SEO Rankings – New Currency: Co-Citations

As every SEO knows, google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to encompass new qualifying attributes. Even as these algorithm changes have emerged time and again, the unquestionable currency of SEO has always been links. Traditionally, inbound links to your website (particularly links with target anchor text, and high relevancy) show google that your website is an authority on your unique subject – and should appear as a top search result. In turn, SEO’s and webmasters, while tweaking methods over time, have always focused on link building as a key strategic SEO activity.

In recent months, something has come along that challenges every industry expert’s idea of links and their value in a modern world of SEO. What experts and analysts have been noticing are several websites that rank on the first page of google for incredibly competitive keywords, that unlike traditional top ranking websites, do NOT:

- Have any inbound links with target keyword anchor text to the ranking landing page

- Have any copy containing the keywords they rank for on the ranking landing pages

Initially, this seemed somewhat of an enigma to the SEO community as a whole – because it seemed to defy any existing logic for how SEO rankings are earned. No links? No keyword optimization? How could it be possible to rank on page one?! After further investigation, some of the industry’s leading SEO gurus began to notice patterns and trends among the sites that represented these unique top rankings. Examples of this trend have become known as “Co-Citations“.

Co-Citations Defined

A “Co-Citation” is exactly that: a citation. The best way to begin your thought process on Co-Citations is to first remember that, as stated, they result in SEO rankings for industry terms. In this respect, they are the same as links – they drive the same end result.

The main difference in defining a co-citation is that – as established – they contain no live link to the ranking website. The entire qualifying factor for Co-Citations is Keyword Proximity. This means that google is noticing your brand terms near the keywords they rank for on external sites across the web. So, if your brand, say “Dicks Sporting Goods” is mentioned near the phrase “Frisbee Pro” on enough relevant websites – Dicks might end up ranking for the term “Frisbee Pro”, even though there are no links to Dicks with the anchor text “Frisbee Pro” and those words never appear on Dicks’ website.

An example Co-Citation for this scenario on a website like FrisbeeGolfFanatics.com would look something like this:

“Every Frisbee Pro knows that you can find the Super Frisbee 2,000 at Dicks Sporting Goods – they have the widest selection of this kind of gear for Frisbee Pro‘s.”

As a result, the example below shows Dicks ranking for the term “Frisbee Pro” without any mention of that keyword on the landing page (this example also assumes there are not anchor text links using those keyword either):

CoCitations Example

Dick’s Sporting Goods is ranking on the first page of google for the keyword “Frisbee Pro” without those keywords anywhere on the ranking landing page. How? Co-Citations!

What This Means for SEO

The main take away from the emergence of Co-Citations is that google is truly smarter than it’s ever been before. Google isn’t merely crawling websites with a deeper qualifier for link value – they’re actually reading web content to determine relevant citations! This is a whole lot closer to the way an actual human being would attribute SEO value if they actually read the billions of websites out there. Think about it – what would you give more weight to – a random link at the footer of some page, or a relevant text mention; even if it didn’t include a link? The relevant mention, obviously. Well, google is moving in that direction as fast as they can.

What Does this Mean for Your Site?

Don’t worry too much – Co-Citations are definitely still an “emerging” SEO qualifier. Inbound links are truly still the leading currency of SEO value, but you should start thinking about Co-Citations as well. You can continue building quality relevant inbound links, as well as optimizing your onsite keyword content. However, as Co-Citations will likely evolve to an equal portion of the SEO rank currency – or even the majority – you need to be there with an existing method. Start your Co-Citation network strategy now, so when you need to turn up the juice – the ability is there.

Strategy: Building Co-Citations

It’s true, Co-Citations aren’t built in the exact same way links are. You can’t just dump one on a random web page and expect any value at all. However, a lot of the same networking and relationship strategies that get links work perfectly for Co-Citation building as well. Here are just a couple of the easiest ways to build Co-Citations quickly and consistently:

1. Industry Recommendations

You can almost compare recommendations to old school “link exchanges”, except white hat SEO, and relevantly beneficial. The idea behind recommendations is creating a page on your site that recommends non competitor products or services to your visitors. This industry Co-Citation (surrounded by some nice keywords) will have instant relevancy – and adds value to both sites. No link required – recommendations work.

2. Guest Posting

Most modern SEO’s are pretty familiar with Guest Posting – it’s a great way to provide unique free content to websites while also getting links back to your own. You can use guest posting in the exact same fashion for Co-Citation building; in fact, it can be even more successful. Instead of simply trying to find the best place to dump a link into your post – you can find more relevant ways to cite your brand within relevant content; no link required. Guest Posting is an easy transition from link building to Co-Citation building as well, since you probably already have a healthy network of websites to guest post on.

Author: T. Wilson is an online marketer and business card enthusiast.