In a Q&A session on Google Hangouts, Google’s John Mueller said that Google uses unlinked URL citations to find new websites:
“We use those kinds of links to try to discover new content. If we see that someone has been writing about a new domain name and we can recognize that as a domain name in the text even without a normal HTML link, then that is something where we will try to pick that domain name up, try to crawl it and index it and see if that is something worth including in our search results.”
“Sometimes someone will try to shorten a URL with ‘…’ in between and we try to crawl that URL so we get it wrong. But our goal here isn’t necessarily to pass any PageRank, which we don’t do with those kinds of links. But rather discover new URLs that we haven’t seen before. And if we see someone write about a URL that we haven’t seen before we will pick that up and try to index that for search.”
You can watch John Mueller’s statement in this Google Hangout recording (starting on minute 47):
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