The SEO Value of Anchor Text is Changing

anchor-text-SEOAs Google evolves its algorithm time after time, everyone pays attention and makes the appropriate resulting changes to their SEO strategy. Most of these algorithm changes are significant, but don’t threaten the overall, longstanding SEO “best practices” of the industry. For example, these minor strategy changes would be things like title tag alteration, or link placement on a page. However, every so often there comes a change from Google that truly shakes up the standard methods that SEOs have followed for years. In recent months, just such an SEO game-changer has been noted by several SEO gurus…

Goodbye Anchor Text?

As early as March of 2012, professional SEOs started noticing that several websites were ranking high on the first page of Google for very competitive keyword phrases. This was noteworthy because these sites had little to NO use of the competitive keyword anchor text anywhere on the pages that they were ranking highly for. After some key SEO investigation and web analysis, what was discovered was an overwhelming amount of “co-citations” to these ranking sites from other relevant sites across the web.

It’s important to note that there were literally hundreds of other competing sites that ranked below this achieving group – all of whom were actively bombarding their sites with the relevant keyword anchor text. This can only mean one thing: the value of linking anchor text is diminishing rapidly – at least in comparison to co-citations.

What are “Co-Citations”?

A co-citation is a direct mention of a website or brand from another site in conjunction with relevant industry keyword phrases. Keep in mind: co-citations references often include NO LINKING whatsoever! If that doesn’t blow your mind on SEO strategy – what will? Here’s a mock example of a co-citation:

  • The Co-Citation: 

[Co-Citer: TractorReview.com:]

“… boy those guys over at Today’s Tractors are true pro tractor manufacturers…

[Note: NO linking]

—————————————————————————————————-

[Co-Sited: Todaystractors.com]

[Home page includes zero mentions of the keyword phrase “tractor manufacturers”]

  • The Result: 

As Google gets ever smarter, it actually learns to read pages and see relevant anchor text beside a brand or website name – and assign the rank value based on that! This doesn’t mean link value is dead, but there are simply more factors at play now than inbound anchor text links, and onsite keyword optimization – both of which were absent in this example.

What Does This Mean for You?

You don’t have to change your entire SEO strategy or anything like that. In fact, you should definitely continue to build a steady and growing number of relevant links to your site. But, understand- Google is getting smarter. They’re trying to move away from simply reading links as the main value for rankings in their search engine. They moved with the Penguin update to police links harder, and even dock sites that had too many irrelevant links. Now, they’re almost moving beyond that strategy all together, and trying to crawl the web for actual content value. Instead of just seeing links, Google is actually reading content to see that targeted keywords are mentioned along with site brand/names. Man, that’s smart!

These are the co-citations you need to be working towards, along with your inbound links. No doubt, this is going to be more difficult than simply link building. You can’t just work a link into a website somehow, or ask for a link on a page. You are going to have to get mentioned in a line of text with relevant keywords as well.

Strategies

With this new SEO challenge at your doorstep, here are a few simple strategies to get some co-citations for your site ASAP.

  • Product Reviews

Product reviews are great ways to get people to mention your site. One approach is to send a small extra cheap product and ask someone to review it. If they write a review, and post it on their site – then they get an even nicer product sample. Example: a baby company sends one pacifier, and then the final sample is a whole case of diapers.

  • Recommendations

Like a classic “link exchange”, you can exchange product or service recommendations with a non-competing, but relevant industry website. This would be a page on your site where you list some recommended businesses, and mention a simple one or two sentences about what they do. This doesn’t have to be a big deal, but will benefit both parties greatly.

  • Guest Posts

Guest posting has always been a great way to get a link – and you can use it to get a great co-citation as well. Usually you won’t be able to write a guest post all about your own company with all the content benefiting you… So simply include an author bio that has at least one of your targeted keywords near your brand name.

Tyler Watkins is a Marketing Manager at PrintingForLess.com, America’s leader in Catalog Printing. 

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