Whom did you wake up with this morning? (Guestpost)

Wed 1 July 2009 10:30, Editors

Whom did you wake up with this morning?  (Guestpost)

Christoph Cemper is one of the smartest linkbuilders in the industry. I first met him in New York where he was attending SES New York. In Amsterdam at the A4UExpo though he blew us all away with a fabulous presentation on linkbuilding. And that's just what he's writing about today!

Christoph C. Cemper has been building links since 2003 and is a well respected guru in the SEO industry, especially when it comes to getting real juicy links on trusted domains. With his company CEMPER.COM Christoph and his team have been providing these advanced link building techniques and special consulting gigs to over 400 international clients.

Whom did you wake up with this morning?

Link Building has been around for ages. In fact link building was an important technique even before the link based algorithms of Google and other search engines made it THE essential method to improve the search engine rankings of websites.  With Google especially becoming more and more sophisticated in evaluation of link growth and link quality to combat (automated) link spam they introduced a lot of new quality signals in the last years to interpret how well a site deserves ranking high in their results.  Co-Citation is one principle every SEO should know, understand and practice.

When I spoke about Advanced Link Building at the A4U expo in Amsterdam earlier this year, I realized that one of them - the concept of Co-Citation - wasn’t too well known. In a time where everybody’s going crazy on social media, twitter and the nofollowing of links and other day to day distractions for SEOs, I think it’s time to not forget about the fundamental principles of SEO.

So what exactly IS a co-citation?
When we talk about Co-Citation we refer to the other citations on a page - read the other links that are on the page - in addition to the link going out to you.  You need to make sure that these are all “good” sources, external references that increase the value of the page, support its topic and bring “your” link into a good neighborhood to signal to Google that you are one of the good ones too.

The wikipedia definition of the term co-citation is pretty brief one which could be illustrated with a picture as below, but this definition I found here is a lot better.

      Bibliographic Co-Citation is a popular similarity measure used to establish a subject  
        similarity between two items.

So the co-citation makes the search engine understand what your site is similar to. In the above diagram the four sites A,B,C,D are related to each other, simply because the sites 1,2 and 3 are all linking to them. Why is that important you might ask?

How does co-citation relate to bad neighborhood?
Did you ever wonder where the term “bad neighborhood” comes from? This is what happens if you did not pay attention to good co-citation, which means that you built links on pages that were linking out to “bad guys” on the web. This doesn’t have to be a virus or malware site necessarly. When I talk about “bad guys” here this refers to sites and pages that are

  • low content quality (which could be duplicate content stolen from some other site)
  • a low quality site (any site that Google believes is not rank worthy for whatever reason, typically  banned domains and/or very new sites fall into this category)
  • an off-topic page that does not relate to either the content of the page and/or your own site’s topic
Above you see classic example of bad neighborhood is the sunglasses link among the casino and pharmacy links in a typical paid link ad box (which is already bad by itself, but that’s a different and constantly stressed topic). Don’t E.V.E.R. go for a link like that. No matter what the site owner or the page rank toolbar or ANY other metric tells you, such a link is NO GOOD!

This is important for every single link to your website, so each of your link builders and the companies that do link building for you must be aware of. Otherwise they’ll get distracted by old school SEO metrics like Google page rank or a cache date only, and as I mentioned before, these are not sufficient indicators for a quality link. 

Be warned, if you don’t pay attention to the issue of co-citations you might wake up one day and find yourself besides one of the bad guys of the web, and that will mean a loss of rankings and trust by Google.

Be in a prominent, good neighborhood!
The opposite of the bad neighborhood aka bad co-citation is the good co-citation where your link is among valuable resources on the web. If your website is constantly mentioned among other top quality sites and resources, Google simply has to believe that you are a quality resource too. This is because each link counts as a vote, for you, just like for the other sites linked with you.

How to quickly diagnose your co-citations
Now that you are wondering if you are in good neighborhood, it becomes obvious you need a quick way to gauge if your past link building efforts were successful or not.
Google has a special command to do that, essentially made for finding similar sites to any website. Of course you must understand that they crippled that command back a while ago, just as they did with the popular backlink command. But that “random sample” they return is already useful for a quick test.

Just type related:yourdomain.com into the Google search box and you should see a lot of sites that Google has found to be similar, i.e. co-cited with yours.

Alternatively you can also click the “Similar” link directly in the SERPS. In the above example for the website of my company CEMPER.COM you’ll get quite a nice ist of reputable guys that also focus on link building and SEO and with many of them being tutors, partners or even friends for years. Some of those results of similar sites are WeBuildPages.com, Stuntdubl (whom I just met a few days ago in San Francisco), SEObook.com, David Naylor, ShoeMoney and the popular WebmasterWorld forum by Brett Tabke, the Google webmaster tools and even Matt Cutts’ personal blog.

As you can see we are all in the same business of SEO and link building and are obviously related to each other in Google’s eyes.

  • How does your co-citation look like?
  • Do your link builders know what a valuable co-citation looks like and why it’s important?
  • Do you know how to find good citations to add to your pages?

How to find and add great co-citations to a page
Now this is the final question. If you understood that your link has to be in good neighborhood and you have influence about other sites being mentioned with yours, then you ultimately want to make sure that quality sites and killer resources are mentioned besides your own link.

Unfortunately there’s no simple answer to the question which sites to add. You have to be an expert in your field and then you’ll know which resources to add. For some financial topics in the US this could be a big financial newspaper or the FDC.

For our company homepage used in the example above I would suggest to have Rand Fishkin’s SEOMOZ.org linked with our site as they have shown to be a quality resource on link building and SEO for years now. In addition to that I just met Rand in the US as well and got a peek into the great tools he builds and has in beta stages in his SEOMOZ lab. And since we’ve been building our own very specialized tools for link research and link building that’s another great reason why our sites are related - and Google should know about that.

So if you’re trying to rank higher than your competitors, keep in mind your co-citations, which is your link neighborhood. In a perfect world you would even monitor those co-citations, preferably over time, to make sure there’s no waking up with a bad surprise in the morning for you. For all the pages where you’re getting links from, to whom else do these pages link to? Are the other links on that page related to your site, your industry, your theme? If not, why is there a link to YOU on the page?

Use your gutfeeling here - is that co citation something that will help or hurt you?

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