John Mueller of Google was asked if Brand Signals help with SEO and rankings. John Mueller detailed how brand signals are not used at Google.
What is the brand?
Brand reference is when a website mentions another website. There is an idea in the SEO community that when a website mentions a domain name or another website URL, Google will see this and count it as a link.
Brand mentions are also known as implicit association. Much was written about this ten years ago after a patent from Google mentions “implicit linksappeared.
There’s never been a solid review of why the notion of “brand mention” has nothing to do with this patent, but I’ll provide an abbreviated version later in this article.
John Mueller discusses brand signals
Do trade signals help in ranking?
The person asking the question wanted to know information about the trademarks for the purpose of ranking. The person asking the question has a good reason to ask it because the idea of ”brand mention” has not been finalized.
The person asked the question:
“Do no-link branding help with SEO rankings?”
Google does not use trademark signals
Google’s John Mueller responded that Google does not use “brand signals” for any link-related purpose.
“From my point of view, I don’t think we ever use it for things like PageRank or understanding a website’s link graph.
Sometimes just mentioning it is hard anyway.”
This part of being deceptive is interesting.
He doesn’t explain why it’s difficult until later in the video where he says it’s difficult to understand the subjective context of a website that mentions another website.
Brand mentions are useful for building awareness
Mueller then says that brand mention can be useful to help get the word out about a site, which is about building popularity.
“But it could be something that makes people aware of your brand, and from that point of view, it could be something where you might have some kind of influence indirectly by looking for your brand and then… obviously, if they’re looking for your brand The commercials will then hopefully find you right away and then they can go to your website.
And if they like what they see there, then again, they can go ahead and recommend that to others, too.”
Brand signals are problematic
Later at the 58th minute, another person brings the thread back up and asks how Google can handle spam sites that tag a brand in a negative way.
The person said links could be disavowed but “brand reference” could not be disavowed.
Mueller agreed and said this is one of the things that makes it difficult to use trademarks for designation purposes.
John Mueller explained:
“Kind of understanding the almost subjective context of a signal is really difficult.
Is it a positive or negative sign?
Is it a sarcastic positive cue or a sarcastic negative cue? How do you even know that?
And all of that, along with the fact that there are a lot of spammy sites out there, sometimes they just spin content, sometimes they are malicious about the content you create…
All of that, I think, makes it really difficult to say we can use that like a link.
… I think it’s too confusing to use it as an obvious allusion.”
Where do “brands” come from?
The idea of ”brand mention” has been around for over ten years.
There were no research papers or patents to back it up. “Brand mention” is literally an idea someone invented out of thin air.
However, the “brand mention” idea took off in 2012 when a patent came out that seemed to confirm the brand mention idea.
There’s a whole long story there so I’m going to condense it.
There is a patent from 2012 that has been misinterpreted in many different ways because most people at the time, myself included, didn’t read the entire patent from start to finish.
The patent itself relates to the ranking of web pages.
The structure of most Google patents consists of introductory paragraphs that discuss what the patent is and those paragraphs are followed by pages of in-depth description of the details.
The introductory paragraphs explaining what it’s about say:
“Methods, systems, and devices, including computer software… for ranking search results.”
Pretty much no one reads that first part of the patent.
Everyone focused on one paragraph in the middle of the patent (page 9 of 16 pages).
In that paragraph there is mention of something called “implicit links. “
Word “implicitIt is mentioned only four times in the entire patent and all four times are mentioned in that single paragraph.
So when this patent was discovered, the SEO industry focused on that single paragraph as evidence that Google was using trademarks.
To understand what an “implicit link” is, you have to scroll all the way up to the opening paragraphs where the Google patent authors describe something called “reference queryThis is not a link but is nonetheless used for rating purposes just like a link.
What is a reference query?
A referral query is a search query that contains a reference to a URL or domain name.
The patent states:
“A query referring to a given set of resources can be a pre-submitted search query that is categorized as referring to a resource in a given set of resources.”
Elsewhere, the patent provides a more specific explanation:
A query can be classified as referring to a specific resource if the query contains a term that the system recognizes as referring to a specific resource.
…search queries including the term “example.com” can be classified as pointing to that home page”.
The patent abstract, which comes at the beginning of the document, states that it is about creating links to an independent website and also calculating referral queries and with this information creating a “modification factor” used to rank web pages.
“…determine the number of reference queries specific to each of the several resource groups; determine, for each of the resource groups, a group-specific adjustment factor, where the group-specific adjustment factor for each group depends on the number of independent links and the number of group-reference queries;”
The entire patent largely depends on these two very important factors, namely the number of independent internal links and the number of referral queries. The terms reference queries and reference queries are used 39 times in the patent.
As mentioned above, the referral query is used for ranking purposes like a link, but it is not a link.
The patent states:
“An implicit link is a reference to a target resource…”
Obviously, in this patent, when you refer to implicit linking, it’s talking about referring queries, which as explained above simply means when people search using keywords and the domain name of a website.
The idea of brand reference is wrong
The whole idea of “brand mention” has become part of SEO belief systems due to how this patent has been misinterpreted.
But now you have the facts and you know why “brand mention” isn’t a real thing.
Additionally confirmed by John Mueller.
“Brand mention” is a completely random thing that someone in the SEO community invented out of thin air.
Watch John Mueller discuss “Brand Signals” at the 44:10 minute mark and the second part of the Brand Signals begins at the 58:12 minute mark