Build healthy links with co-citation and co-occurrence in SEO

Posted by Shane Barker on 26 May, 2015
View comments Link Building
Find out the best practices for co-citation and co-occurrence for a natural, healthy link profile

With the emergence of the importance of co-citation and co-occurrence, SEO has evolved into a better position than ever before.

co-citation icon graphic

Google has been fighting with link and content spam for a long while. So far, the search engine has reigned victorious in removing traditional link building tactics from the SEO playbook. Google introduced Penguin to fight against bad links, and Panda to battle against thin, scrappy content (brand mentions). Other previously overused link building strategies like blog commenting, bookmarking, and submitting to directories have also been pretty much eliminated from the SEO game.

As a result, everyone says that SEO as a whole, is dead. Does anyone really think that way? I'm pretty sure that every professional knows the right answer - it's never going to die!

SEO will always be around, unless websites, search engines, and mobile devices cease existing. The only thing changing is the way people are now approaching SEO. Co-citation and co-occurrence were first discussed in late 2012 by Rand and Bill and they are now, more than ever, crucial to your SEO strategy.

Today, I'm going to show you how co-citation and co-occurrence work, and how you can follow best practices. These 2 factors will continue to impact on link building techniques, and the SEO industry, well into the future.

What are co-citation and co-occurrence?

Let's start with co-occurrence, which is also referred to as "implied links." Co-occurrence is the relationship between similar words on a page and their proximity to brands and also links. This is a unique concept and can be difficult to understand because we've been dealing with the relationship between links and anchor text for over a decade.


what is co-occurrence in SEO?


In fact, Google filed the co-occurrence patent on June 30, 2011 to refine the search results that identify the most significant keyword and create a relationships between the related terms. Co-occurrence is a factor in ranking web pages for specific queries.

Co-citation is another type of link building relationship that exists between links presented in the same website content. For instance, if an article (A) has two links (B&C), then there's a relationship between A&B, A&C, and B&C. Once the occurrence of B&C increases and more citations are given, the relationship will become stronger. This will improve the page's ranking and show Google that the post has credibility.



If you’re having a hard time getting the concepts around these, then you might find it helpful to have a look at this conversation between these SEO experts on Twitter where they dive into some of the ideas really clearly.

In 2014, another patent was filed by Google to clearly show that co-citation and co-occurrence are SEO techniques that are here to stay. The search engine is using these to improve its search results by finding the strong relation between the words (co-occurrence) and links (co-citation within website content). Even back in 2010, Matt Cutts discussed the Google Caffeine update by stating that:

“Caffeine benefits both searchers and content owners because it means that all content (and not just content deemed “real time”) can be searchable within seconds after its crawled.

This is clearly co-occurrence, it's about understanding relationships between words.

That being said, I'd like to make one point very clear: synonyms are different from co-occurrence. Using synonyms in your on page content is benefitial as it helps people find your content with a range of searches, it is also a natural part of writing good quality content and will be looked on favourably by Google. Co-occurrence defines the relationship of different words situated close to a brand or link and has implications for page rankings.

Also, Search Metrics clearly shows the presence of co-occurrence in posts among the top search ranking factors of 2014.

  1. Content: High quality, relevant content ranks better on average, and is identifiable by properties such as comprehensive wording in regard to the co-occurrence of related terms in the context, a higher word-count and media enrichment. 

On Yandex, leading Russian search engine, Thematic Citation Indexing (TIC) is used to establish the credibility of resources. Websites are ranked according to their citations in terms of weight, or quality over quantity. Google practices the same technique for find the credibility of content. That's one of the biggest reasons why Wikipedia ranks for most 60 percent of U.S. Google search results.

A Citation Index (CI) is a scientific means of quantifying the “importance” of a scholar's research or work. The number of links to a piece of work from other sources determines the index value of that work. However, to determine the importance of a piece of research as accurately as possible, the quality of these links should be considered along with the quantity. Academic publications, newspapers and entertainment magazines may all link to a particular piece of research. The relative weight of links on these sources varies.

In short, the future is bright. Co-citation and co-occurrence can easily be incorporated into your latest link building techniques with a little work. As they are just a pattern to find out the best results, it's simple to follow such a pattern in your own link building strategy. This will help you boost your search engine rankings.


Best practices for co-citation & co-occurrence:


1. Use branded anchor texts

Before the first Penguin update in 2011, everyone used exact match keyword anchor text. This later became devalued and changed to varied keyword anchor text. That's when everyone started prefixing "best," "leading," and "top" with the keywords in their anchor text. After many Google algorithm updates, the practice of using keyword-based anchor text is gone. It's now best to maximize your brand mentions by using links with branded anchor text.


2. Mention keywords around links

Keywords haven't lost their value or recognition by the search engines. With the concept of co-occurrence, it's advised that you mention your keywords around your branded anchor text and links. This will effectively take advantage of co-occurrence and make your link profile natural.

So where previously, targeted keyword anchor text looked like this:

" can use Wordtracker's leading keyword tool to find the best keywords for your webpage."

Co-occurrence looks like this

" can use Wordtracker's leading keyword tool to find the best words and phrases with the highest search volume in your niche so you can optimize your pages for organic search results."


3. Add in citations

Wikipedia is the best example of co-citation, so try adding citations like this website giant. Cite all relevant references in your articles to increase the trust and authority of your published content. Adding citations also increases the credibility with search engines and pushes your page higher on the SERP. When you add links to your website, try to cite a few high-authority and informative links. This will enable the transitive effect of co-citation and give your page the benefit.


4. Make Use of Synonyms

Synonyms have always been pretty important, but they became even more valuable after Google's Hummingbird update. In a case study by Cognitive SEO, it was proven that using synonyms leads to better rankings. Synonyms also support co-occurrence. Always add your synonym keywords around the branded anchor text to get the maximum rewards from Google.

Final Words

Co-citation and co-occurrence are very unique concepts that are opening new gates in search engine optimization for research. It has become increasingly apparent that both help websites build more natural and healthy link profiles that perform well in site rankings. On the other hand, it's easy for these techniques to be manipulated with black hat practices as we move forward.

Let's look towards the future to see what Google will use to avoid the coming snap on co-occurrence and co-citation.

As always, please do let us know what you think in the comments below!

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