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Going Beyond Backlinks: The Strategic Impact of Brand Mentions on SEO

As with all digital marketing strategies, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is in a constant state of evolution. Behind every Google search, there’s a complex system at play determining which websites deserve to be in the top results—and Google is constantly moving the goalpost. 

Unsurprising, this always leads to much speculation in the SEO world. What will be the next big development in Google’s ever-changing criteria? It just so happens that one of the latest changes was predicted 10 years ago by SEO thought leader and entrepreneur Rand Fishkin: the rise of brand mentions in determining search rankings. 

A Holistic Shift: Augmenting Backlinks with Brand Mentions  

Fishkin may have been one of the first to say it out loud, but since the release of Google’s “Panda patent,” which introduced the concept of express links (hyperlinks) and implied links (references without direct links), many have speculated that brand mentions would be the SEO strategy of the future. Some have even gone as far as saying you should “Stop building links; build your brand.” And while TIV Branding is all in on the brand building, we’re not sure we’re ready to stop building links.

After all, the link economy is extensive, and Google knows some SEO companies buy links. In response to this, Google is evolving its approach by recognizing the importance of brand mentions as an additional factor in determining search rankings. Integrating brand mentions aligns with the broader shift towards a more holistic understanding of a website’s relevance and influence within its industry or niche.

This nuanced approach ensures that Google not only evaluates the quantity and quality of backlinks (translation: links from other websites to your website) but also considers the organic presence and reputation of a brand. By doing so, Google aims to enhance the user experience by providing more accurate, reliable, and contextually relevant search results.

So, what’s driving this shift? 

The Rise of AI and the Future of Google Search

The digital landscape has changed. AI has taken the world by storm—from revolutionizing customer service with chatbots to driving breakthroughs in healthcare diagnostics. And it’s only a matter of time until Google launches an AI-powered search engine

What does that mean from an SEO standpoint? 

Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT are trained on text data from some of the most popular websites in the world—so text plays a pivotal role in shaping AI. In addition, Google crawls the web to collect and analyze data to add to its Knowledge Graph, which allows users to see the answer to their search queries instantaneously, without the need to visit a web page. Text in various forms and structured data has become more important than ever. 

As AI reshapes the digital world, the significance of entities, particularly brands, becomes paramount for search engine algorithms. The advanced capabilities of AI demand a more nuanced understanding of online entities, and brands that strategically focus on enhancing their visibility within this evolving digital framework will inevitably stand out in search results. 

Digital PR and Brand Mentions for Organic Growth

Google’s preference for brands, media, and large publishing sites is unmistakable, and this plays a crucial role in getting brands featured in the media; brands that secure a presence in the media also enjoy a spotlight in the digital realm. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

At the core of marketing is the objective of amplifying brand visibility. Yet, recent trends have steered away from this fundamental principle towards a narrower focus on search engine listings and paid search strategies. The problem is, not every consumer is at the same stage in the buying process. 

While paid search can give quick results when consumers have already decided to purchase a product or service, organic search and brand visibility are more useful for reaching a wider audience earlier in the decision-making process—and they don’t incur additional costs. 

Brand mentions are essentially publicity; they let people know your brand is there, create buzz, and generate interest. Whether it’s through social media shout-outs, positive reviews, or influential endorsements, brand mentions go beyond mere recognition; they actively contribute to building a dynamic online presence that helps foster connections with new audiences and establish the brand as a trusted presence in people’s lives. 

Taking a Brand-Centric Approach: The Key to Successful SEO

In short, the future of SEO isn’t about forsaking backlinks; they’ve long been foundational in SEO, and we at TIV Branding continue to see them produce good results for our clients. Rather, it’s about integrating them with brand mentions and digital PR to create a comprehensive SEO strategy that resonates with both audiences and search engine algorithms. Google’s latest shift has made it clear: embracing a brand-centric approach is key to staying ahead in the ever-competitive digital space.