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Are co-citations a Google ranking factor?

Does Google use co-citation in its algorithm as its ranking factor (what the hell is it anyway)?Learn how to use co-references in SEO.

What exactly is co-citation, and is it a Google search ranking factor?

You may have heard the term co-reference on SEO roaming, often in discussions about link building, and often combined with another term: co-occurrence.

Search engines have long used co-references to help determine how two seemingly unrelated documents are connected.

If my little home building website (a girl can dream) gets a link from a leading building publisher this week and your solar equipment website gets a link from them next week, what does that tell Google?

While this doesn't indicate a relationship between you and me, it does show search engines that we have something in common.

But does Google really use co-citations as a factor in its search ranking algorithm?Let me see.

Statement: Co-citation as a ranking factor

We've been talking about co-citations for a long time.Jim Boykin shared a good overview of the SEO industry's understanding of this concept in 2006.

He cites a definition from SourceForge, which states in part:

"Bibliographic co-citation is a popular measure of similarity used to determine the thematic similarity between two items.If both A and B are referenced by C, then they can be said to be related to each other even though they do not directly reference each other.If both A and B are referenced by many other projects, they have a stronger relationship.The more projects they are referenced, the stronger their relationship.

You can see how this understanding helps Google find the most reputable, authoritative, and trustworthy sources to answer searcher queries.

But is co-citation actually a ranking factor?

Evidence of co-citation as a ranking factor

Before we dive into it, if you're wondering what the difference between co-citation and co-occurrence is, a brief conversation between Rand Fishkin and Bill Slavsky summed it up in a few tweets.:

For the purposes of this article, we're talking about co-citations - how links and keywords drive Google's understanding of a piece of content.

Citation analysis comes from the field of bibliometrics, where scholars and researchers use citations between documents to determine which books, articles, or other content are most popular.

The practice has been around since at least the early 19th century.However, citation analysis becomes more useful in automation and citation indexing.This allows researchers to not only record citations at scale, but also visualize the connections between them and analyze patterns across collections.

Sound familiar?It should, because these are the principles on which Google's Knowledge Graph was built.

If Google's indexing and information retrieval madness has a way, SEO professionals will be trying to figure out how it affects rankings.

Digital marketers have long believed in the power of co-citations.

In 2010, Jennifer Van Iderstyne wrote:

"One of the things that can affect the value of a link is the links around it.Simply put, having your links surrounded by spam will make you look bad.However, linking your website with competitors or trusted sources can have a positive impact on your rankings.

In 2013, Tayyab Nasir wrote:

"Search engines prefer co-citations to anchor text because co-citations are available and anchor text is created by you.

In 2020, Adam Heitzman writes.,

"If you think about it, both co-citations and co-occurrences make perfect sense when it comes to what Google has been trying to value — authoritative and authentic, really mixed in between great content.

Links are still widely considered to be in Google's algorithmRank with the most weightOne of the factors, if not the most.

But we all know that in a world where links can be bought and sold, there are huge issues with link integrity and its value as a ranking factor.

The launch of Hummingbird, RankBrain, and BERT all demonstrate the tremendous strides Google has made in developing a deeper and more meaningful understanding of each piece of content.

For years, people have discussed co-citations and co-occurrences replacing links and anchor text as ranking signals.

However, a citation is just a link.Co-references help provide linking context.

It helps Google understand who is who, the "why" behind the link, and whether the link makes sense in the larger scheme.

In this way, co-citations can actually help Google identify spammy links, helping links stay relevant as a ranking signal for many years to come.

Evidence against co-citation as a ranking factor

There are potential problems with the idea of ​​co-citations as a Google ranking factor, not the least of which is potential manipulation.

Any link deemed valuable, some links will try to play around with the system.

But if you're thinking about buying links to build relevance in your industry in some kind of co-citation program, then you really have to ask if it's worth it.

John Mueller in Office Hours, July 2021, 7, reiterated the various ways Google handles link manipulation:

“Artificially building links, removing links on other sites, buying links – all of these are against webmaster guidelines.We act on this algorithmically and manually.

The actions we take include downgrading sites that buy links, downgrading sites that sell links, and sometimes we just take more subtle actions, we just ignore all of those links.

For example, if we recognize that a site frequently sells links…We often go in and say, 'Okay, we'll ignore all the links.

None of this is new, but we're still talking about it here.

Co-citation as a ranking factor: our judgment

Of course, co-references can be toyed with.

Scholars have long discovered that in order to understand its true value, one needs to go beyond simply counting citations.Trading volume alone is not a good indicator.

Having lots of spammy links to a site doesn't do you any good (not anymore, and not for long anyway).

Extended reading:

Is Click Through Rate (CTR) a Google Ranking Factor?

Is click depth a Google ranking factor?

Top 8 Google Ranking Factors - What Really Matters for SEO

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