nofollowed links. They don’t pass link equity, but they might very well pass implied link equity. For now, there’s no way to tell whether they do or not. It’s also possible that their value may go up over time, as Google adjusts the weight of both backlinks and mentions. It’s certain that Google is looking to use mentions as a factor of authority. What’s not certain is how effective they are, how they will change in 2025, and how you can best take advantage of their presence.

Branislav Nikolic

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