Have you ever seen those URLs that people sometimes include on their pages, but which are not implemented as physical links? It can be frustrating if someone uses some of your content, and then gives you a citation like that, but it does happen. Did you ever wonder if Google treats those “URL Mentions” as a ranking factor?
The IMEC team decided to conduct tests to see if Google does indeed do that? In this post, we will report our results on whether or not Google places any value on these URL Mentions.
The Short Story
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We tried two tests to see what would happen if we created 15 or more URL Mentions to a page to see if that would change the rankings of that page (more details on how we did that are spelled out below). Some of these were added to existing indexed pages, and some of them were included in new article posted on existing sites.
In neither case did we see any rankings change. This would imply that Google does not consider an URL Mention to be a signal. Or, at the very least, if it is used as a signal, that it’s weak in comparison to the other factors that Google considers, as there was no observable impact.
The Long Story
As mentioned above, we ran two tests. We picked queries and target sites that were fairly non-competitive in order to make it a bit easier to change the ranking position of the site:
We then asked IMEC members to volunteer their web sites for participation in the test. For each test, we created 10 original articles on the topic of our query. In the case of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the articles all were about the life of the Italian politician, and included a URL mention to the page on the www.naval-technology.com site for the aircraft carrier which is named after him.
In addition, in each test, we had additional sites that added a text blurb to existing indexed web pages on their sites. In order to help ensure that these were diverse in nature, we pre-created 10 different blurbs, so that participants would not be placing the same copy on their web sites.
As a result of all this effort, here is what we actually ended up getting for URL Mentions in the two tests:
As you can see, there were a fair number of URL mentions obtained in both tests. Here is a look at the Domain Authority from the participating sites:
Lastly, here are the results for the two tests in terms of rankings over time (note that the missing data points are times when the page was not found in the top 50 results):
As summarized above, we saw no indication that Google is using URL mentions as a ranking factor. We can’t treat this data as conclusive, however, as it’s still possible that it is factored into the algorithm, but as a relatively weak signal.
Thanks to the IMEC board: Rand Fishkin, Mark Traphagen, Cyrus Shepard, and David Minchala, and the entire group of IMEC participants! And, for completeness, here is my Twitter Handle.