SEO Moz Predicts Death of Anchor Text

Whoa… raise your hand if you thought anchor text would someday become obsolete. Seriously, go ahead. I’ll wait.

…No one?

Don’t feel bad, we didn’t see this day coming either. However, according to a newly released “Whiteboard Friday” post by SEOmoz’s infamous Rand Fishkin, you may be seeing your website increasingly ranking for terms you never thought to optimize for – and the answer, according to Rand, lies in some magical new practice called “co-citation”. Let’s look at the theory that Rand presented in the video so you can draw some conclusions of your own.

The Evidence

If you have an SEO bone in your body, you’ll be immediately sucked into Rand’s analysis when you watch the Whiteboard Friday video on SEOmoz. He begins by presenting three examples of websites that are ranking for highly completive terms with – get this – no optimization for the keyword in question whatsoever:

  • For the term “cellphone ratings”, ranks #4. However, there’s no mention of the keyword phrase in any of the page’s key areas – title, H1 tags… nowhere.
  • For “manufacturing directory”, Thomas Net ranks #3, again with no optimization to be found anywhere on-page.
  • SEOmoz’s own tool, Open Site Explorer, ranks #2 for the term “backlink analysis” without the company having purposely optimized for the phrase in the slightest.

Freaky, right? How the heck does Google figure out how to rank these sites without the classic SEO maneuvers to guide them to their rightful place in the SERPs? There’s got to be a missing link somewhere (yes, bad pun intended).

Well, according to Rand, there is – and he affectionately refers to that missing link as “co-citation”.

The Hypothesis

So, Rand says that co-citation is the new name of the SEO game. But what exactly does that mean? Well, to give you some insight into the term, here’s a little snippet from the video about how co-citation may have caused Consumer Reports to rank so well in search results:

You see what he did there? Rand is saying that Google’s getting smarter, and any SEO worth his salt should up his game immediately to get a jump on the competition. It’s the future of SEO: Google’s looking at who endorses you around the Web – and the search giant is also weighing how important those endorsers are.

Here’s the rub: if you want to get ahead in search results for your chosen keyword terms, you need to start looking at SEO through a much different lens. It’s not just about dropping your keyword du jour into your title, H1 tags, and scattering it throughout your text. It’s time to think bigger.

Now, recommendations (co-citations) are the name of the game. You can still facilitate this process yourself – think PRs, guest post blogging, and mentions from authoritative websites in your niche. The trick is to make sure that these endorsers are associating your keyword with your brand and dropping both mentions in the same body of text. Yes, sounds difficult in theory, but if you strategize well, you’ll be five steps ahead of the other guys.

And by the other guys, we mean those SEOs who are still busying themselves with counting keyword mentions in their spammy 400-word wonders.