Prediction Anchor Text Is Dying And Will Be Replaced By Co-Occurence

SEO writers usually rely on a set of ranking signals to place themselves in the early pages (and the first few results) of a Google search. These include the article’s title and the anchor text. It’s pretty simple – if your keywords show up in the title or anchor text of a web page, it’s likely to show up in the first few pages of results, and not until several pages down (especially for competitive keywords) will you find sites that have few keywords in their title and anchor text. Lately, however, another factor seems to have been added to Google’s algorithms: co-occurrence.

In the vast majority of Google searches, the keywords in the search (for example, “backlink analysis”, a common SEO-related pair of keywords) show up at least once and often several times in both the article’s title and anchor text (for example, one link on the first page is titled “Backlink Analysis – Web SEO Analytics” and has the concise anchor text “Analyze the backlinks of your site by using Backlink Analysis Tool”).

But occasionally, you’ll see a link without related keywords in the title or the anchor text. For example, on our previous search for “backlink analysis”, the very first site is “Open Site Explorer,” a place that has little to do with backlink analysis – in fact, if you follow the link, you won’t find the words “backlink analysis” anywhere on the page. How does Open Site Explorer leap to the top of the search page with so little relevance?

Well, first let’s take a look at what co-occurrence actually is. Co-occurrence is the presence of two keywords linked to each other – a phrase along with a brand, link, or keyword. It’s possible that Google is picking up on the associations between these two entities and tailoring the search results for, say, “backlink analysis” to include Open Site Explorer because backlink analysis and Open Site Explorer show up together on the same website so many times. A quick Google for ‘ “backlink analysis” AND “open site explorer” ‘ brings up a multitude of sites with both phrases in the title or at least in the anchor text – the second result is titled “Competitive Backlink Analysis with Open Site Explorer.”

Usually, SEO authors consider SEO to be the careful planting of keywords within an article to make the article (or webpage) more appealing for both consumers looking for information related to the keywords and for search engines which order pages by relevance based on keyword density. But when the search results don’t reflect that order, it becomes apparent that there is something else going on. And that something is co-occurrence.

How will co-occurrence change SEO? It may shift the focus of SEO away from planting keywords throughout an article to connecting your topic with another, more popular (or well related) topic with phrases linking the two – for our earlier example with backlink analysis and Open Site Explorer, those links could be phrases like “performing backlink analysis using Open Site Explorer” or “Open Site Explorer, the perfect tool for backlink analysis”.

Co-occurrence will be an important phenomenon to watch as Google develops its new technology, and it may be the device that will give SEO authors who are in the know a leg up over authors who use only keyword density to promote their articles.