Will Linkless Backlinks Be the Big New Thing in SEO Next Year?

Backlinks have been a fixture in the SEO world for quite some time, and in theory it is easy to see why. Essentially when one page links to another it is seen as a ‘vote’ for the content of that page, and the fact that it was deemed worthy to be linked.

Unfortunately in practice backlinks have proven to be difficult for search engines to manage. Over the years there have been lots of practices that Google and other search engines have cracked down on, including paid links, link spam, link swaps, and much more. Recently there’s been speculation that Google may start looking to linkless backlinks, as a more reliable method of gauging the value of websites.

“What are Linkless Backlinks?”

Simply put linkless backlinks (otherwise known as linkless mentions) are simply mentions of a brand or website that doesn’t contain a web-link. In the past these mentions would carry no weight, but in recent years search engines have been developing ways to track these mentions and the context and sentiments behind them.

As far back as 2014 Google filed a patent for what it termed ‘implied links’. Then in 2016 Bing’s former Senior Product Manager stated that Bing had figured out how to associate mentions without a link and determine their sentiment and tone years ago.

The current wave of speculation mostly stems from a comment made by Google’s Gary Illyes this year, where he basically states that brands are doing great if they publish high quality content that is highly cited not just by links but other mentions.

“What Does it Mean for SEO?”

For SEO linkless backlinks represent a step into the unknown. On the surface the same principles of normal link-building still apply – just without such a heavy emphasis on actually having a link.

However there are further implications to this drive that are likely to have a profound effect on search engine rankings. Once mentions start to count as backlinks, Google and other search engines may start to include data pulled from social media, customer reviews, and a wide range of sources to see the context in which people are mentioning your website.

As such it may become more important for brands to track mentions across the web. It also places a greater emphasis on other types of off-page SEO aside from link-building that could expand a brand’s reach and thereby increase mentions.

It is worth noting that at this point the inclusion of linkless backlinks in Google or any other search engine is still speculation. That being said it does seem likely that search engines will move in that direction at some point – but whether or not that shift will take place next year is unknown.

If you’re concerned about future-proofing your dental SEO in case it happens, it is best to stick to the basics. By publishing high quality content that people are genuinely interested in and respond to – you’ll be covered if and when linkless backlinks actually become a thing.

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