Does Anchor Text Still Matter?
ORLANDO, FLORIDA-Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday episode about a potentially new ranking factor was published on Nov. 16, but two months, multiple re-readings and lots of additional research later, I’m still digesting all the information.
He originally predicted that anchor text is dying and co-citation will replace it, but later edited the title of the post to say the importance of anchor text in SEO is weakening while co-occurrence is becoming a more prominent factor in ranking well and may replace it.
Fishkin is the CEO of SEOmoz and a prominent figure in the online search marketing industry so a lot of ears perk up when he makes big predictions. This Whiteboard Friday episode became one of the most popular ones in 2012 for the Moz community. Here are a few quick definitions in case you’re not fluent in SEO speak:
Anchor text-the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink that influences the ranking that the page will receive by search engines. For example, Sinai Marketing shares search engine optimization tips , techniques and updates on its blog. The words in blue are anchor text, and they influence how the linked page ranks in search engine results.
Co-occurrence-the theory that search engines have become sophisticated enough to understand context and they rank a website well based partially on the factor that a website and certain keywords were mentioned together on another website, even though the keyword wasn’t actually hyperlinked. For example, we might mention a website about dental marketing in one of our blog posts without linking directly to the site. If co-occurrence is at work, the search engine spider would intuitively associate that website with the words we used in relation to it.
“Co-occurrence is search engines learning to think and process information the way a human would,” says Ali Husayni, an SEO expert and the founder and CEO of Sinai Marketing. “That has always been Google’s goal, and it’s why we’re constantly encouraging people to focus on creating content that is for humans too, not just search engines.”
Back to Fishkin’s Whiteboard video though. He believes we’ll start to see more co-occurrence of terms and links in search queries, in text content, and in links becoming more of a factor. This is not the complete death of anchor text, he says, but he shows that anchor text is actually diminishing as a signal and being replaced by something else.
Another blogger responded to Fishkin’s post with a lengthy and detailed article guest posted on iAcquire about what’s really going on in SERPs, find the article here.
“Rand appears to be suggesting that SEO and PR are going to converge in a way that devalues traditional anchor signals in favor of content based co-occurrence signals,” says Joshua Giardino. “Under this model, to rank well, brands will have to focus on nurturing co-occurring mentions of their brand across the Web on pages that are topically relevant to the terms for which they hope to rank.”
Giardino thinks if Fishkin is correct, that this change will represent a powerful, new content-based ranking factor, a whole new class of signals that veers away from traditional ranking factors.
Fishkin must be confident about his prediction because he also included co-occurrence in his annual list of predictions for inbound marketing and SEO for the coming year. He says co-occurrence of brands and websites combined with keyword terms and phrases will be proved to have an impact on search engine rankings through correlation data, specific experiments or a combination of both.
“All over the Web we are seeing strong evidence to suggest it is already being used by Google’s super-intelligent algorithms,” Steve Davies says on his digital marketing and SEO blog, Spotted Panda. “I certainly predict it to expand to search engines actually learning to read all blog posts, news articles, information pages and social media the same as you or I would.” Know more about this article.
Husayni says he thinks co-occurrence will eventually become an important factor but says businesses need to focus on SEO basics and building content that is relevant to their consumers right now.
“You don’t need to worry about anchor text going away any time soon,” says Husayni. “For now, it’s here to stay, but we’ll be sure to let our readers know about impending changes. For now, focus on publishing regularly on your blog about interesting, useful topics for your readers.”
Want More? If you’re interested in jumping into the diminishing anchor text, increasing co-occurrence conversation from the beginning, start by watching Rand Fishkin’s original Whiteboard Friday video, then read Bill Slawski’s response to the topic: Not All Anchor Text is Equal And Other Co-Citation Observations. His article is a great read, but be prepared for a very technical article. The comments section on the article can help you get a better grasp on some of the ideas since Slawski seems to break down concepts into more basic terms. Joshua Giardino published a lengthy piece responding to both, and it’s chock full of research; just as technical but a bit easier to read: It’s Not Co-Citation, But It’s Still Awesome.