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Finding unlinked brand mentions

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While there are literally hundreds of elements that go into determining a website’s ranking in search results, domain and page-level link signals still top the list as perhaps two of the most influential factors in determining a website’s position in search. Having a solid, white hat link building plan should be an essential part of any search engine optimization (SEO) or content marketing strategy – and one of the most straightforward places to begin link building is with unlinked mentions.

Unlinked Mentions 101

An unlinked mention is exactly what it sounds like: It’s an instance of someone mentioning your brand without providing a link back to your website. Finding these sounds easy right? Just type your brand’s name into your browser’s search bar, check to see if any mentions are missing links, and then email the author to ask them to link back.

It really is that simple. That is, until you consider that a single query can return literally millions of results.

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So how do you comb through all these results more efficiently? There are some paid tools out there you can use, but when budget won’t allow, here’s how to quickly find unlinked mentions of your brand (and build valuable links) for FREE.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Some sort of SERP (search engine results page) scraper, such as MozBar
  2. Unlinked Mention Finder Tool (see link later in this article)
  3. Coffee (optional)

Step 1: Search for Brand Mentions

The first step is to find mentions of your brand. Use advanced search commands or operators to fine tune your results. An example of this would be to avoid searching your own brand’s site or other sites that could potentially dilute your results. See the example below:

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Pro Tips:

  • Avoid searching affiliate sites, press releases and be picky with which social media sites you include in your query – you’ll thank yourself later for doing this.
  • Get creative! Try searching for high-profile employee names associated with your brand. (e.g., “employee name” “brand name” –site:yourwebsite.com)
  • Include promotions, announcements, specials and different content types in your query string to help broaden results. (e.g., “infographic” “title of infographic” –site:yourwebsite.com)

Step 2: Scrape The SERP

Once you have your search results, you’ll need an efficient way to gather all of the URLs that mention your brand to check to see if they provided a link. It may seem obvious, but you’ll need to use a SERP scraper tool for this. There are some downloadable applications you can use, but depending on which browser you use, there are also several different, highly effective plugins to choose from. MozBar is free, compatible with Firefox and Chrome browsers, easy to use and has great functionality outside of just being a SERP scraper.

Use the scraper to download the list of the search engine’s URLs that mention your brand to an Excel file. At this point, you should have a list of URLs that mention your brand’s name that’s about a mile long.

Pro Tip:

  • Turning off your browser’s instant search feature and setting the results page to return 100 results at a time will allow you to export in bulk and save time.

Step 3: Check for Unlinked Mentions

Head over to RankTank‘s website and download a copy of its Unlinked Mention Finder tool. The tool is completely free, comes with instructions on how to use it, and takes a lot of the heavy lifting out of the discovery process.

Simply copy and paste the list of brand mention URLs from your query into the tool (as well as the original search query string itself) and let the tool work its magic. Here’s what your results will look like:

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This tool will automatically check to see if there are any mentions of your brand that do not link back to the brand website you specified. Once you have your list of unlinked mentions, you can begin outreach to these sites to try and get a link built.

Pro Tips:

  • While this tool helps automate the process, vetting the list is highly recommended to ensure accuracy.
  • Be mindful of how you set up the tool. RankTank’s tool is very particular about data entry. Any issues with the query string or referenced site, no matter how small, will return inaccurate results.

Step 4: Outreach or Make a Connection

By now, you’re probably sitting on a whole heap of unlinked mentions. All you have to do is craft an engaging pitch, reach out to each opportunity, and convince them to add a link back to your site. This can be difficult for several reasons. One of the largest being that you’re not always sure to whom you should be reaching out to (and if this person is actually capable of implementing the changes to the site). Another being that sometimes direct contact information isn’t always readily provided or available.

Here are some tips to help get your message into the right hands:

  • To increase your chances of a response, avoid sending requests into general inboxes whenever possible.
  • Leverage tools, such as Email Hunter, to get direct contact information.
  • If all else fails, most companies have a standardized email format (e.g., lastname@company.com) that can be used. Press releases or leadership pages can provide you with that format. Once you have it, searching LinkedIn for relevant names and applying the standardized formatting can help get you an email address even if it is not directly listed on the site.

Even after getting your request into the proper inbox, at a certain point, the link building process can be out of your hands. Having a personalized and relevant pitch can definitely increase your chances of success, though. There are several things to keep in mind when crafting your pitch:

  • Make your message personal. Don’t use canned or template responses. Nothing makes users hit the ‘delete’ button faster than an obviously templated email.
  • Offer some value to the person to whom you are reaching out (after all, you are asking them to do extra work). Offer to share the link via your social channels – or recommend a quick SEO fix for their site. Giving them some incentive to add the link greatly increases your chance of success.
  • Try not to use the word ‘link’ in your message. For some, it can be seen as having a spammy connotation. Use words such as “mention,” “reference” or “adding our web address” instead.

Finally, don’t be afraid to follow up and check to see if any changes have been implemented. Sometimes webmasters will implement a change but not send a response back. So, before you follow up with another email, check to see if a link has been added.

Pro Tips:

  • When finding unlinked mentions for a client, ask them for a list of any websites they already have a relationship with. Doing so can help you avoid drama and save time.
  • Be picky. Avoid reaching out to publishers with negative brand mentions or spammy websites or content.
  • Start with and give priority to authoritative sources to take advantage of their domain authority.

And that’s how you can find unlinked mentions of your brand for absolutely free!

With organic search driving an average of over 50 percent of traffic to most B2B and B2C websites and over 90 percent of customers performing research online before making a purchasing decision, having a solid SEO strategy in place is more critical than ever.

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