Significant changes are reshaping the online landscape and as these changes become part of SERPs and most up to date SEM practices, we can start to define, as much as possible, the recent additions to the long and complex list of ranking factors. Overall, the most recent changes are rolled out to reduce the manipulative powers of SEOs and put Search Engines in a more commanding position when it comes to monetisation of Search.
Unusual patterns in Search results
In the last year or so, a number of Search specialists – Rand Fiskin among them – have noticed search results that weren’t determined by the patterns we so got used to across a number of years, instead appearing in what at first seemed random fashion. Upon more detailed examination, however, new definitions have emerged, namely co-citation, co-occurrence and text proximity, all three having a visible influence on how results are presented by SE.
Changes explained – Text proximity
To start with, all these new changes make optimisation more difficult for SEOs/SEMs and contribute to a more natural/organic evaluation of results to be displayed. Along with the new tendency to favor big brands, Google is now taking into consideration the text around a link, as well as the link and anchor text themselves. This makes sense, since from Google’s point of view a naturally placed link occurs in relevant content. As a direct result, branded anchor text in relevant content can help improve ranking for terms mentioned in the content and associated with the branded link. Something to think about, I’m sure, for most Search specialists!
Co-citation – link building without links
However strange it might sound, Co-citation refers to establishing a link between sites without the actual linking. For more clarity, the process of co-citation refers to the similarities between two internet sites, based on a third-party webpage that successfully mentions the first two webpages in a correlation with each other. Based on that co-citation, Google identifies a relation – or link – between those two websites, which is then used as an important search engine-ranking factor. This relationship can be referenced back to the old theory of links being counted as votes, only this time the vote is implied rather than directly attributed.
Co-occurence – establishing semantic associations on the web
Co-occurence and co-citation are very similar in concept, with the first often seen as a causal association of Brands and other search terms on the net. For instance, if your Brand is often seen in the same context as certain Search terms, your Brand will become associated with those terms.
Overall, the web is becoming more and more complex. The reason behind these changes in the algorithm are quite obvious to Search specialists: they are designed to reduce anchor text manipulation in Search results. SEO and link building as we know no longer works – in fact, old SEO practices are more likely to attract a penalty than improve your Search results.