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Is Co-Citation A Google Ranking Factor?

What on earth is co-citation, and is it a Google search rating issue?

You could have heard the time period co-citation in your web optimization wanderings, typically in discussions on hyperlink constructing and sometimes together with one other time period: co-occurrence.

Co-citation has lengthy been utilized by serps to help in figuring out how two seemingly unrelated paperwork could also be related.

If my tiny house constructing web site (a lady can dream) will get a hyperlink from a number one building writer this week and your solar energy tools web site will get one from them subsequent week, what does that inform Google?

While it’s not indicative of a relationship between you and I, it does recommend to serps that we’ve one thing in widespread.

But is co-citation really utilized by Google as a think about its search rating algorithm? Let’s see.

The Claim: Co-Citation As A Ranking Factor

We’ve been speaking about co-citation for an awfully very long time. Jim Boykin shared a good overview of the web optimization trade’s understanding of the idea on the time again in 2006.


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He cited a definition from SupplyForge that states, partly:

“Bibliographic Co-Citation is 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.”

You can see how such an understanding might be useful to Google in its pursuit to seek out essentially the most respected, authoritative, reliable sources to reply searchers’ queries.

But is co-citation really a rating issue?

The Evidence For Co-Citation As A Ranking Factor

Before we dig in, if you happen to’re questioning what the distinction is between co-citation and co-occurrence, this temporary dialog between Rand Fishkin and Bill Slawski sums it up in a few tweets:

Screenshot from Twitter.com, September 2021

For the needs of this piece, we’re speaking about co-citation – how hyperlinks vs key phrases drive Google’s understanding of a bit of content material.


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Citation evaluation comes from the sphere of bibliometrics, through which lecturers and researchers use citations between paperwork to find out which books, articles, or different content material are hottest.

It’s a observe that’s been round a minimum of for the reason that early nineteenth century. However, quotation evaluation grew to become much more helpful with automation and quotation indexing. This enabled researchers to not solely doc citations at scale however to visualise how they have been related and analyze the whole assortment for patterns.

Sound acquainted? It ought to, as these are the rules upon which Google’s Knowledge Graph was constructed.

And if there’s even a touch of methodology to Google’s indexing and knowledge retrieval insanity, web optimization professionals are going to attempt to determine the way it impacts rankings.

Digital entrepreneurs have lengthy believed within the energy of co-citation.

In 2010, Jennifer Van Iderstyne wrote,

“One of the things that can affect the value of a link, are the links surrounding it. Simply put, having your link surrounded by crap is gonna make you look bad. But having your site linked to alongside competitors, or trusted resources can have a positive effect on your rankings.”

In 2013, Tayyab Nasir wrote,

“Co-citations are more liked by search engines than anchor text because co-citations are earned, while anchor text is created by yourself.”

And in 2020, Adam Heitzman wrote,

“If you think about it, both co-citation and co-occurrence make complete sense when it comes to what Google has been trying to value all along – authority and real, genuine intermingling between great pieces of content.”

Links are nonetheless extensively perceived as one of the crucial – if not the most – closely weighted rating components in Google’s algorithms.

But everyone knows there are large points with hyperlink integrity and their worth as a rating think about a world the place hyperlinks might be purchased and offered.

The introductions of Hummingbird, RankBrain, and BERT every exhibit the nice strides Google is making in creating a deeper, extra significant understanding of every piece of content material.

There has been discuss over years of co-citation and co-occurrence changing hyperlinks and anchor textual content as rating alerts.


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Citations are only a kind of hyperlink, although. And co-citation helps give a hyperlink context.

It helps Google perceive who’s who, the “why” behind a hyperlink, and whether or not the hyperlink is sensible within the grander scheme of issues.

In that manner, co-citation might really help Google in figuring out hyperlink spam, serving to hyperlinks keep related as a rating sign for a lot of extra years to return.

The Evidence Against Co-Citation as a Ranking Factor

There are potential points with the concept of co-citation as a Google rating issue, not the least of which being the potential for manipulation.

Anywhere hyperlinks are perceived to have worth, some will try and sport the system.

If you’re considering of shopping for hyperlinks to construct relevance in your trade in some sort of co-citation scheme, although, you actually must ask whether or not it’s price it.

John Mueller restated the varied methods Google handles hyperlink manipulation, in a July 11, 2021, version of Office Hours:

“Artificially building links, dropping links on other sites, buying links – all of that is against the Webmaster Guidelines. We take action on that algorithmically, and we take action on that manually.

And the actions that we take include demoting the site that is buying the links, demoting the site that is selling the links, and sometimes we just take more subtle action in that we just ignore all of those links.

For example, if we recognize that a site is regularly selling links… we often go in and say, ‘Okay, we will ignore all links.’”


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None of that is new, however right here we’re nonetheless speaking about it.

Co-Citation as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Is Co-Citation A Google Ranking Factor?

Sure, co-citations might be gamed.

Academics way back identified a need to transcend merely counting citations so as to perceive their true worth. Volume alone doesn’t metric make.

Pointing a excessive quantity of junk hyperlinks at a web site received’t do you any good (not anymore and never for lengthy, anyway).


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Links/citations are such a foundational side of doc evaluation and so extremely helpful that I consider the profit far outweighs the potential for manipulation – and I feel Google thinks so, too.

The complexity of Google’s index and rating algorithms signifies that co-citation most likely carries quite a bit much less weight than it does in educational doc scoring.

What two hyperlinks pointing to at least one web page tells Google about that web page is only one small clue. It’s one pinpoint on a really giant graph.

Attempts to govern it as a rating sign could be far much less impactful in search than in educational collections.

Has Google confirmed that co-citation is a rating issue? Not that I might discover.

However, we consider that it very properly might be.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal

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