SEO co-citations: What they are & why they matter

Anatomy of SEO co-citation and authority transferIt never fails. A new year comes along or Google unleashes a new algorithm change, and SEO professionals start whirling theories and warnings about how SEO will never be the same. They claim SEO is dead.

Once you’ve been in this industry for a while, you learn to pay attention to what’s going on, but not to jump to conclusions and pull your hair out every time someone sneezes.

Link building has always been an integral part of performing effective SEO on any site, regardless of whether it’s a big brand or small mom-n-pop shop around the corner. But when Penguin hit the scene in April 2012, a whole new mindset had to be adopted.

No longer could you easily get away with ranking a lower-quality site merely by creating an army of backlinks for it. And in the SEO world, heads were spinning. To this day, many agree on some principles of links, building them, which ones are good, and which ones really help your site (or hurt them). Other times, there’s disagreement.

Co-citations are becoming a hot topic in the SEO world these days, and for good reason. Several years ago there was a lot of discussion about them; it was the hot new thing for SEO professionals to talk about. But the talk sizzled down… until very recently.

What are co-citations?

Co-citations can be a little difficult to wrap your head around. But I’m hoping you’ll leave here with a basic understanding of them. Co-citations mean that if someone links to your site as well as a well-known, authority site, within or closely related to your industry, in the same article, then you will share some of that authority site’s respect from Google.

Even that was something you had to read several times to try to understand, right?

Maybe this will help:

Co-Citation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In essence, the authority or respect from Google flows both to and from a link. Article “A” links to authority site “B,” and smaller site “C.” The authority from authority site “B” transfers back to article “A” (which is why it’s always good to link an authority site to your content), but it also carries over to smaller site “C.” Got that?

Now, I can just hear you saying, “If I’m writing article ‘A,’ I certainly don’t want to link to a better-known, big-boy competitor’s site!” Well, yes, it can be tricky. What you want to do in this situation is find something relevant and helpful to the reader, but not something that would be a direct competitor to you and your content.

For instance, let’s say you’re a travel agent. You aren’t going to want to link to Tripology or some big travel company. An acceptable alternative might be to link to a well-known luggage store or travel guide books on Amazon for where your readers are interested in going.

This concept has also been referred to as SEO co-citation and similar terms. It shouldn’t be confused with local SEO citations, though.

The shifting perspectives on co-citations

This has been a pretty well-known concept in the SEO industry for a while. But today, the strategy of using co-citations seems to be shifting. The same principles still basically apply, but now we’re going deeper, due to the need to respond and adapt to Google’s constantly changing algorithm. We should be concerned not only about who we’re linking to and who’s creating content that links to us and authority sites, but also the anchor text.

The age-old practice of using keywords as the anchor text is out. Instead, Google seems to be factoring in the words that surround or are in close proximity to the anchor text, as well as the context and subject of the entire article.

Using the example above, in which we imagined you are a travel agent, here’s an example of a great link to have pointing at your site: A blogger for an African Safari company writes a piece about the new day trip they offer. They’ve noticed a spectacular deal you have right now for travel to Africa and link to you saying: “And if you’re looking for a great discount on traveling to Africa, click here.”

They’re using only the “click here” for the anchor text, but it has “discount on traveling to Africa” very close to it. Let’s say they’ve also linked to Wikipedia for the term “African safari” and to a guidebook on Amazon.com.

Essentially, you’re now sharing the authority of Wikipedia, Amazon, and that company’s blog. Plus, you’re keeping Google’s Penguin algorithm on your good side because the link anchor text isn’t keyword-rich.

So how do you make this happen?

I’m hoping this has helped you understand what co-citations are, how they’re shifting, and why you should be striving to get as many of them as you can. But that leads to the next question: How can you get them?

The best advice is to create content that’s not just for SEO, or purely for the sake of link-building, but to be helpful to the user. Every article, post, video, infographic, or whatever you create should focus on a targeted theme. It should be insightful or trigger an emotion among your readers so they feel encouraged to share it within their networks.

The more people who discover it, and like it, the more people will link to you; the hope is that they’ll also link to related authority sites.

If you’re actually creating content to use for linking back to your site (guest posts, for example), remember to avoid always using your keywords as anchor text. Instead, use different keywords in close proximity to your anchor text. And don’t forget to link to authority sites that are related to your industry.

If you create a post that links to resources the reader finds useful, and if you create content for your own site doing the same… co-citations will come naturally, along with better rankings, traffic, leads, and sales.

About the Author ~ Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency, as well as Crackerize.com, a lyrics-humor website. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

image thanks to Dzhus (Dmitry Dzhus)

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