A mention is when your company, brand or trademark gets written or featured in the media or a publication. This mention can be on a medium that is published offline such as a billboard, newspaper article, magazine article, even advertorial in respectable publications. An online medium will be on a website which could include blogs and forums as well as media and company websites.
The effect on people
A brand name is unforgettable after all it is branded into our psyche. Thus when people remember you, they remember why they need you. Thus when people google or search for your name be it a brand, product name, company/organisation name, trademark or even an industry nickname – they are likely to convert much better than a generic non brand search phrase. Further more, a search engine is not going to want to show your competitor’s name when people search for your brand name – you win every single time.
The effect on search reputation
Being mentioned is gold dust because the more you’re mentioned, the more likely someone will search on your name. From an algorithm point of view that’s likely to be a positive indication that you’re important and that people are curious about you enough to search on you. It also helps justify any link acquisition programs and content publishing programs that you may or may not be running.
Why mentions before links?
Because, almost every SEO driven webmaster depends religiously on links. In their defence, this is partly due to the paymaster brand corporates refusing to blog or engage in content publishing programs be it a regular diary or opinion column on their blog. Thus from a search point of view, it makes sense to start building a recognisable profile or brand identity and build relationships with the media. This will make the site far more believable than a website just gathering links. Hush hush, if you’re cheap you can also write regularly which will cost you time but at least you’re more believable than a stagnant site just acquiring links with no reputation.
Why not links before mentions?
No reason why not if you’re planning to publish opinions and original news and research frequently. Search engines are expert in finding new sites and including their content without you having to do much. Especially if you ping your web pages or tweet them. Real people will read follow and google your site name the next time round thus your content will build a reputation in search and may attract links. If your content is really compelling, you may attract other experts to engage in your blog and may receive invitations to blog elsewhere if not get mentioned elsewhere. So there is another way that is not link nor mention dependent – but it is hard.
Doing it concurrently
There’s no reason why you couldn’t do both as long as you are doing both. Link building may not give you immediate results in competitive queries but it does help to manage crawl on your website, diversify server load balancing as well as the usual benefits of channelling PageRank. So don’t write off link building just yet.
I’ll mention you
Being searched for is what matters and the way to do that is to get involved and start being known in the media your target audiences consume. That means hiring a PR specialist to create news angles, announce it in the press and follow up with the media. It’s expensive but well worth the mention – why do you think celebrities get so many freebies from shops? They always say “I’ll mention you”.