There are fewer exciting things to read than an official patent filing with the USPTO, except perhaps other government paperwork and possibly a phone book (if you’re old enough to remember what a phone book is). However, sometimes you’ll find incredible news in the guts of patents filed, and nowhere is this more clear than in US Patent 8,682,892. What’s in US Patent 8,682,892?

How Google works. (at least part of it)

In this patent, Google shares a little bit of its secret sauce about how it identifies high-quality websites (and filters out low quality spammy websites) using an algorithm named Panda that we’ve talked about on the SHIFT blog before. In this patent are exciting passages such as:

“…the resource-specific modification factor (f.sub.2) for the third search result resource is equal to: f.sub.2=f.sub.3/log.sub.T.sub.2(IS)g(f.sub.3)…”

If that made your head hurt, that’s okay. The problem with patents (and the reason we don’t read them for pleasure) is that they’re usually filled with pages of technical information. The downside is that we can miss critical secrets hidden in plain sight. This passage in the patent is one such secret and is absolutely critical to every PR professional’s career:

“The system determines a count of independent links for the group (step 302). A link for a group of resources is an incoming link to a resource in the group, i.e., a link having a resource in the group as its target. Links for the group can include express links, implied links, or both. An express link, e.g., a hyperlink, is a link that is included in a source resource that a user can follow to navigate to a target resource. An implied link is a reference to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included in a source resource but is not an express link to the target resource. Thus, a resource in the group can be the target of an implied link without a user being able to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.

This section of the patent is talking about how Google determines what are high-quality, independent links to a website. The last two sentences about implied links are the most important. Implied links describe media placements of your products, services, and brands in media, even if the publication doesn’t provide a link to your company’s website.

We can’t emphasize strongly enough just how important this passage is. Google is publicly acknowledging that every time your brand gets a mention in a story, that counts as an implied link that affects your SEO, that affects how many links there are to your website, which in turn affects how well your site shows up when someone is searching for your brand. In short, PR is SEO (or part of it). It singlehandedly validates all of the PR that you’ve generated for your brand, all of the mentions and citations that you’ve accrued through hard work, great products and reputation, and effective public relations, even if you didn’t necessarily get an explicit link in the coverage.

If these media placements are implied links, then how do you know whether or not all of the mentions you’re getting from PR are having any impact? There are a variety of measurement tools and platforms that can give you insightful answers, but one of the simplest and most easily accessible is probably at your fingertips: Google Analytics. Simply put, look at how much organic search traffic you’re getting from Google over the months and years.

Your media placements – confirmed to be part of how Google decides what is a link to you and what is not – should result in more people coming into your website from organic search. Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into Google’s search algorithm (over 200 different factors), but we now have public confirmation that earned media mentions are very much part of it.