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What the Heck is SEO Cocitation, and Why Do You Need To Understand It?

As search engines continue to evolve, how SEO works is changing. Turns out co-citation is getting some play once again. This article tries to explain.In some ways it seems like SEO is a game of chess; the search engines take steps to make it harder to game the system, and the SEO experts out there figure out the wiggle room for their clients and exploit it, causing the search engines to once again try to plug up that loophole. On and on it goes.

If you write web content and yes, that means you, bloggers you need to keep on top of the latest information about SEO so that you can both drive traffic to your site AND keep the search engines from penalizing you for having bad practices.

It’s a constant juggle.

Back in January, I wrote about the latest change rolling out the rise of author rank and then I also talked about rich snippets, the impact of social media on SEO, and Google’s latest updates. It’s enough to make your head swim, and I’ve got to tell you, this SEO cocitation thing is not easy to wrap your mind around.

Basically, it all comes back to good content. Search engines are now associating key words with your site, even though you haven’t necessarily optimized those keywords.

I know, right?

Cocitation is referencing the words and phrases around a link. Traditionally, you’d link a site to the keywords like this (thanks to this article for making it easy to understand, and I’m mimicking her sample):

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Cocitation means that instead of linking the keywords, you just link to the site itself. Like so:

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Basically, search engines (Google in particular) are now using context to determine link value instead of keywords. This doesn’t mean that you need to alter your current SEO practices, but you do need to keep an eye to the future and be sure to put more of a focus on the content AROUND you keywords as well.

Lastly, here’s another little trick about cocitation; it’s not just about semantic similarity (which is what I’ve been discussing so far). It’s also about Transitive Property. Here’s a great explanation from Search Engine Journal.

The transitive property works with three or more websites. The idea here is that one website could help another website even if they have never been in contact. As long as the two websites have another website in common through linking, the link juice can be passed backwards and forwards. This can work either positively for a site or negatively. It seems confusing, but consider the following equation:

I’ve personally had this happen; a website to which I’ve never linked to from my site but often links to me as do other third party sites has made that website appear in the first page of Search Engine Results next to my name. However, this can be enormously helpful in other contexts. This great article by DeMicco really breaks it down beautifully.

Basically, your website doesn’t simply benefit from direct connections to other high-quality sites. It also benefits from the connections that its linked sites enjoy as well. If some of the quality sites that link to you also link to other high-quality sites, Google’s algorithms will assume that your site is a high-quality source of information.
So what do you think? Will you change up your SEO game?
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