4 Things You Need To Know About Co-Citation To Be Useful

SEO Sep 5, 2013

Did anyone tell you that SEO, as we used to know it, is long dead and gone?

If you had a dollar each time someone piped up and claimed Search Engine Optimization is defunct, you would’ve retired a LONG time ago.

Let’s forgive people’s ignorance, scare tactics, and obsession with linkbait headlines.

They simply don’t know better.

But we do, right? 

Obviously, as Google plays around with their algorithm, some tactics go out of style and others are introduced.

And actually, you might be surprised at how many old, former tactics sometimes resurface.

They might’ve not worked for years, but now they walk into your life again.

One of those would be what is called “co-citation”.

It’s not a new concept by any means (and “co-occurrence” is, more or less, the same).

Want some more scholarly articles on this? Here you go.

Here’s a visual on what I’m talking about. I’ll explain below.


Image credit: Audience Bloom

It flared up a while back when Google went on an anti-spam rampage (devaluing links from low-quality websites and blog networks).

Now, instead of talking about “link juice” being a major factor for ranking, the focus has shifted a bit towards the words around links. Links still matter, it just depends.

Anchor text and inbound links were strong indicators for keyword term authority, so you could basically just create those at scale and be all set.

(Can you still? I’m leaving that alone for now; chime in with comments if you have them).

However, Google now places more weight behind the quality of a site’s inbound links.

And this is where co-citation starts to make a little more sense for SEO purposes.

Let’s define a high-quality website as a high-trafficked, well-written and well-made content (of various kinds), with inbound (and outbound) links from, and to, other equally high-quality websites. You can add the age of a site to this as well, if you’d like, although it’s not necessary.

We could speculate and wonder if the need for a link is slowly becoming less and less important. Google is smart enough to understand our content well-enough to sometimes even rank sites for search phrases and keywords that they’re not even optimized for — this mainly because of the algorithm picking up occurrences of co-citation.

If They Talk About Your Behind Your Back, It Better Be Good


As you know, a few links or text citations (where you’re mentioned, but not necessarily linked to) from high-quality, authority sources (websites) is more powerful than a barrage links from low-quality websites.

This is SEO 101, I know.

But this matters because these quality websites tend to also include links and citations from (and to) other quality websites.

So, if you get mentioned and linked along with other quality sources, and a search engine like Google sees this connection and association, it will make you look better.

Alright, that should be enough of a primer to set the stage, right?

You’re a smart cookie, I know you know these things.

So, let’s get on with it.

4 Useful Things You Need To Know About Co-Citation

We’ll start with some technical jargon, just because we can.

1. Transitive Property To Tap Into Authority And Quality Of Other Websites

This is a mathematical concept, which we’ll put in SEO language to make it relevant.

Simply put, your website will benefit if a high-quality website that links to you also links to other high-quality websites.

If you hang out with other well-respected individuals, you’ll be considered to be well-respected as well, almost by default.

If you’re in a “good” neighborhood on the internet, as opposed to being lumped together with other derelicts and bums, you benefit.

Even if the association is indirect, you may still get something out of it.

It works like this:

Website A links to Website B (considered high-quality and authoritative)

Website A links to Website C 

Website C will benefit from Website B’s authority 

Makes sense, right? It also works in the reverse: if you’re constantly being associated with poor websites, expect your reputation to be tarnished.

2. Semantic Similarity In Addition To Anchor Text

This would refer to the words found around and near links, inside a piece of content.

From what other SEO professionals have seen, it seems like you could actually get ranked for keywords that have nothing to do with anchor text for links.

So, co-citation has expanded to also include word frequency and semantic analysis. Another word for it is “co-occurrence”, as I mentioned above.

To illustrate this point:

To squeeze more long-tails out of your website and rank for more keywords, check out HitTail.com

Now, instead of using “long-tails” and “rank for more keywords”, you just link directly to a website.

The fact that you’re mentioned (and even) linked to in relation to those phrases will still account for something.

3. Good Outbound Links Will Help You

In general, acquiring and earning inbound root domain links would help you with rankings, authority, PageRank, and traffic.

But outbound links are also important, and probably increasing in value in the eyes of Google.

If you link to other well-regarded, well-liked, authority websites, you’re most likely giving visitors a good experience and sending them places that will be of value to them.

Google likes this. Google rewards this.

It might seem like you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re in a competitive space and link out to relevant websites, but that’s only true if your site isn’t that useful or valuable to your visitors to begin with.

4. Bad Outbound Links Will Hurt You

If you’re linking to poor-quality websites, you could end up being grouped into the same category and subsequently devalued, simply by association.

Google’s algorithm is definitely smart enough to identify a bunch of low-authority sites linking to others of the same kind, tripping their blog network alarms and search engine manipulation detection.

Why would a high-quality, authority website link to sites that are topically irrelevant, low traffic and visitors who leave quickly, rarely shared on social media, and whom also link to other equally poor websites?

Not your site, if you know what’s good for you.

You can’t control who links to you, but you can control who you link to.

Making Co-Citation Useful For Your Sites And SEO

Sure, co-citation and co-occurrence is a bit of a buzz concept floating around the SEO space right now.

It’s not a new idea but it’s increased in importance and relevance lately, as keyword rich anchor texts have garnered a bit of a bad rep with Google (you can easily spam these things).

Links aren’t the biggest, baddest kid on the block any more.

Now it matters what gang you belong to.

Are you associated with the bad kids, who are up to no good?

Or are you being mentioned alongside the well-liked and well-regarded kids whom everyone secretly wants to be?

You can make use of co-citation by linking to high-quality, authority websites, avoid the low-quality sites, focus on what words are used in relation to your links, and don’t always use keywords and search phrases as anchor text.

Have you seen co-citation work for you, in ranking for terms you haven’t even optimized for?

Are you making use of it in your own SEO efforts?

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