In 2012 Google did every PR freelancer a huge favour, but nobody realised.
That’s when Google filed its patent that described the concept of an implied link.
Everyone understands the broad principle that Google (and other search engines) attribute value to links to a site. The more authoritative the in-bound link, the more value that Google etc give the receiving site.
It’s been the foundation for the multi-billion SEO industry and thanks to implied links, that industry is now realising that it needs high end PR skills more than ever and that its future will increasingly rely upon the skills of people who can craft a client’s story and see it published in pure editorial settings.
So what is an implied link and how is it different to a “normal” hyperlink?
In the words of the Google patent:
“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.”
In other words, Google sees a mention of company or brand as a ranking signal for the website with which it is associated, even there is no link.
Now if you’re a PR freelancer that should be the sound of pennies dropping (or cash registers).
For years SEO has been a game of cat and mouse as Google made change after change to its algorithm and SEO attempted to catch up and quite often tried to game the system in its focus on link building.
Who remembers the days of websites stuffed with linked keywords in white text on white backgrounds?
The direction of travel has been away from crude link building where it was about quantity and towards quality and genuine context for a link.
What that means for PR is that SEO is becoming more and more about earned media and editorial quality where dubious or even black hat techniques of influencing search rankings can have no place.
Implied links take that further because they are part of the Google Search Quality Guidelines which penalise sites where the content and reputation of the site is at odds with what other sources say:
“For Page Quality rating, you must also look for outside, independent reputation information about the website. When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.”
“Independent” “Reputation” “Trust” – this should be music to the ears of PR freelancers who may have had disheartening experiences with SEO agencies who have sometimes looked at PR as a form of copywriting that you buy by the metre, rather than a skill where the ability to create implied links that tell a compelling story in a high quality medium is now becoming something Google really wants to see more of.
Bing too is heading down this road. In 2016 Duane Forrester, at the time a senior Bing analyst made this clear in his speech to the SXSW conference:
“Years ago, Bing figured out context and sentiment of tone, and how to associate mentions without a link. As the volume grows and trustworthiness of this mention is known, you’ll get a bump in rankings as a trial.”
Google updates its algorithm hundreds of times a year, mostly minor tweaks, but the direction is clear – more context, more subtlety, more quality, more authority and more a feeling of independent, editorial judgement on the content of sites with sentiment analysis at its heart.
PR freelancers can deliver exactly what the SEO industry needs to adapt to the ongoing changes and the more that freelancers can demonstrate an understanding of these changes, the more they will be able to convince that SEO and PR strategies for clients should be one and the same.
This focus on quality on and a championing of the skills that experienced PR freelancers can bring to a client brief – either directly or working with a PR or SEO agency is at the heart of what of the PR Cavalry stands for.