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Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence – The Next Big Thing in SEO

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Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence – The Next Big Thing in SEO

Google has experimented with a list of algorithm changes. Over the past couple of years, these changes have of course directly affected the way SEO works. If we talk about more precise terms, we see that keywords, back-links and anchor text are some of the terms that have been very dominant, powerful and effective in the search engine optimization world. However, with constant changes in the Google’s algorithm and ranking system, these weighting of these factors has changed drastically over time.

If you remember after the famous Google Panda and Google Penguin updates, link building was significantly revolutionized by the introduction of new, more pure and reliable methods by Google. Likewise, SEO professionals are now suggesting that anchor text is perhaps diminishing in significance and is now being replaced by co-citation and co-occurrence, as many SEO professionals and analysts believe

What is Co-Citation?


As strange as it may sound, co-citation refers to the process of link building without actual links. Unlike anchor text, where actual links were embedded in words or phrases, co-citation does not necessarily have to involve actual outgoing links to your website or blog.
More precisely, the process of co-citation refers to the similarities found between two webpages, based on a third-party webpage that successfully mentions the first two webpages in a correlation with each other. Based on that co-citation, Google identifies a relation – or link – between those two websites, which is then used as an important search engine-ranking factor.

What is Co-Occurrence?


As these terms are not officially confirmed yet, there is a significant amount of doubt in the proper definition and explanation about co-occurrence. Some SEO professionals have suggested that co-citation and co-occurrence basically refer to the same concept. On the other hand, however, other SEO analysts and professionals, who have a keen eye on every modern SEO development, claim that co-occurrence is a bit different than co-citation.

According to the second group of thinkers, co-occurrence does not associate two sites altogether. Instead, co-occurrence refers to the association of some particular phrases – or more specifically, important keywords – that come in close proximity to each other. This close proximity of important keywords develops an association and relation that are understandable by Google as an important search engine factor.

Although a few citations may not drastically improve your search engine rankings, it will definitely put you on the right direction in terms of improving your website’s search engine optimization. On being associated a lot of times by impartial sources, it has the potential to create a significant positive impact on your website or blog.

Is There Any Evidence to This Theory?

It is important to understand that unless some thorough and detailed confirmation arrives, this is to remain and be known as a mere ‘theory’. However, there has been some evidence that support this theory, although many professionals are still suggesting otherwise.

Rand Fishkin, the famous SEO analyst and owner of SEOmoz, first started to analyze some strange search engine results that prompted him to inquire further and come up with this theory of co-citation and co-occurrence. In his November 2012 presentation of Whiteboard Friday, he predicted that anchor text may be on the downswing and that Google has introduced another factor for ranking websites in the search engine results, more specifically known as co-citation and co-occurrence.

In that presentation video, he mentioned three examples of such odd search engine results that prompted him to come up with this prediction in the first place. These three examples are quoted below in the words of Rand Fishkin:

“For the query “cell phone ratings,” coming in at number four is a web page on without the words “cell phone” or the word “ratings.” Actually, I do think they have the word “rating,” and they might have the word “phone.” But it’s in the text. It’s not even in the title. Really remarkable that they’re ranking so well for such a competitive query.

Number two, “manufacturing directory.” Again, another very competitive phrase, and ThomasNet is ranking number three without mentioning any of these terms, without seeming to try and target that phrase at all.

Number three, “backlink analysis,” where Open Site Explorer, SEOmoz’s own tool ranks number two, and yet not in the title. It’s not anywhere on the page. Neither of these words are anywhere on the page. In the snippet, Google is actually using some text from another article that they found that mentions backlink analysis.”

In these examples, Rand tries to prove out that these websites are ranked for highly competitive keywords and yet the website copy does not reference these keywords anywhere in the title tags or in the content of the page.

Rand Fishkin says that it is because of the process of co-citation and co-occurrence that these websites rank so high for their main keywords.

Referring to the 1st example of Consumer Reports, Rand says although they have not directly targeted the keyword “cell phones”, but on the Internet, you often see the keywords “cell phones” and “Consumer Reports” coming together.

For example: “Cell phones as rated by Consumer Reports.”

Although there isn’t any direct link, Google is successfully able to find an association between these two terms. And if you remember correctly, this is the whole concept of co-citation and co-occurrence – a link without a link.

Why Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence?

Over the past couple of years, people have successfully manipulated anchor text to falsely improve their website’s search engine rankings, but Google has since started penalizing those websites. The whole idea behind Google is to provide its users with the most accurate, useful and valuable information, and in order to keep it that way, it makes constant improvements in its algorithm methods.

Co-Citation, Co-Occurrence and Search Engine Rankings:

Co-citation and co-occurrence are the outputs of the same need. They can only be developed naturally if the content of your website is good enough to be shared and mentioned with others. On a different note, this is one of the most important reasons why Google puts so much emphasis on social media sharing.

I believe that co-citation and co-occurrence is going to play a fundamental role in determining search engine rankings for websites. According to this co-citation and co-occurrence theory, Google is now focusing on analyzing the association and correlation between two websites on the Internet. In short, such natural and impartial co-occurrences are going to be the future basis of search engine rankings for any website.

How to Earn Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence?

The whole idea of introducing co-citation and co-occurrence – in case if there is any – is to create quality content, have genuine presence on the web and be active on the internet. The concept will keep improving day by day, but right now, you can take the following measures to earn more co-citation and co-occurrences for your website or blog:

  • Create quality content that is worthy to be mentioned and shared on the web.
  • Be proactive on the Internet, in forums and discussion boards.
  • Write more on hot, trending topics, so other people give citations to your valuable content.

Final Thoughts:

As some anecdotal and seemingly unorthodox search engine results have shown that co-citation and co-occurrence factors may actually exist, you might have to look further into it to adapt to its rules and requirements. Google may also make an official announcement about it. It is not that SEO is dying, but it is surely being refined and revamped for providing better results to search engine’s users. Co-citation and co-occurrence seem to be the next big thing in an attempt to avoid manipulation of SERPs, or as many will suggest, it is just another attempt to counter over-optimization, which was the very basis of Google Penguin’s introduction.


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Haris Bacic

Haris leads the creative and SEO strategy at AdFicient, a PPC company that specializes in pay per click management, search ... [Read full bio]

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