Here’s a guide to turning unlinked mentions of your brand into links. This means places where you’ve been written about, but there’s no hyperlink back to your website.
When working with clients, it’s a very useful link building strategy because it means you can pick up high authority links with minimal effort. Depending on the size of the brand there may be hundreds, even thousands of these beauties out there on the web just waiting to be brought to life.
Even better, the outreach part brings higher success rates because the author of the article is already familiar with the brand.
We’ll guide you through the process of finding and securing these in detail below.
What are Unlinked Mentions?
Unlinked mentions are textual references to your brand via name, product, or other anchor that don’t link back to your website. Organic references to your brand, a product review, or an interview with a team member are great signs that your PR is working and your brand is growing. But where there is no hyperlink, your website itself won’t benefit from this coverage. Outreaching to these sites can be a great way to capitalise on existing link opportunities.
1. How to Find Unlinked Brand Mentions
You can find mentions of your brand on the web manually or by using crawling tools.
Let’s begin with using Google search itself via a manual process. But we’ll use a simple chrome extension to automate the boring bit.
Find Brand Mentions on Google Search
Simply type in your brand name i.e. Dream Digital into the Google search box and click enter. Then use an extension like Link Klipper to extract all URLs from the page and export them to an Excel or Google Sheet.
If you’re doing this with a huge brand, you might want to consider a data scraping tool like Bright Data. This allows you to scrape large amounts of data from multiple search engines with minimal effort. However, it does come with a cost and, in our experience, unlinked brand mentions are often better found via a manual process. So this option is only for larger data sets.
Once you have your potential targets in a sheet, you can work through them individually to assess their potential.
Let’s use the example of SEO legend Neil Patel. Below we can see a mention on a German content marketing blog contentmarketing.de. They’ve used his name but haven’t included a link.
- Your job is now to find the email address from this website, and add it to your Excel or Google Sheet for future outreach.
- To find the email address, use a chrome extension like Hunter. These extensions come with a cost but are huge time savers. Simply install the extension then visit the site you’re looking for an email from and click. Email Finding Tip! Don’t settle for an info@ email though if it’s a big site, your precious outreach email will get lost. Dig deeper to find the right person to contact. If the article has an author, find that person via Facebook or LinkedIn and try there. Or if you can see that the website has a pattern of firstname,email@example.com then it’s simple to figure out what the author’s contact may be.
- Some people like to create a huge list of opportunities, then run through a batch analysis checker such as on Ahrefs. This will allow you to filter your link opportunities via SEO metrics, and then put your efforts into the best ones.
Checking a Link List for Live URLs with Screaming Frog
One tool we use a lot for specific tasks is Screaming Frog, a high affordable SEO crawler with multiple use cases.
It’s great for checking through a big list of brand mentions to see which ones already have links.
- Ensure that your list of URLs have the full URL included (with http://).
- Save your data as a .txt or .csv file.
- Open Screaming Frog and on the top toolbar click on mode > list
- Upload your CSV file
Now we want search the uploaded URLS for our seed website, in this case:
- Go to the top toolbar and click configuration > custom > search
- Enter the URL and click OK
- Your live links will start to appear as the crawler progresses.
Using a Blacklist
If you’re building links at scale for multiple clients, you’ll see the same types of sites appearing in multiple crawls, many of which you might classify as unwanted or useless.
We find it helpful to put these into a ‘blacklist’ so we can easily exclude them from new lists we’re building.
There is a handy Excel formula for doing this but, if you’re not familiar with formulas, you can simply download our template Google sheet.
On this sheet, paste your compiled blacklist into the correct tab.
You’ll see the finished list under the tab Example List, with actionable dropdowns.
And you can manage your outreach using the final tab.
While it’s tempting to use automation for this process and scrape massive lists, that’s rarely effective.
In many years of trying this both at large volume and in very small personalised bursts, we find the second approach always wins.
In fact, we rarely even put the list through an SEO tool, but use Google Search. You may benefit from increasing the amount of results per page to 100.
This manual process works even better when you add in the use of search commands, as we’ll explain below.
Using Search Commands to find (Unlinked) Brand Mentions
Search commands, also known as advanced search operators, are one of the most useful things we can learn as SEO professionals.
Search operators are symbols or words in your search that make your search results more accurate.
For example, if we type intext:dreamdigital we are going to search for all mentions of the brand term Dream Digital appearing anywhere on a web page. This is potentially more useful than a straight Google search which prioritises titles and other factors.
By using a modifier, we can improve the quality of our results
Using the example of Neal Patel, though, we can type: intext:neilpatel and we’ll see a list of websites mentioning this name somewhere within their article. However, since there are a few other Neal Patels in the world, we want to get even more specific.
Let’s try: Neil Patel intext:SEO
By adding SEO as a second requirement, we are now seeing much more targeted results.
The first part is the core subject, but we’re asking Google to only show us those results that also contain the word ‘SEO’.
Well done for saving yourself a tonne of time!
Here’s another version of that: intext:nealpatel -neilpatel.com -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com
That ensures the results we see aren’t mixed up with anything from our own domain or social channels.
Useful Search Commands
Here are some more examples of Search Commands
- Intext:search term – find results in text
- “search term” – only shows exact match results
- “search term -negativesearch term” – For example: “Neil Patel -banking” – Using the minus symbol allows you to filter out irrelevant results. Since there’s another Neil Patel who works in the banking industry, we use this term to exclude anything in that area. You can even exclude more than one term like this: term1 -term2 -term3 -term4
- “Neil Patel + SEO” = The + sign is another useful modifier to ensure accuracy
- “Info:domainname.com” – This is useful for seeing what Google knows about a domain name. Try it with and without www to see expanded results
- -site:pinterest.com – Use an exclusion to keep an entire site of the results Neil Patel
- Brand name @facebook – Restrict results to social media using the @ symbol
Learning search commands properly takes time and experimentation. But their usefulness knows no bounds. By prompting search engines like Google to show you what they already know, you gain insight into how the algorithm works. Many SEO’s consider search commands amongst their most important skills.
Finding Unlinked Brand Mentions with Ahrefs
Ahrefs makes this all easy via their excellent Content Explorer functionality. Here’s how to do it.
- Login to Ahrefs and go to Content Explorer
- Type in your brand term
- Select ‘in content’ from the drop down
- Select ‘Highlight Unlinked Content’ and add your domain
- The beauty of Ahrefs is that it automatically sorts the results via SEO metrics.
2. What Type of Brand Mentions Should You Look For?
Remember, the brand name itself is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many anchor texts you could be mentioned by, depending on your type of brand and the products you sell.
If you’re doing this on behalf of Apple, you might be looking for
Working with a Link Outreach Spreadsheet
Let’s say your spreadsheet now contains 200 potential link opportunities. Before we commence the outreach process, you’ll want to cast a judicious eye over the list to see if it’s worth your time emailing each contact.
Here are some tips:
- If it’s a major newspaper or top level publication run by real journalists, your chances are minimal. These guys have a huge churn of content to write, and probably don’t have any site access themselves. So don’t bother writing to the tech editor from the Guardian or New York Times. You’ll go straight into spam, and raise the likelihood of your email getting flagged.
- If the rest of the article you’re checking contains no links, and the site clearly has a no linking policy, you should hold off trying to win them over. That’s a battle you’re unlikely to win.
- Lay out the document in a way that’s easy to add branding. It can become a client-facing document you present in a monthly meeting, whereby you can demonstrate what you’ve been up to.
- If you’re importing the outreach list into email software, you’ll need to ensure it’s saved in .CSV or other appropriate format, and the correct fields used. For example,
3. Outreach to Turn Mentions into Backlinks
The best outreach is done patiently, and with a highly personalised approach.
If you use mail scraping software to come up with 1000 info@ type addresses, then send a poorly written email, you will be very lucky if you get a single link. But more seriously, you are potentially harming your clients brand with this approach. It’s not uncommon with a big mail out for one of two people to pick up the phone in anger, after receiving an unsolicited email like this. If that phone call goes to your client, you might find yourself out of a job so it’s worth accepting this is a time-consuming process, where shortcuts don’t work.
- Taking the time for real human interactions based on politeness is your best bet.
- Ensure you’re sourcing email addresses that belong to a person. If you have to use an info@ type address, ensure you’ve got the site owner’s name.
- Keep your emails short, no one wants to read an essay in their inbox
- Facebook or Twitter Messenger, or LinkedIn connect can be a useful way to reach someone if their email isn’t findable.
- Keep your tone friendly, positive and in your own voice. If the email sounds like a cut and paste job, you’re half-way to failing.
- Getting an email from your client’s domain will increase your success rates here. If you’re reaching out on behalf of Neil Patel and writing from firstname.lastname@example.org, it won’t get nearly the result as something from the brand itself. Ask the client to set you one up.
Composing an Outreach Email
Here’s the type of approach we find works best:
Dear Marlene (replace correct name here)
I’m part of the team at (brand) and notice you’ve mentioned us in a great piece of content you published recently. Thank you for that, we were honoured and we’re going to share this on our social channels.
Here’s the piece (URL) to refresh your memory.
Since you didn’t actually link to our domain, I was wondering if you might have time to do that. It would be super helpful for our marketing efforts.
Thanks so much and let me know if have time,
Your Phone Number
This approach works well because the email is:
- To the point (doesn’t waste their time)
- Provides all the information
- The offer of sharing adds value
If this language doesn’t feel true to you personally, feel free to tweak it accordingly. If it comes in your own voice, the recipient will feel genuine communication as opposed to the ‘I am going to send the same email to 1000 people because I am too lazy’ vibe which most email spammers use.
The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. They are busy. Like all of us they get too many emails in their inbox. So for you to get any chance of success you need to make their life easy, and do your best to charm them into logging into the website and getting your link inserted.
Even better if you have something to offer in return. If we can go back to the Neil Patel example, here are some ideas of what that might look like.
- Retweet something on the brands social channels
- Offer them an interview with Neil Patel, or something to help their own future content efforts
- Link to them from another site
Follow Up Email 1
You’ll need to prepare at least 2 follow up emails. These work and with a big campaign, we find a significantly greater number of people link when they receive a reminder.
Here’s the type of approach we use.
So sorry for another email but I figured it’s worth a second try. You guys wrote about us in a blog post from September 18th here: (url)
We were so pleased to be mentioned but I was hoping you might add a hyperlink to our site. This would be super helpful for our marketing efforts and hopefully allow people to find out more about us.
Thanks and have a great day,
Your Phone Number
Follow Up Email 2
Just going to try one more time then I’ll stop bothering you. I was hoping to persuade you to link to us from the mention of our brand we spotted in your article of September 18th: (URL)
If you have time, we’d so appreciate it. And let me know I can do you a favour in return some time.
Your Phone Number
Hopefully, you now have the tools to create authoritative links from unlinked brand mentions.
You can use Google Search, or specialist SEO tools like Ahrefs, or Semrush.
We find this is a useful process to continue over time, ideally monitoring your brand mentions as they appear using a Google Alert.
Good luck, and remember to thank your prospects once they’ve linked you!
If you’re looking for assistance with link acquisition or are interested in expanding the marketing offering you provide to your clients by utilising white label SEO services, we’d love to chat!
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