What Is Co-Citation & How Does It Impact Content Writing For SEO?

If you spend any amount of time in the SEO space you probably heard of Co-citation by now, but you may or may not know what exactly it means and more importantly what to do about it. Knowing the definition is one thing, but in this post we’ll discuss how it might actually impact your own SEO strategy.

Firstly: What Is It?

We’ll keep this to the point. Exactly what you call co-citation will depend a little bit on how specific you want to be, but since I’m only interested in what is actionable I will explain the broad concept:

At first, Google (et al) used algorithms to pick up on particular keywords and if you wanted to rank for say ”TV Cabinets” you may want to include that keyword in your content and get lots of links using that keyword.

Google have since realized that normal, natural links don’t always use such precise anchor text, and often the most relevant content doesn’t have the most instances of a keyword – in fact, it might not even have any.

So Google uses its clever learning algorithms to piece together context just like we would do as humans. It knows that any content about television, furniture or lifestyle might be relevant to some extent to TV cabinets.

Let’s explore what that actually means for your SEO, shall we?


Content Writing

First of all, it means that you don’t need to stuff keywords into your content, this is even less effective than ever before. It probably makes sense to include your keywords here and there, but only as often as it makes sense.

If your content doesn’t naturally need to include the exact phrase that you are targeting then don’t try to fit it in just for SEO sake.

In fact, some would argue that targeting specific keywords and phrases no longer makes any sense. Instead you should focus on topics that you want to cover. Remember that a huge proportion of search volume is in the long-tail anyway.

If you do feel that you need to focus on phrases still, try to ensure that you keep your SEO broad, so for instance if you would like to rank for ”what is co-citation?”:

Focus your SEO on simple topics such as:

  • Co-citation
  • Relevancy
  • Content writing

It doesn’t matter so much whether you include the exact phrase as it does if you include everything that is needed to cover the topic.

And while doing so, you might well end up ranking for other phrases that you have never thought of, such as (for example):

  • What should I do about co-citation?
  • How does relevancy affect content writing?
  • How does co-citation affect relevancy?
  • Etc.

Link Building

Perhaps the biggest impact of co-citation is around how Google treats links and how it processes them and factors them into rankings.

First of all, Google knows what a page is about and, if a page that is not relevant to links pointing to it, the power of that link may be discounted.

e.g. If a site about toys links to your site about cars then the impact could be reduced

Context is everything of course and co-citation allows Google to assess things like:

  • How relevant is the linking page to the linked-to page?
  • How relevant is the linking site to the linked-to page?
  • How relevant is the linking page to the rest of that site?

Authority vs. Relevancy

Authority and relevancy have always been thought of as fairly separate things. Your site needs to be deemed relevant to a search and have sufficient authority to be worthy of ranking right? Well, sort of, but it’s not that simple.

If you have a link coming from a high authority site, but the content surrounding the link isn’t relevant for a given query, then that link may not help you to rank for that query and indeed a highly authoritative site in one niche might not be at all authoritative in others.

So for example:

Moz.com is highly authoritative in SEO topics and a link from a Moz blog post to your SEO site would be a big boost. But if Moz wrote a post about SEO for florists and linked to a flower related website, that link would not hold the same authority, even though in the context it was relevant – because Moz.com is not a big authority in the floristry niche.

Key Actionable Points:

      • Don’t focus on keywords, focus on topics
      • Have a clear topic focused content strategy
      • Build links by targeting blogs with a similar audience
      • Ensure that links are relevant to:

Your website
The page linking to you
The website that page is on

The best possible litmus test in my opinion is to ask yourself, if SEO didn’t exist, would this content/link still have value from a marketing point of view? You know, if all you had to go on was referral traffic, branding, trust signals etc…

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Photo credits: infocux

Author: Josh Nicholas

Josh Nicholas is a digital marketing expert; he works at Digivate (click here to learn more) and he is passionate about online marketing, technology and social media. Josh started out building websites in WordPress and made the jump to working for Digivate in 2010.

3 thoughts on “What Is Co-Citation & How Does It Impact Content Writing For SEO?”

  1. Doing well in organic search still requires proper keyword optimization. We see significant increases in visibility and performance caused by proper keyword inclusion. While co-citation help provide greater context to the overall content–Google’s (et al) algorithm is still influenced by keyword optimization.

    This article uses the phrase, “some would argue” but there is a lot of misinformation put out on the Web. So, I would argue with those who argue against keyword optimization.

    I agree that it’s best to have a natural looking link profile and to not build spammy exact match links. As for content writing, it’s best not to stuff keywords and to write naturally for users. However, there is an art and science to optimizing for keywords and those that know how to do so will reap the rewards.

  2. I do not feel you answered your own question.
    And the question of the readers is always; How effective is it?

    Co-citation is what? being mentioned as a brand alongside a topic you fancy?
    or is it mentions about a certain product with a real proper link to that content?

    Your statement that a keyword is not mentioned on a page that is actualy supposed to rank high for that content might be true in a utopia. but i have seen little very little evidence in the world i live in.

    Could you please elaborate?

  3. co-citation is the only friend against penguin penalties. It allows you to link from a relevant article without over-optimising the anchor text.

    The take-home message (as the article clearly states) is that linking with relevant anchor from a non relevant article or domain, will not any longer have the impact it had. Co-citation works as an extra layer on Google’s war against spam.

    On how effective is co-citation when it comes to SEO results: My personal experience says that using exact keyword match on the anchor text does show significant better results, but it often raises a manual action on WMT.

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