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It looks like life may get much easier for “white hat” SEOs. According to SEO guru Rand Fishkin, there is strong evidence that co-citations and co-occurence are replacing anchor text as an organic ranking factor! What exactly does this mean? Rand explains in this past week’s WBF.
Watch the video:
This is great news for people building truly remarkable companies and investing heavily in content marketing (i.e. the creation of quality, authoritative content with the intention of attracting, engaging, and converting target prospects).
What are Co-Citations?
So, what are co-citations and why would it be awesome if they replaced anchor text as a ranking signal? With respect to SEO, it seems like the jury is still out on exactly constitutes a co-citation. Based on Rand’s video above, you could easily (mis)interpret a co-citation as the words on another website located around an actual link on that website pointing to your website. I believe this is known as co-occurence.
Jim Boykin, another web marketing guy, offers what I consider to be the more traditional definition of co-citation. In a recent blog post, Jim uses a graphic like the the one seen at left, to explain co-citation.
In Jim’s example, sites A and B would be related via co-citation even though they do not link directly to each other. The more websites reference both site A and site B, the stronger the relationship between A and B becomes.
As an interesting side note, in one of the comments associated with Rand’s video, he goes on to say, “co-citation probably comes from many more sources than just raw mentions near links. It’s when brand names are included, when links to the domain are, when citations happen in search queries (e.g. “cell phone reviews consumer reports”), etc.”
Why Co-Citations Replacing Links is Awesome
The reason it would be awesome if co-citations were weighted more heavily than anchor-text is that it’s far easier (and much more natural) for someone to mention your company name without also having to link to you using a specific keyword anchor text. This is especially true for high authority websites and influential individuals. High authority websites are much more likely to link to you using your brand name than they are to link to you using keyword-rich anchor text. For example, when Blue Corona was named to the Inc. 500 list, Inc. magazine didn’t link to us with some target keyword like, “top SEO company.” They linked back to us using a branded term. If the definition of co-citation were expanded the way Rand explains in the video, it would still be possible for companies to improve their SEO for specific keyword phrases without having to actually get anchor links using these keywords.
For example, it’s far more common for an HVAC industry magazine to publish this: “Blue Corona, an SEO company specializing in the hvac industry, has create a new small business program designed specifically for contractors with fewer than three trucks.” than it is for the same publication to publish something like this, “Blue Corona, an SEO company specializing in the hvac industry, has…”
Now, what would be really awesome is if Google and the other search engines could interpret the text on various websites and use these “citations” as a measure of relevance and authority (as opposed to requiring links). Some people believe this is already happening, but I don’t see much evidence of it. For example, although Blue Corona is headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, we’re nowhere to be found for searches like, “SEO Gaithersburg” or “Rockville SEO Company” (a neighboring city). We know how to change this, but are not doing anything about it on purpose (to see if all the local PR we get — typically without links — does anything to change the rankings).
Just look at this example:
In the screenshot above, Blue Corona is mentioned on a .gov website as part of a press release. What’s missing? A link to our website! In the past, the thinking was, “no link – no value.” I suspect that Google does have a way to translate these brand mentions into relevance and authority.
Whether this is actually true or not has yet to be determined. Regardless of the changes Google makes with respect to anchor text and co-citations, one thing remains constant: the best long-term strategy for SEO is to use content to establish and promote your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it.
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About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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