/Unlinked Mentions: Turning Mentions into Links

Digital PR

Unlinked Mentions: Turning Mentions into Links

Finding unlinked mentions is the fastest and most effective ROI link building method you can use for building links. Numero uno. It’s also especially useful for larger brands and businesses, as you’ll naturally have more to pounce on.

As a tactic for building links, none are more consistently successful than finding unlinked mentions.

The hard work of having a journalist produce a piece of content that references your brand/people/data/etc. has already been done. This is simply the process of asking for that mention to be converted into an HTML link, which can create a tangible signal for search engines and lead to increased organic rankings and traffic.

In this post, we’ll explore the vast number of mentions you should be looking for, and we’ll also let you know something you can do in order to further increase the likelihood of your outreach emails leading to a successful link conversion.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t just stick to brand name pick-up: unlinked mentions can come from brand mentions, former company names, key people, campaign insights and statistics, as well as products or even image assets
  • Although larger companies will naturally have more unlinked mention opportunities, it’s an activity all companies should do to build links
  • Adding Creative Commons 4.0 can increase your link conversion success from 12% to 18%
  • You can do this process completely free – but paid platforms will increase the number of opportunities you can find, and at speed
  • Contact authors to convert mentions to links, but don’t sleep on webmasters or editorial teams

What are Unlinked Mentions?

Web based unlinked mentions of your assets that can be turned into links

Before we dig in, it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we say ‘unlinked mentions’, and untangle a popular but misleading description, which can limit the way you think about it.

Not just ‘brand mentions’

Often, unlinked mentions and unlinked brand mentions go hand-in-hand. But thinking purely about ‘brand mentions’ will restrict the number of opportunities you can look for that can be turned into a link.

Instead, unlinked mentions is about finding any and all mentions that can be attributed to your company.

There’s an extensive list of assets you could find here (full list below). These are what you need to look for when doing this form of link building, which will hopefully give you an extensive list of opportunities to work with.

What is ‘unlinked’ exactly?

Unlinked also means that there is no HTML <a href> attribute pointing back to your domain.

Therefore there’s nothing for a user to click on and instantly take them to a different webpage, and that also goes for search engine crawlers who have historically relied on links to navigate through websites and calculate value.

To avoid any doubt, this is a conventional link: Root Digital

And this would be an ‘implied link’: Root Digital

John Mueller confirmed back in 2023 that Google still doesn’t provide the same values on a mention (or ‘implied link’) as they do a conventional link, which was written about on Search Engine Land at the time.

However, what Google says and what’s actually real can be two completely different things (Google leaks in May 2024 being a clear example!), and even as far back as 2014 Forbes had referenced Google’s Panda patent and the company differentiating between ‘express links’ (i.e. ones that include an HTML ahref attribute, and those that are ‘implied links’.

Although I’m firmly in the camp that implied links should pass value – where no doubt exists in regards to the context and asset being referenced – for now, let’s assume that a conventional link (i.e one with an ahref attribute) passes more value and therefore should be our goal when attempting to improve organic traffic.

Complete list of mentions to look for

The mentions we’re going to look for are mentions of your assets (brand, people, statistics, etc.) across the web, which you’ll be able to reach out to and ask to be updated with a link.

The starting point is often the hardest and where most people get tripped up. New websites and smaller companies will naturally have less of these mentions online, which will also mean that the tactic might not be as fruitful for them as it will be for larger companies and those that have been publishing content for any meaningful amount of time.

That’s not to say that the tactic isn’t worth pursuing. In terms of ROI, no other tactic can lead to a higher rate of success, so buckle up and start looking for any and all from this list to give yourself an extensive list of mentions that you be potentially claiming:

  • Brand mentions
  • Prominent people
  • Past projects and campaigns
  • Statistics/data
  • Products
  • Historical brand names
  • Images

Here’s some definitions of the above and sources you might be able to look into for opportunities to uncover.

Brand Mentions

The most common type of mention you’ll find is a brand mention. There’s various reasons why a journalist or blogger, etc. would have written about your company. It could be an earnings report, a review of your service, all the way through to something happening outside your office, and a lot of the time, these will be unlinked unless something on your website was of further use to the readers that a journalist could link to.

These are prime opportunities to be turned into links. The link is already implied, and often journalists or webmasters will be happy to update.

Prominent People

Another source of mentions for your business will be prominent or key people. This can be a CEO, other members of the c-suite, press officer or spokesperson, and so on.

It goes without saying that larger companies will have more success with this type of mention than smaller companies (imagine looking for mentions of Jeff Bezos or Martha Stewart), but even smaller companies might have someone who has answered PR Requests in the past or been featured in a press release that was picked-up.

Past Digital PR Projects

At Root, the core service we provide for clients is Digital PR and our clients often gain hundreds of mentions associated with the campaigns we launch. For any agency or in-house specialist working with our clients if they ever leave, that would be a goldmine.

Of course we’ll try to convert them first, but past projects can be a source of potential mentions and ones not to ignore. 

To speed up your search here, make use of Google search operators, which can help you find mentions of the brand, including a key aspect or headline from a past campaign, whilst removing any pages published on the clients domain.

Statistics Data

Another data point you may have – either from a past digital PR campaign, press release or whitepaper – is a key statistic.

These are often easier to find, especially if the number is quite unique. Here’s an example.

We produced a campaign for a client of ours called ‘The Lifetime Cost of Tax’, which went bananas. Coverage galore. One of the things we did to find all the coverage – and importantly find websites talking about our data but not linking – was to use the $ figure we discovered through our research detailing how much people in the US will spend on taxes across their lifetimes. That number being $524,625.

We can then use that statistic in a Google search to find sites who are (most likely) using our research and who we can then double check are either linking to us or not.

Product or Services with unique names

Sometimes the products you create or services offered can pick up a life of their own when it comes to media coverage. Think Airpods, BigMac or even something like a Nice Cube (created by a company called Nee Doh but now searched for on its own).

World famous examples of course fit this category, but even products you might have with a particular name or description will be used with and without the brand name.

These can be especially effective, particularly because any unlinked mentions you find can then be used as a way to build links directly to the product or service page. These pages can then in turn become more competitive for their generic descriptions (i.e. “wireless earphones”) because of the link equity they hold.

Historical Brand Names

An easy one but one people often forget to search for, or even check if the business they work for has ever gone through a rebrand.

If the company has done, there’s a solid chance the old company name might still be out there and unlinked.

Less of a UK example here, but Dunkin’ is a famous example many can relate to. Formerly known as Dunkin Donuts, the company rebranded to move away from being an outlet synonymous with doughnuts but instead a place that people relate to coffee, breakfast and so on.

However, plenty of articles (new and old)  still reference the old name, which (if you were doing link building for Dunkin) would be a good place to look.


Images can be a powerful tool for communicating a concept, and one that many journalists may pick up in their articles to discuss a topic or campaign.

This can be a graph or a piece of photography for example.

A few years ago, we created a campaign to visualise various aspects of dementia that people suffering with the disease may experience. We worked with a world-renowned dementia specialist and a photo editor to craft images that helped showcase to people how bright lights may appear, or how a shadow can look like a black hole you’d naturally want to avoid, alongside other symptoms.

These images were used by journalists, even without the brand name attached, and became a source for us to use when looking for publications using the imagery and therefore our campaign.

How to find unlinked mentions

Now we know what we’re looking for (list above), let me run you through some tools and methods you can use to find them. This’ll range from free through to popular paid platforms many marketing teams will have access to (or should).

Using Google Search

My personal first choice is Google Search. It’s also free, but it can be limited and in my 14 years of experience, won’t pick up all mentions. 

However, Google’s got a pretty decent sized index and if impacting your rankings in Google is high on the agenda, it’ll return the pages they’ve found with your mentions, which could be argued are more valuable than pages they haven’t found (or ignored).

In Google, use the search parameter as so: 

“[insert brand]” -site”[insert domain]”

Here, you also then want to select ‘tools’ and change the time period to something more manageable – like a week – depending on how popular the brand is.

For a client of ours, doing this search uncovers a Yahoo article clearly featuring a campaign we’d produced.

From here, you can most likely scan the article to see if a lovely blue highlighted hyperlink exists, but if you can’t quite tell, let’s do this.

Open the page up and then right click anywhere on the page and select ‘view source’ (you can also do this by pressing CTRL+U on your keyboard at the same time).

A page of code will open up and now you want to press CTRL+F in your keyboard to bring up the ‘Find’ feature.

You’ll see a little box open up and you can then type in the brand or (more easily) the domain of the site. Any instances within the source code itself will then highlight and you can 100% confirm if a link is indeed there or not.

If a link doesn’t exist, pop the URL on a Google Sheet and start creating your sheet of unlinked mentions, which we’ll later want to use for outreach.

For those with loads of mentions, I’ll run-through how to do this in bulk further down the page. Skip there now if you want to, but I’ll also discuss using Bing, Ahrefs and Talkwalker Alerts below, which you’ll want to use before following the process to discover unlinked mentions.

Using Bing

Bing? Yes, Bing.

Same process at the Google Search section above, but I’ve found Bing can be particularly useful when finding brand mentions in non-English language speaking countries.

I won’t dive too far into this one, as it’s exactly the same as above, but don’t overlook Bing as a source of mentions, as it will help you find articles and journalists worth reaching out to that can very much have an impact on your link building and organic search performance.

Using Ahrefs

For this, you’re going to need a £200 ($250) a month subscription. Pricey for many teams, but for companies that get a lot of pick-up and have a marketing team/agency, it’s likely affordable and the benefits can far outweigh the cost.

In Ahrefs, you’ll want to go to the Content Explorer (which now requires a Standard tier subscription or higher), which you can use to find mentions. 

We’re also going to be using our trustee search operator from both our Google and Bing searches above, which for reference is: 

“[insert brand]” -site”[insert domain]”

You’ll want to pop that right in the ‘Enter Topic’ box seen in the screenshot below:

There’s a good chance the site you’re working with is quite large, and given the size of Ahrefs index, it’ll pick up a bunch of results for you to filter through.

Luckily enough, Ahrefs has a few options for you here. If you only want the best of the best – the creme-de-la-creme – then you can filter through to only include domains with higher traffic values and higher authority metrics.

As we know from the leaked Google Search API documents, pages with more traffic pass more link value, and Google also have a method of assigning authority to domains (called SiteAuthority), which highly likely isn’t too dissimilar from Ahrefs’ own Domain Rating, which you can again filter through in your Ahrefs results.

Using the Ahrefs filters, you can narrow down your list to include mentions from only domains with X amount of traffic or a range of Domain Ratings.

Pro tip: set the traffic score to at least 10 or more. The index does pick up a bunch of low quality domains, which would just be a waste of your time chasing. This way, you’re at least getting domains that have a real audience.

For more information on using the Content Explorer, you should check out Ahrefs own guide on it

Once you’ve got a filtered list ready, let’s export it to the same Google Sheet you set up earlier. For now, we just want to stick everything in there (URL only) as we’ll need to work out which ones already have links and which ones don’t before we start outreaching.

Using Talkwalker Alerts

Talkwalker Alerts is a platform you can use to create alerts that drop into your email inbox anytime their system discovers a mention of a keyword or set of keywords you’ve asked it to keep an eye on.

For the purpose we need here, it’s also free, and you can see it up to monitor a variety of mentions including people’s name, data-points and brand names.

To set it up, go to the Talkwalker Alerts site and set up your account. Once logged in, you’ll see an option to ‘create’ an alert. Let’s do that.

In the boxes that appear, like above, we want to set up a few options here so our alert can pick-up a variety of keywords.

Your company/product/people/etc. might happen to be routinely referenced by a few different names and variations. This is where we’re going to use an ‘OR’ command in the alert so it picks up each and every variation of the mention.

Here’s one I made earlier:

This will depend on the brand you’re working with, but here’s some quick rules of thumb for brand mentions:

  • Create an alert that includes the brand name as all-one-word i.e. “couponbirds”
  • For names that have two or more parts, include spaces i.e. “coupon birds”
  • Include a search for the domain name i.e. “”

These should ensure you pick up the vast majority of coverage the day/moment it happens and the system will email you to let you know as soon as it sees one.

Like above, you can check each mention individually or we can use a beautiful little process to help us find out which pages include links vs those that don’t (yet).

Finding Unlinked Mentions in bulk

Now we have a list of URLs in a Google Sheet (or Excel, etc.) containing mentions of our company assets, we want to know whether or not a link exists back to the domain here or not.

To do that, we’re going to use Screaming Frog.

Although there is a paid version, and I would highly recommend you purchase a license for it if your list is considerably beyond 100 URLs, but either way, you can still use Screaming Frog for free. The only kicker being that you can process 100 URLs at a time.

Let’s be honest, if you have a list of ~500 URLs, you can just break that up into 5 different crawls pretty easily, so no sweat there.

The idea of using Screaming Frog can make people freeze, as it’s not the most friendly UI and you’re in ‘technical SEO’ waters here, but I promise you, the process looks scarier than it is for people who would consider themselves ‘not very technical’. Follow me.

Once you’ve installed Screaming Frog, you want to do this:

Configuration > Custom > Search

Let’s steer clear of regex as it can make people’s heads explode, so a simple text search here will be good for 99% of the cases we’re going to care about.

As above, once you’ve clicked onto the Custom Search option, you can simply select Contains, Text, [insert your domain] and HTML.

What we’re asking Screaming Frog to do is, when it’s doing the crawl, it’ll do a count for how many times it sees’’ in the HTML of the pages we’ve found.

This – in 99% of cases – will then tell us if a link exists within the HTML to our domain or not.

So once you’ve hit ‘OK’, let’s copy the URLs from your Google Sheet (or wherever) and then in the options along the top select:

Mode > List

Then hit Upload and when a screen appears, paste your list of URLs into the list – or even easier – simply select ‘Paste’ after you’ve clicked ‘Upload’ and Screaming Frog will automatically drop your clipboard into the list.

Once you’ve hit next, Screaming Frog will do it’s thing and once it’s finished, we can scroll along the top to ‘Custom Search’ where we can see what the hell happened during its ventures:

This is now telling us how many instances it found of our custom search, and the URLs (on the left) that it found them on.

Let’s now export the list, and anything with a 1 or more in the Custom Search column can be discarded for now, as we want to focus on the URLs that DIDN’T have a link to us and are now prime candidates for an outreach email.

Reaching out to the publications

So we’ve found a URL or a bunch of URLs that mention us and don’t yet have a link to us on. Now we want to get in touch with that publication in order to see if they would be so kind as to link back to us where we are already mentioned.

Find the journalists email address

First port of call – the author.

I won’t list all of the methods (you can see a few in our article about How to Outreach to Journalists here) but instead, here’s a quick guide, which also won’t cost you any money to follow.

So we have an article we now know features us but doesn’t link, so the first person worth reaching out to is the author.

Often times, by simply clicking on the authors name you’ll be met with a profile page where they’ll either display the email right off the bat (sometimes written like darren[dot]kingman@rootdigital[dot]com) and other times it’ll be as simple as clicking on a social profile they have on there and you’ll see the email address in the bio.

However, sometimes that doesn’t work, so here’s a quick tip. Use is among the best I’ve found for either knowing or correctly guessing the email format we need for the publication we’re going to be contacting.

The platform might not know the exact email we need for our author, but instead they’ll give us this; the email pattern.

With that, you can simply fill in the blanks from the author of the page you’re unlinked mention is on, and contact the journalist from there.

Find a Webmaster email address

However, sometimes the journalist is no longer around, might not be in charge of altering existing pages, or not listed at all.

Now instead, we need a webmaster or anyone who might be able to help us.

This part is a lot simpler, as all you’ll often need to do is go to a Contact Us page and there’ll be a list of people at the publication you can reach out to. However if they don’t have a Contact Us page, you can search for a ‘masthead’.

A masthead is a list of the publications staff, often on the editorial side, and this frequently lists email addresses alongside names and roles.

Search through the list to find someone who is in an Editor position, or Webmaster, and we can start our outreach with them in mind.

Unlinked Mention Email Template

As a team, we use Buzzstream to manage our outreach emails, so the email sequences below are ones you can easily copy and paste into Buzzstream.

However, you can absolutely do this via Gmail, Outlook or any email platform you use. But if you are going to do this in bulk, then having a platform to avoid cross over and managing your automated email follow-ups will help you save time in the long-run.

Now, there are two slightly different approaches here, and this will depend on if your content is marked up with Creative Commons 4.0 or not.

I’m not expecting it to be, but I will include a section below on using Creative Commons 4.0 on your pages and how it’ll help increase your unlinked mentions success.

Without Creative Commons 4.0

Feel free to amend this based on the mention you are going after, if you have a relationship with the author, or if you just hate how this is worded, but the general gist is:

  1. Get to the point
  2. Include a link to the article they’ve published
  3. Include the link you want them to add
  4. Be nice


Hi [First Name],

I work with [Client Name] and recently discovered an article you’d published here [article] including a mention of [them/us].

I’d greatly appreciate it if the article could be updated to include a link to [target URL] where you’ve already mentioned [them/us].

It helps us tremendously to continue to create similar content, and I can also send other research to you directly in the future.

Do you think that would be possible?

Many thanks,
[user first name]


With Creative Commons 4.0

If you do happen to have Creative Commons 4.0, the general gist stays the same, but the motivation you’re asking them to have changes slightly. Instead of ‘you’d be helping me out’ the message is more ‘this is widely considered legal digital attribution so let’s not break that, yeah?’.

But still being nice.


Hi [First name],

I work with [Client Name] and wanted to firstly say ‘thank you’ for including [Client name]’s research on [topic] in your article here [article].

The data and study that make up the article are actually covered by Creative Commons 4.0 International attribution guidelines, which you can see on the published page here [target URL]

Effectively, that means that any site that uses the material would not only need to mention us but also link back to the original source, which the article unfortunately doesn’t currently do.

Here’s the page on Creative Commons if you wanted to see more:

Could you please update the page linking to the source of the data?

Thanks in advance,

[user first name]


How to increase chances of getting a link

A little trick that can make all the difference to your unlinked mention outreach success. In fact, in our tests, we were able to increase our chances of converting a mention to a link from 12% to 18% using this tactic alone.

Creative Commons 4.0 as mentioned above, is a global attribution license where (in CreativeCommons own words) “great care was taken by hundreds of legal experts around the world to ensure that the CC licenses are legally enforceable internationally” and “have been enforced in court in various jurisdictions”.

Pretty solid, and any journalist who doesn’t know about CC is either a) a rare breed, or b) going to take it very seriously.

Therefore, on each page you have across the site and particularly those that you’re intending to build links with or gain mentions for, include this nugget:

Then, when you’re sending your outreach emails, you’ve got more than just a ‘please sir’ leg to stand on.

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