The art of co-citation can be thought of as a web within the Web.
You seek other authoritative voices to the content you’re writing and having found them, your authority also grows while helping an original link you’ve created grow further. Everyone gets caught up. Bonus, no insects have to die on this web.
But that’s just the beginning.
In many ways co-citation is link building and content building at its purest. The basic form has been with academic papers for more than 100 years, which is where the language comes from. In its online, non-academic form, co-citation is also known as co-ocurrence, citation SEO, co-citation analysis, co-citation SEO and a few other incarnations.
In Internet marketing, what’s happening with co-citation is that if phrases are often used in association with a site or brand and repeated together often enough, then that affects results.
So let’s take a look at an example…your company develops a niche in, say, haiku. People start to talk about how your company has developed great expertise in the 5-7-5 syllable format and pushing the boundaries of combining the modern world with nature’s imagery. Pretty soon when haiku comes up in search engine queries, your site and its content or others who are mentioning your site come up along with it – even if they are not mentioned together.
There’s another aspect of co-citation, which is something that can be controlled a little more:
“A co-citation can refer to one of two things,” says Julie Joyce in her Link Week column. “The other links included near mentions of your brand or links to your website in a piece of content, or (t)he keywords surrounding mentions of your brand or links to your website in a piece of content.“
The latter is definitely something you can plan to include in your online marketing strategy.
Explaining It To Others
There are not a lot of studies about co-citation, and Google and other search engines don’t usually share the inner working of their algorithms. Just by definition, however, co-citation is “adjacent relevancy.” That is, numerous citations of keywords and concepts are not physically linked by anchor text. That’s not easy to track without some specialized tools.
If you’re hearing about co-citation these days, you most likely have questions. No one ever likes to hear: “It works, just trust me.” Even after explaining co-citation, there’s still a big question in the air “So, can you prove it?” Answer, not yet.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEO Moz, put out a video where he explained what co-citation was and more importantly where he thought it was going. Though he likely overstated the case in predicting it would take over the world (paraphrasing slightly) and replace the often abused anchor text strategy for search engine ranking, Fishkin wanted people to become aware of something he and his company had noticed.
It should be noted that tracking rank and SEO is Fishkin’s life and he’s in the job of measuring results all the time. If something is ranking and you’re not sure why, co-citation may be the reason, he says.
“This type of SEO is something that’s not very practiced today but certainly should be on a lot of people’s minds for the future,” Fishkin says. “Anytime you see something ranking that doesn’t have the classic SEO targeting types of things you take a deep look and try and figure out if co-citation is causing it to rank higher.”
Others think Google is more evolved in its ranking of co-citation and gives the practice more importance.
“The well-known Penguin and Panda updates and link building techniques has changed nowadays to a considerable extent because of the series of algorithm changes Google made,” writes Samuel King. “Co-citations and co-occurrence replaced them.”
Really, however, it’s not killing or replacing anything. Co-citation is a strategy that complements the rest of your content marketing plan. Earning co-citation juice comes down to a few things:
- creating quality content overall
- consistent and relevant content updates
- online participation in a variety of forums and venues
- taking advantage of trending topics
- finding links to your industry that are organic
This is Useful To Me, How?
With some tasks, such as maintaining social media avenues of communication, the ROI is notoriously hard to pin down. Co-citation, as it currently stands, makes that discussion seem easy by comparison. As you talk about this concept and what it can do for clients or your own business, it almost – like 3D printing – has a sense of magic. In other words, there’s a synergy that’s hard to define and measure – but not impossible.
The main benefit of this type of internet marketing is that it’s not at all obvious to consumers. People are finding your site or services without your brand being thrust in their faces. So it does not seem like marketing, which is half the battle.
It might be likely if you’re reading this, that you are not a national household brand name. Fret not. Search volume for popular brands is likely a factor in search engine calculations and higher rankings even when it comes to co-citation, but big brands aren’t as omnipresent as they have been. As local search grows in popularity and search engines focus on it more, getting ranked and seen will be easier for the neighborhood name.
Add to that this fact: It is widely known that people don’t always look for brands when they shop. Not even the majority of time. So having a search for “haiku skills” bring up a localized listing of your Haiku business more often is exceedingly and increasingly useful.
What this also means is that social media sharing of your own content – and having others share it, too – will become even more useful. Industry-specific terms, concepts and buzz that get mentioned alongside your brand more and more, will build that co-citation relationship.
Co-citation is a rising tide lifting all boats in the harbor. Boats on the other side of the ocean aren’t rising, but everything in proximity to you is rising along with your canoe.