Visibility is the magic word that opens doors to wider audiences, high-quality leads, and skyrocketing sales. It’s why everyone that runs an online business is obsessed with getting their name out there. Because they know that what’s seen, sells. And in order to be seen by search engines and their millions of users, they need stellar website reputations.
For a search engine to deem a website worthy of traffic, that site has to have enough backlinks to prove its content is valuable and authoritative. So whether it’s paying through the nose for advertisements, collaborating with social media influencers, or hiring entire teams to scale up content marketing efforts, businesses tend to go all out with link-building.
There’s so much emphasis on self-acquired backlinks that it often leads to low-hanging (but just as beneficial) fruit like unlinked brand mentions going unnoticed. It’s a shame, because ignoring unlinked brand mentions as a strategy for improving your backlink score is like refusing to walk on a red carpet that someone’s rolled out for you.
In this blog, we delve deeper into what unlinked brand mentions are, why they’re such underrated gems, and how you can find them using media monitoring.
What is an unlinked brand mention?
When someone references your brand or product online — it could be in a blog, news article, or social media post — it’s called a brand mention. Including a backlink to your website when they mention you isn’t mandatory, but it is the polite thing to do.
Since the digital space isn’t exactly known for etiquette, it brings us to the problem of unlinked brand mentions.
Say, a blog lists your product as one of the top 10 tools for cold outreach but fails to link back to your home or product page. Even minus the link, a mention is still valuable for raising brand awareness and improving credibility.
It garners publicity for you, and the dedicated prospective buyer would take the trouble to look you up, but it doesn’t even come close to offering you the kind of benefits a backlink would.
So unlinked brand mentions aren’t simply lost opportunities to drive more traffic to your website. Depending on the domain rating of the publishing website, that missing backlink could be a goldmine of SEO cred you’re losing out on.
How to identify and sort unlinked brand mentions
Before you go running to look for unlinked mentions of your brand, be warned that these searches throw up a lot of data. It’s not uncommon for brand mentions to run into the low thousands, and not all these unlinked mentions are worth pursuing.
So to make sifting through the data easier, here are three areas you can compartmentalize your search into:
Start by setting up specific keyword alerts for your brand name. This will ensure you are notified every time your brand is mentioned online. At Hunter, we monitor the keyword “Hunter.io” instead of simply “Hunter” because the latter brings up too many irrelevant results.
You should also monitor mentions of your most popular offerings. In our case, it’s the Email Finder, Email Verifier, and Hunter Campaigns. Each specific offering carries the potential to build authority backlinks, so prepare a list of the keywords related to each of your product names.
CEO/Key Team Members
Scan for social media posts, interviews, articles, and press releases containing the names of your CEO, co-founders, and key team members. Highlighting their association with your brand can put you on the radar of previously untapped audiences.
A sample keyword list for Hunter would look like this:
- Hunter Email Finder
- Hunter Email Verifier
- Hunter Campaigns
- Antoine Fink
- François Grante
Unlinked brand mentions strategy
At Hunter, we take unlinked brand mentions quite seriously as a source of high-quality backlinks. So far, we’ve generated 72 backlinks from websites with an average domain rating (DR) of 52. And this is the step-by-step process we followed:
Media monitoring is the tracking and analysis of a brand’s public perception over various channels, both and offline. Depending on your budget, you can use any media monitoring tool to find unlinked brand mentions and generate opportunities for backlinks.
A popular choice is Ahrefs’ Content Explorer. It has a special filter that lets you see only the unlinked mentions out of all the times your brand has been mentioned online.
You will still have to manually check for errors (linked brand mentions listed as unlinked and vice versa), but it serves as a great starting point for your link-building efforts.
Using Google search operators
Many people also use Google search operators to do a site search of their brand name and then check whether it’s linked or not.
Put your brand or product name in quotation marks like this.
If you want to build backlinks only from blogs on other websites, use the inurl operator.
Eliminate the possibility of these results including your own website by using the minus sign followed by your site URL.
You can then open the promising links to see if they contain an unlinked brand mention or not.
Monitor for new mentions
Not a lot of editors or writers are going to respond when you email them asking for a backlink from a three-year-old article. Recent articles have much higher chances of landing a backlink.
You can stay on top of media mentions on various channels using Determ.
Create a query containing all your keywords. If you’re focusing on a specific product, use the Boolean search operators to list the keywords you want to be excluded from the search.
You can further filter the search results to include or exclude certain countries, language(s), and levels of popularity.
The default is set to include mentions from all sources, but if you’re prioritizing a single source, for example, websites, uncheck the other boxes.
Select the date range you’re tracking for, and then export the data to a spreadsheet. Since you can sort the data in the order of reach, you can start contacting the most important websites.
Once you’ve taken stock of existing mentions, set up automated daily/weekly reports for the new mentions.
Clean and segment your prospect lists
If you don’t have a lot of mentions, you can contact each website on your list. But the more efficient way is to restructure your email list to prioritize the most valuable backlink opportunities.
The data that you’ve exported is already in the order of highest to lowest domain rating. Determ also lets you filter results according to influence score, reach, and virality. That can help weed out websites that can’t provide you with quality backlinks.
Double-check the shortlisted websites before starting outreach. Paste all the web pages you want to check in a URL opener tool to open multiple tabs at once. You can comb through the text on individual pages using a Ctrl + F search.
Alternatively, use a link checker tool like the one here.
Paste the URL of the page and select the external links filter. If the page has already linked to your website, you can drop them from your outreach list.
Find email addresses of decision-makers for outreach
There’s usually more than one player involved in the publication of a blog or article. In most cases, the editor of the blog or head of content or communication strategy is a safe bet. But in smaller teams, there’s often an overlap of roles. The writer might also double up as the blog owner, in which case your search for editors will come up empty.
Use the ‘About Us’ page on their website to identify the point person. If that doesn’t work, you can look them up on LinkedIn.
Put in the name of the decision-maker you’ve identified along with the domain name in Hunter’s Email Finder to find their email address.
You can also use their Domain Search feature to pull up all the email addresses associated with a website.
If you’re dealing with large volumes of mentions, the last thing you want is to find out you’ve been emailing a defunct or invalid email address all along. So before adding them to your list, validate email addresses to ensure they’re functional.
Crafting personalized email copy
Once you’ve got the contact information in place, you can start reaching out to website managers, editors, or authors with your backlink request. Make sure to:
1. Use non-generic subject lines.
A subject line like ‘Unlinked Brand Mention for [Product X]’ or ‘Backlink for [Company Y]’ isn’t just uninteresting, its terse and commanding tone can rub people off the wrong way.
Instead, use something like ‘Thanks for featuring us on [Recipient Company Blog]’ or ‘We’re so grateful for your mention’. When combined with a sender name like ‘Boris from Hunter’, it provides context to the recipient in just one glance.
2. Hyper-personalize for improved response rates.
Always start your emails by thanking them for mentioning your brand. To jog their memory and avoid confusion, include a link to the article you’re referring to along with the proposed anchor text for the backlink.
You can also compliment them on another one of the articles on their blog, or scroll through their Twitter or LinkedIn profiles to find an achievement or common interest.
3. Let them know what’s in it for them.
Include a couple of sentences in the body of your email to sell them on the value proposition of your product or service for their readers.
If you’re willing to offer them a barter link, a free trial of your product, or any other form of collaboration for the backlink, spell it out in clear terms.
4. Follow up.
Good things come to those who wait. But while you wait, it doesn’t hurt to nudge the other person into responding. In our case, it meant a 53% increase in response rates.
Schedule 2-3 follow-ups spread out evenly over the next two weeks from the date of your initial email.
Keep your copy friendly and to the point. Steer clear of pushy language. You don’t have to grovel either. Here’s an example.
Be flexible at negotiating
Every website owner has their own preferences and constraints. You’ll have to gauge those from their response and by studying other backlinks from their website. If you think the conversation is stalling, you can propose an add-on to your earlier offer. For example, a guest blogging invitation along with a backlink to their site.
Suggest cross-promotions, social media collaborations, or joint podcasts. Leverage your strengths to close the deal and be open to accommodate bigger asks, especially if theirs is a high-ranking website that gets a lot of traffic.
If their initial response is encouraging, and you see the potential for a long-term partnership with them, don’t hesitate to ask if they’d be open to working together in the future. A prompt follow-up after their reply can pave the way for a mutually advantageous partnership.
Unlinked brand mentions are one of the simplest ways to build strong backlinks and impart authority to your brand image. Use media monitoring tools like Determ to identify unlinked brand mentions, and reach out to website owners with a solid value proposition in return for a link.
Keep track of the websites you’ve contacted, the dates of your outreach emails, and the responses you receive. This will help you stay organized and facilitate follow-ups. Be friendly, sincere, and open to exploring alternative collaborations. You’ll see the impact on your search engine ranking and website traffic soon.
Antonio is an outreach manager at Hunter. He is passionate about testing different outreach tactics and sharing results with the community. When he is not connecting with industry leaders you can find him on his motorbike exploring off-the-beaten paths around the world.