Should You Make Keyword Co-Occurrence or Co-Citation Part of Your SEO Strategy?

Written by: Jason Bayless | December 20, 2012

The SEO industry – and savvy webmasters and business owners – are always trying to keep up with Google’s latest page ranking factors, both so they can stay ahead of competitors and also stay out of trouble. Right now, some of the SEO industry buzz has to do with something called co-occurrence of keywords.

What’s that, you may ask? Co-occurrence (sometimes also called co-citation) is when a page ranks highly for keywords for which the page doesn’t appear to be optimized, and it’s because keyword A and keyword B appear somewhere on that page. Or maybe only one of those keywords is on the page, but the page is linked to from other people’s web content using those keywords.

When several different web pages or articles use keyword A and keyword B together in the same page, Google “learns” that there is an association between those keywords. To use an example from SEOmoz, Google associated Consumer Reports and cell phone ratings because enough people mentioned Consumer Reports and cell phone ratings in the same article. (Just like we just did.) So certain Consumer Reports pages rank highly for “cell phone ratings” even though they may not use that particular phrase, just because of the co-occurrence of those keywords in articles other people wrote about Consumer Reports and their ratings of mobile devices.

So is it possible to use co-occurrence for SEO? It may not be something you can have a great deal of control over, since much depends on the web content and web searches of others. But what you can do over the long term is to write content with an awareness of which keywords you’d like to pair.

Website owners and anyone responsible for developing and managing a website’s SEO strategy should also be aware that the SEO importance of anchor text – the words used in a hyperlink, and often a target of keyword stuffing – is being downgraded by the search engines. Not only that, but the excessive use of keywords as anchor text can actually get your site a penalty from Google!

This is yet another example of why it’s so important for webmasters to keep up with Google’s latest SEO do’s and don’ts. If you’re a business owner and can devote the proper amount of time to SEO and its ever-changing landscape, you’ll be in good shape to know when your site needs an overhaul to bring it in line with Google’s guidelines – or to keep up with new trends like co-occurrence.

Google’s getting smarter all the time, and more able to recognize quality content and the way people search for it so it can deliver the most relevant, highest quality search results – and at the same time, disqualify spammers from its rankings. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to manage your SEO or a dedicated in-house SEO guru, you should probably consider outsourcing your SEO management to a qualified, professional SEO consultant. (We recommend that you check our list of the Top 50 SEO Companies in the US and request some quotes from the ones that look like the best fit!