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The SEO Potential of Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence to improve your website's SERPs

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.

Co-citation example -1

Also, two sites without links between them have a co-citation relationship based on the co-citation power from a single authoritative site (Site A) that links to both Site B and Site C.

Co-citation example -2

Understanding how co-citation affects three or four sites is comprehensible. But understanding the interrelationship of more begins to boggle the mind. When you consider the complex co-citational interplay of dozens of websites, things get complicated.

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.

Understanding how co-citation affects three or four sites is comprehensible. But understanding the interrelationship of more begins to boggle the mind. When you consider the complex co-citational interplay of dozens of websites, things get complicated.

How are co-citation and co-occurrence connected?

Most discussions of co-citation and co-occurrence bundle the two together in a single package. Few, however, take pains to disassociate the two. They are different, and here’s how.
·         Co-occurrence refers to the actual presence of content (similar terms) on different sites. Think of it as an ontology, an occurrence.
·         Co-citation refers to the way that the sites are connected to each other. Think of it as a mention, a citation. For example, a high-quality peer-reviewed journal may have dozens of citations due to its authoritative status. Those citations arementions of that journal article.
In order to achieve co-citation, we have to have co-occurrence. In this article, I pair the two concepts together, because of the way that they serve each other. It is impossible to have a “co-citation strategy” that is separate from a “co-occurrence strategy.” They go together.

How to Implement Co-citation and Co-occurrence

When this concept first began to surface, it was fraught with predictive language.
Moz’s Rand Fishkin, one of the early birds in the co-occurrence/co-citation discussion said, “This type of SEO is something that’s not very practiced today, but it certainly should be on a lot of people’s minds for the future.” He went on to predict, “Anchor text is actually diminishing as a signal, and is being replaced by something else…That is co-citation [more precisely, co-occurrence].”
We need to decide, however, if it’s something that we should pursue as an SEO best practice. I say “yes.” The future is now.
What I’ve noticed is that “this type of SEO” that Fishkin identified, is in play. The algorithms are already primed to accommodate non-link-driven search. Now is the time to capitalize on the power of co-citation and co-occurrence. Here’s how to do it.
1. Don’t focus on anchor text.
2. Deemphasize keywords.
3. Build your brand presence and exposure.
4. Use content marketing for legitimate, high-quality links.


The great thing about implementing co-citation and co-occurrence into your SEO strategy is this: It’s not much different from ordinary content marketing. Sure, there are some emphases that you should keep in mind, but generally speaking, the big idea is the same.
·         Focus on killer content.
·         Focus on your brand.
·         Don’t obsess about links, keywords, or anchors.
A final point I want to mention is that it really pays to keep up with where search has come, where search is, and where search is going. By staying current with algorithm changes and search engine evolution, you are gaining a competitive advantage. Co-citation and co-occurrence are the kind of major change that we should keep up with.

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