What Is A Co-Citation?
Co-citations are effectively “mentions” across the web. A mention occurs when an article or blog post about a topic in your industry refers to your site in relation to a particular product or service, but doesn’t actually establish a link to your site. This is a citation. A citation is valued by Google because it’s organic and authoritative. Someone chose to cite you as a source of their own volition.
For example, if you provide computer repair services and your site is reviewed in an article as a “leading computer repair firm in London” without actually linking to it, that is a co-citation or mention.
If you get a number of articles on well-established websites and social networks also refer to your site in the same terms, this will serve as a strong ranking signal to Google.
Note that mentions of computer repair services in direct relation to your website can trigger the ranking of your site for relevant search queries for related services like computer networking even when your website has not been optimized for the keywords: computer networking.
Citations are valued by Google because, unlike backlinks that you can purchase, it is much more difficult to manipulate the system with citations. To expand on the concept of a co-citation, consider the following definition from Sourceforget.net.
The Website defines a co-citation as:
“A popular similarity measure used to establish a subject similarity between two items. If A and B are both cited by C, they may be said to be related to one another, even though they don’t directly reference each other. If A and B are both cited by many other items, they have a stronger relationship. The more items they are cited by, the stronger their relationship is.”
Let’s say you’re in the IT industry and a particular website (site A) references a blog post or article on your site (site C). In the same article, site A also references Microsoft.com – an authority site (site B) that is closely related to your industry. In this scenario, some of the respect and authority from Microsoft (the authority site) will flow down to site C (your site).
To make this a lot clearer, consider the following example: say you run an online computer store that sells Windows and Apple computers including desktops, laptops and tablets. On your site, you have an educational blog in which you teach people how to perform a variety of computer tasks that the average consumer will find a bit challenging to do on their own. One of your most popular articles is a step-by-step blog post on how to setup a local computer network to share files and printers between Windows, Linux, and Apple computers.
Now, let’s assume that there is an excellent whitepaper on the Microsoft.com Website that teaches how to create a network between Windows 7, XP, and Vista desktops, laptops, tablets, feature phones, Android smartphones and wireless printers. However, unlike your blog post, the article doesn’t describe how to create a network between all of those devices and iMacs and iPhones. So, your blog post fills a gap in the article, and the Microsoft whitepaper also fills a gap in your article, because it discusses how to setup a network that includes feature smartphones and printers, which you do not actually discuss in your post.
On a 3rd party website, an article discusses the subject of networking smartphones, printers, Windows and Apple computers. The author references the networking article on the Microsoft website. However, the article also mentions that the Microsoft whitepaper does not explain how to create a network between Windows and Apple computers and peripherals. The article also references your blog post and explains how your blog post fills in the information that is missing in the Microsoft article. This is a co-citation.
As far as Google is concerned, your website is being talked about on the web, and it is being talke about in the same context as a leading authority (Microsoft). That is huge. It is much better than an anchor text backlink because it is editorial, and this makes it so much more powerful.
Your website will share some of Microsoft’s respect from Google because of the context in which your site and blog post was referenced, not because of any specific keywords embedded into the link. In this case, the link to your site should be a branded link (such as http:www.example.com/networking-computers.html). It should not be anchor text. Enough co-citations like this, and your site will receive a massive boost on the SERPs from co-citations alone.
How to Earn a Co-Citation
The reason why Google ascribes so much value to co-citations is because it’s much more difficult to manipulate co-citations than anchor text backlinks. Earning mentions–on a monthly basis in top publications in your market will keep your brand relevant. You will need to create something meaningful that will inspire people talk about your site. In short, co-citations must be truly earned. You can do this by creating content that is meaningful, valuable and hard to find. When you create this type of content, other people will read it, share it, and write about it themselves.
Verification Of Authenticity
It is important to note that when it comes to co-citations or mentions, Google has a way of identifying fake ones. Google uses variety of mentions as a means of verifying the authenticity of a particular co-citation. For example, if suddenly your website’s name starts to get mentioned across the web with the exact same sentence describing what you do and the service you provide or the products that you sell, that will not sound natural. In all likelihood, Google will view that as an attempt to manipulate the search process, and strong penalties will follow.
Something similar happened with the British website Interflora over Valentine’s Day. Interflora sponsored hundreds of paid advertisements that appeared in regional newspaper sites in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, each of these had a similar phrasing and heading, all of which were pointing to the Interflora website. Google not only delisted Interflora from its index, but it also penalized each of the regional newspaper websites that participated in the infraction by dropping their PageRank (PR) to zero. You can read more about the case here:
Getting Mentions with HARO
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) can be a great resource for scoring free publicity, links and mentions on major media sites. It is a free online resource that connects journalists that need sources with business owners that are looking to get featured on major media publications including ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN, New York Times, Business Week, Reuters and the Hearst Corporation. HARO is also one of the most effective ways on the web for getting small business stories in front of big media.
To get started, start by registering at www.helpareporter.com for a free account. Under ‘Sources’, sign up and indicate your fields of expertise. You can sign up for a standard, basic, advanced or premium package. Whatever the package you choose, you’ll receive emails three times a day from journalists that need sources in your chosen categories. These emails will arrive at exactly the same time.