The Google Penguin update has changed the link building process forever. Gone are the days when it was easy to rank for desired keywords by building tons of links using exact keywords as the anchor text.
In the wake of Penguin, uncertain exactly where the thresholds and ratios are. Just how well distributed should our anchor text be in order to get the best results?
We have been busy with research on the subject and, not too long ago, discovered what Rand Fishkin at the SEOMoz blog had to say for their Whiteboard Friday series. Much of what we’ve observed has fallen in line with his predictions.
So why might Google think about diminishing Anchor text?
It’s too easily manipulated.
No matter how the link was obtained, you clearly have more control over the anchor text if have direct control over the link. Google isn’t, for the most part, interested in links that you have built yourself. There are exceptions. For example, if your reach is big enough to get links from prominent sites on the web, links that you directly build as a result are a genuine indication of your influence on the web.
But, in general, Google wants to see sites linking to you simply because they like the content, feel it’s relevant, and want to share it with their audience. A link with highly optimized anchor text simply doesn’t look natural. It means there’s a much higher chance you had direct control over the creation of that link. If most of your links have optimized anchor text, it means you probably built most of them yourself.
What are co-citations?
I found a page on SourceForge.net that gives a nice definition of co citation.
“Bibliographic Co-Citation is a popular similarity measure used to establish a subject similarity between two items. If A and B are both cited by C, they may be said to be related to one another, even though they don’t directly reference each other. If A and B are both cited by many other items, they have a stronger relationship. The more items they are cited by, the stronger their relationship is.”
We believe that Google is placing less emphasis on anchor text (and perhaps links in general), and is leveraging it’s massive data set to look for statistical correlations that it can use to determine relevance and influence on the web. Links are a good proxy for this, but as the search engines get smarter they will get better at measuring “buzz” unrelated to links and especially anchor text.
How to earn co-citations?
- Stay up to date on trends in your niche
- Produce original content on the subject that hasn’t been covered extensively by others
- If your content makes waves in the industry, it will influence the direction of posts made by others later on. Even if they don’t link to you directly, your impact on the industry will in some cases be measured by Google. The search engines will only get better at this in the years going forward.
Here’s an example. After the recent Google algorithm updates, “Post Panda/Penguin strategies” became a topic that people were looking for very frequently. As a result, that’s what we wrote about our earlier post. Here it is.
Afterward, we got a lot of natural citations from third party websites where people were talking about link building strategies that apply after the Google Panda and Penguin updates.
Here is an example from Quora:
Here is the citation we got:
As you can see, this link doesn’t use anchor text at all. However, the entire page is about post-penguin/panda strategies, and Google is increasingly using this kind of information to determine what the linked page is about.
Why would Google give more importance to co-citations than anchor text?
Simple. Logically, it’s harder to manipulate co-citations. You cannot have great co-citations unless you have actionable content which people love to read and share. Also, you cannot manipulate the industry influencers who make your co-citations possible. They only promote the content that they feel is best to share with their readers.
If you have an actionable post then you don’t need to manipulate things. You’ll get citations much like the one above.
It is too early to say for sure, but we believe Google is not only pushing away from anchor text, but toward co-citation as one of the strongest relevancy signals. Co-citation, if measured properly, gives the search engine much more data to work with and will allow it to take the temperature of the internet community at large. Anchor text, on the other hand, is a small html quirk that few people even know how to use properly.
So do you think Co-citations will be replaced by Anchor text in near future? Let’s talk about it in comments. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / woaiss