Anchor Text vs Co-Citation

Anchor Text and Co-Citation

Many of those who are skilled at search engine optimization are predicting a huge switch with the major search engines. For a long time, anchor text has been used by the SEO to target keywords. It appears that even though anchor text is not likely to disappear altogether, it is probable that its use will decrease. We are likely to see a shift using more co-citation in its place. Co-citation is basically a way search engines link WebPages together by establishing relevance between pages because of common words or phrases. The question is how this will affect SEO best practices.

How is Co-citation Different from Anchor Text?

Co-citation in simplest terms is associating words together based on context. As an example, if Google spiders notice that certain words and phrases are associated together frequently, they may put all these terms together. If it notices that “ratings” and “television” are frequently mentioned together, Google may put them together. If it is also noticeable that these two words are associated with Consumer Reports, then results may show “television ratings” along with Consumer Reports. Google seems to be getting smarter about what types of words should be associated with others and displaying them that way in search results. Results are not necessarily linking the query to a site because of the keyword phrase, title or traditional anchor text. Google is linking terms together on various web pages whether or not they are linked to the main site. For web marketing purposes this means that they can write about their brands and associate specific terms together so that there is a higher quality of association between keywords, keyword phrases and the specific brand.

How does Co-Citation work in real time?

Co-Citation is a technique that can mean improvements in rankings in SERPs which can attract more targeted traffic. It basically uses a similarity measure along with popularity to bring similar terms together. In other words, if site C cites both A and B, they may be considered related to each other even though A and B are not directly referenced by each other. When both A and B are cited from a lot of other places, they will have a stronger relationship. Actually, the more times that they are both cited the stronger the relationship between them, even though they are not directly referencing each other.

Content is Still King

All of this means that ranking can be earned by having a brand name associated with a keyword phrase without the use of anchor text. This indicates that the search engines are shifting to evaluating the content of a site. If there is content on another site that is discussing a particular brand, search engines will see that their content is linked to the brand and will deem the two related. The two sites are a co-citation. The sites in the top rankings have good co-citations. This may mean that Google is simply getting a little bit smarter about how it searches and ranks sites. It does not mean that we should throw away anchor text altogether.

Will this change SEO best practices?

Not really. It is just another tool that can be used, especially when we are talking about brand association.  In one way it is another way to develop backlinks without having to actually link to an exact page. SEO best practices will incorporate having others write about a specific brand. It means that when someone else writes about a brand as an authoritative source which is of high quality, they will be linking to the brand’s site. It’s as easy as others using your keyword phrases or keywords in their content. It is not the way we do SEO right now, but it may certainly be something we will look at in the very near future.