Unlinked Mentions: How to Turn Plain Text into Backlinks?

How monitoring who's talking about you can result in fantastic link building opportunities?
Published on 
January 21, 2024
Updated on 
January 21, 2024
Posted in 

It happens often while building backlinks. Another site mentions your brand in their content, but there is no link to your website. 

You have been mentioned, not linked to. 

Unlinked mentions are usually quite easy to find, but it’s not always easy to convert them into dofollow links. 

In the below article, we’re going to explore the different types of unlinked mentions you will encounter while link building and some strategies to convert them into link juice-channeling dofollow backlinks. 

With the right approach, you can often convince (or remind) website owners and site masters to include a link to your website along with your brand name. 

What is an unlinked mention? 

Whether you’ve heard them referred to as brand mentions, fresh mentions, or unlinked mentions, they all refer to a scenario in which a website has made reference to either your brand, or specific products and services, but haven’t linked their readers to your site. 

It is difficult to predict if and when a website will use unlinked mentions or direct dofollow hyperlinks when referring to your business, but there are typically two reasons for an unlinked mentions: 

  • A website has an editorial policy in place that either doesn’t allow dofollow backlinks, or permits them on a case by case basis. 
  • A website has simply forgotten to include a backlink or didn’t realize the importance of including one. 

Big news sites and leading industry blogs and publications often fall into the first category. Sometimes they refuse to provide dofollow backlinks out of selfishness, sometimes it’s a conservative SEO policy that attempts to play it safe with all external links by refusing to lend trust or authority and maximize the SEO value of the page. 

Smaller sites, websites that are not digital-marketing obsessed, and one-man-show websites that are run by people without a lot of digital marketing and SEO knowledge tend to fall into the second category. 

They give out unlinked brand mentions because they didn’t really give it much thought. 

The latter is usually the easiest brand mentions to convert into dofollow links. 

We will spend more time on all of this shortly. 

The difference between unlinked brand mentions and nofollow backlinks

The major difference, as you may have guessed, is the presence of a link. 

An unlinked brand mention is just text, no hyperlinked text that takes readers to a different blog post or domain. 

A nofollow link, on the other hand, has that hyperlink in there. 

What defines a nofollow link however, and what distinguishes it from a dofollow backlink, is that the former doesn’t pass on any SEO value or “link juice.” 

They are either deliberately chosen by the person publishing a piece of content or they are the default link tag applied in certain settings–comment sections, directory profiles, social media. 

And while search engines like Google do not consider nofollow links to be a ranking factor like dofollow links are, they can be better than pure brand mentions (provided you aren’t able to convert an unlinked mention into a dofollow link) because they are a source of referral traffic. 

People can still click on those nofollow backlinks and arrive at your website. 

Here’s an example of a nofollow backlink we got from the website GoodFirms.

example of linked mention

There is a red box around the hyperlinked text–which is how the free nofollow Chrome extension indicates nofollow backlinks. 

Here’s an unlinked mention from Builtin. 

example of unlinked mention

And here’s a dofollow link we got from Databox. 

example of linked mention

In the case of brand mentions, we are sometimes able to reach out and get them converted. In the case of nofollow backlinks, a nofollow vs dofollow policy is usually pretty set in stone. If a link has been set to rel=nofollow, there is usually a reason for it. 

The importance of staying on top of your unlinked mentions

It is always worth your while to find unlinked mentions and, ideally, be notified of them as soon as Google indexes a new page and encounters one. 

When Google released their Penguin Update back in 2016, they were going after what they considered to be manipulative link building strategies. These link building strategies didn’t even necessarily fall into the black hat link building category. 

They were any links that Google believed were built for the purpose of gaming the ranking algorithm, rather than providing improving user experience. 

What this means is that links from high authority, trustworthy sites are foundational to your SEO success. 

These are the kinds of links that dofollow builds for our clients. 

Unlinked mentions are some of the best kinds of links you can target because your presence in another site’s content is entirely organic–you didn’t ask for or suggest a mention.

This is why it’s extremely important to try and find unlinked brand mentions and convert them into linked mentions where possible. 

The issue with unlinked mentions

Links are one of the most important Google ranking factors

When Google sees that you have credible, trustworthy, high authority websites linking back to you, it sends signals that your domain is worthy of being shown to searchers using Google’s search engine. 

This is why there is such a strong correlation between the quality of your backlinks and where you rank in the SERP. 

If you think you are able to convert unlinked mentions into branded dofollow backlinks, in most cases, it is in your interest to do so. 

When it doesn’t make sense to chase unlinked mentions

You should always investigate any unlinked mentions you come across, but you will sometimes find that it doesn’t make sense to try and convert them. 

Generally speaking, this will happen in four scenarios: 

  • When the mention is clearly on a link farm
  • When the mention is clearly on a private blog network (PBN)
  • When the mention is part of a paid-link scheme 
  • When your brand is being spoken about negatively 

Unlinked mentions on link farms

graph that explains how link schemes work

If you find unlinked mentions on link farms–i.e., websites that exist solely to sell backlinks to whomever is willing to buy–don’t convert them. 

Google launched the aforementioned Penguin Update to crack down on precisely things like link farms. 

One of two things generally happens if you build links on link farms. You either get zero SEO value out of it, or you could be penalized for it. 

If Google thinks your link building tactics are egregious enough, they could even slap you with a manual action penalty–which can have a significant impact on your ranking, traffic, conversions and, ultimately, revenue. 

unnatural links issue on google search console

The existence and insidiousness of things like link farms are exactly why you need to be cautious when claiming unlinked brand mentions. 

Unlinked brand mentions on private blog networks

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) fall into the same category as link farms. They are meant to game the ranking algorithm with spammy links. 

Private blog networks are usually set up by a site owner or several with the intention of channelling links and link juice from a group of sites to a main “money site.”

It looks like a page or a domain has received a bunch of links (often from high domain authority websites built on expired domains with residual DA). But, in actuality, it’s an illusion. 

You don’t want to convert unlinked mentions on PBNs because you risk Google penalties. 

Paid link schemes

What we mean when we refer to as paid link schemes are bait and switch operations where websites will mention your brand or website in the hopes that you will reach out and request that dofollow link. 

When you do, they will inform you that “sure, we’ll give you a dofollow link, this is how much it costs.” It’s a dishonest business model that is, unfortunately, quite prevalent. 

Platforms like HARO were especially rife with it for a while until Cision decided to crack down on it. You would respond to a query, they’d provide you with a mention, and then either explicitly say that they would change it to a dofollow link for a fee, if you agreed to a link exchange, or if you agreed to hand over a bunch of data. 

Google is against paid links as well. 

A caveat when it comes to paid backlinks

Sometimes the decision to pay to turn unlinked mentions into dofollow backlinks is more nuanced. 

You will often find high domain authority, otherwise respectable websites with good domain metrics and demonstrable page and domain niche relevance. They might request some sort of remuneration for processing the mention into a link. 

In these cases, it is up to you to decide whether or not a potential backlink is safe enough to warrant paying to convert that unlinked brand mention. 

When your unlinked mentions are negative

Not all mentions are in a positive light. 

Sometimes a particular site or company will speak negatively about your brand. 

They might have had a bad experience with your customer service. They might have received a defective product. 

These things can and do happen; even to companies that generally provide good service and quality products to a, by and large, satisfied customer base. 

Such mentions are best left as mentions. Only focus on converting positive online mentions. 

The types of unlinked brand mentions

You will often find that not all unlinked mentions include your brand name. 

There are also: 

  • Product or service-related unlinked mentions
  • Mentions of brand ambassadors, representatives or company employees. 
  • Specific slogans or catch phrases that are associated with your brand.
  • Anything business-related

A step-by-step guide to turning and unlinked mention into a dofollow backlink

There are a few, simple things you can do to turn an unlinked mention into a link juice-providing dofollow backlink. 

Some effort is required, but it can pay massive dividends. 

First step: find unlinked mentions

This is the most time-consuming and most important step. You can’t convert anything if you don’t know where they are. And, if you’ve had a website or online business for a while, odds are, they’re out there. 

Some of the popular tools available to help you find unlinked brand mentions include: 

  • AppSumo
  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • Brand24

All of these tools are paid, mind you. 

There is also a very good free method. 

Google Alerts

google alerts alert creation

A great, free way to stay on top of unlinked brand mentions is to set up alerts in Google that will notify you by email everytime a new one is found. 

Every time Google indexes a new webpage that contains the words you set, it will let you know. 

Sometimes the results it finds are not related to your website. Ignore those. 

Take those that are relevant and add them to an outreach list that you can then parse for viable opportunities to convert unlinked brand mentions into solid dofollow backlinks. 

Second step: locating contact information

After you find unlinked brand mentions and sort them for quality and relevance, the next stage of the link building process is to locate website contact information. 

You have a few options when it comes to contact details. You could send a message to the general admin email–the “info@” address. That tends not to get you very far, especially if you’re dealing with a huge site/company with a lot of employees. 

It’s ok for solopreneurs running their own site. They are almost certainly monitoring the admin email. 

To do efficient contact info gathering at scale, however, it’s better to use a paid tool like Hunter or 

hunter io

These allow you to upload bulk URLs, which it then scrapes for contact info, in addition to using other databases. 

Third step: the pitch

After you know which site owners you’re contacting, it’s time to reach out and request that unlinked mention get changed to a dofollow backlink.

The most important thing to keep in mind while doing this is that sometimes the answer is no.

You were given an unlinked mention on purpose because that is what their editorial policy dictates. It is very unlikely you are going to change a site’s mind–especially a big site with long-standing processes in place–to do something they don’t want to do. 

Don’t be pushy. Don’t get yourself placed on spam lists (potentially affecting your email deliverability in the future).

Just take the L and move on to the next one. Link building, at the end of the day, involves a lot of perseverance. 


Done carefully, this is a link building tactic that is low effort, low cost, high reward. 

Typically, unlinked mentions occur when a site has decided to mention you of their own volition (or while using HARO). This means that you probably didn’t have to invest much money (at least directly) into building them. 

Converting unlinked mentions into dofollow backlinks can also be a great source of referral traffic, in addition to the link juice. People are more likely to click on a link that takes them to your site than they are to search your name after reading it. The latter is clearly more effort. 

Unlinked mentions are a good part of a larger link building strategy–one that aims to build a diversified backlink profile using Google-approved tactics. 

This is exactly what dofollow does for its clients. Reach out to us today and let’s talk more about how our user-centric, transparent, performance-based link building can help skyrocket you up the search engine results page and make significant improvements to your organic traffic and conversions. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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