How to Cast A Wide SEO Net Utilizing Co-Occurrence

Citations are the new backlinks. Or, maybe they aren’t. Anchor text doesn’t matter. Or, maybe it does. SEOs are a bunch of tortured souls that are left to decide how to custom tailor their offerings to clients after wave upon wave of Google updates. Imagine having to fundamentally alter the way you do business after each algorithm change by the big “G.” It’s just a way of life for those in the search engine optimization game.

The newest topic on the SEO scene is co-occurrence, which is also being (mistakenly) referred to as co-citation in some of the content I’m reading about this new-fangled search engine optimization phenomenon.

Rand Fishkin has a theory, and when Rand has an SEO theory he generally has the ears of the community. His new theory – although it isn’t new, or even his theory (I remember reading about this in a wildly popular forum post circa 2007) – is that sites are beginning to be ranked based on the company they keep. For example, in one of his examples, he mentioned the site Consumer Reports being indexed and ranking very well for the term  “cell phone ratings.” The page he references doesn’t use “cell phone ratings” in the title tags, any of the <h> tags and it’s not even used in that specific order within the content of the page. Yet it’s ranked number one for a highly competitive term. Why is that?

Rand theorizes – and most of us agree – that because of the number of times the phrase “cell phone reviews” and Consumer Reports were mentioned in the same text, Google is starting to associate the two as being related. It stands to reason that if you are telling someone to research a cell phone the sites you’d mention would probably be a site like Consumer Reports or perhaps CNET. If you were researching cell phones, or even better, researching where to research cell phones, and Consumer Reports kept coming up as a place to cell phone reviews you’d start to think that it might be a good place to search, right? Well, that’s the way Google sees it too.

This isn’t a huge change, as backlinks were basically telling Google that the site being linked to was relevant for the anchor text used within the link. Now the whole process is a bit cleaner, and sans link. Cool, right?

Over the long haul it’ll probably make the SEO game easier, as instead of trying to get people to link to their clients, now they’ll just need to mention them in the same breath (or sentence, paragraph, blog post, etc.) as the keyword they’re trying to rank for.

Here are a couple of free (and Google approved) ways to cash in on the co-occurrence phenomenon.

Be Relevant

More important than any of the steps provided below is adding value to the conversation. Nobody would argue that a site like Consumer Reports was a relevant addition to the top of the page for the keyphase “cell phone ratings.” Consumer reports could sit at the top of the page for a lot of similar terms like “cell phone reviews,” “best washers and dryers,” “best blu ray player under 100,” and any number of similar review or ratings-based search terms.

The key here is remaining relevant in the conversation. If I were trying to rank Netflix for the term “Best Cheeseburger in Chicago” that wouldn’t exactly be relevant content, and I’d have a tough time sustaining that rating if I were able to get it in the first place.

If you aren’t relevant to what the searcher is looking for, then even if you do get ranked generously for your keyword of choice, you’ll just get slapped around in future updates as Google gets smarter.

Remain relevant to your customer and increase your chances for search engine success.

Re-Think Content Marketing

This has to be the buzzword of 2011 & 2012. Here is one of the situations in which it proves useful though. Google has often told us that content is king. Maybe it was their version of telling us that there was money in the banana stand and we just weren’t catching on.

The idea here is simple. Get your clients on as many websites as possible. Ask to create great content for a quick mention of your client within the text of the article. You don’t need to link to the client, which keeps you in Google’s good graces. And trust me when I say that we all want to stay in Google’s good graces.

It’s not rocket science. The more places you put your content into the wild, the better the chance of some of that content proving to be beneficial to your bottom line.

Social Media DOES Matter

Social media is a search metric. Or maybe it isn’t. I guess it all depends on who you listen to.

In all reality, it doesn’t matter because whether the talking heads you’re listening to say it’s already a search factor or that it’s not most SEOs agree that it will be at some point. Besides, I know many bloggers who get inspiration for their topics through things they’re reading on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. Who knows, maybe it’ll get you a mention or two. Or, there’s the un-trackable essence of social media that tells us in the know that some things are just immeasurable. For example, the networking opportunities and friendships born on social sites which give birth to opportunities to write guest posts, ask for a mention or even ask for people you might never have known to review your product. Social media connects people, which connect you to more people who could be promoting or at least mentioning your business, product or service.

Co-occurrence is all about being relevant to whatever the term is you’re sharing context with. This isn’t rocket science. Position yourself or your business for success by aligning your business with keywords and keyphrases that are relevant to what the searcher would want to find.  If you think someone searching for a keyphrase would be helped by your content then you’re probably on the right track. If they’d be disappointed, it’s back to the drawing board.

Pull this off and you’ll be on your SEOs Christmas card list in no time.

Chris Warden is a seasoned entrepreneur and CEO.  Starting his entrepreneurial career at age 19, Chris now serves as CEO of Spread Effect, a leading content marketing and publishing company.  Through effective content creation and promotion, Spread Effect ensures that your brand becomes a thought leader online.  Chris is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and often writes on topics of content marketing, SEO, and business development.  He’s passionate about helping businesses develop long term marketing assets and loves to chat with like-minded individuals.  You can connect with Chris via Linkedin, Twitter – @ChrisWarden_SE, or .

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