Are citations the new link Juice?

You may have heard the word ‘citation’ banded about a lot recently because it appears that Google is taking notice of them. With more and more ‘local’ searches being done on Google, they appear to be the next big thing. But what are they and why should we take notice?

Well put simply, a citation is a mention which is often praiseworthy on someone’s web site or blog or maybe even directory and sometimes they can have a link, sometimes they don’t but it appears that even those without links could now help your rankings.

How could this be? We’re always told that physical links to your site are what drives your increased ranking and it would seem a little crazy that a mere mention could help, but from our experience and from talking to others in the industry it would seem that being mentioned together with an un-linked mention of your site could be helping.

This would actually make sense. Although links and hypertext laden anchor text has always been the de-facto SEO standard, it’s a pretty primitive method really and is open to easy abuse so it’s no wonder that Google is finding other ways to rank sites, indeed some have been saying they’ve been utilising these methods for years – maybe it’s time we all caught up then?

Of course, you still need to get your text on a site somewhere, but let’s just explain what it is I’m talking about here.

Let’s say we had a text box on a site that simply explains where to buy books on SEO from. It’s just a simple text box but importantly, it’s got no link to a site, something we normally wouldn’t bother with (click to see a bigger version):

 

 

So the word “SEO” and “Book” are used a few times and there’s also the mention of ‘Amazon’. Now, using our citation model, it would therefore appear that Google would notice that ‘Amazon’ is mentioned, realise that the search ‘amazon’ brings up ‘amazon.com’ and will therefore attribute some loveliness to  the site and associate it with books on SEO.

Is Google getting smarter?

But there’s more. For some time now there’s been talk of Google getting clever with keywords and understanding synonyms, antonyms and plurals amongst others. For example, a link to a technology PR agency would, we hope, help for the search term ‘technical PR agency’ but would it also help for ‘technical PR company’ as ‘technology’ and ‘technical’ are pretty similar words. One would hope so.

This matching of phrases and broad keywords has been around for a while and it works well, however many people don’t utilise it as much as they should. If you’ve been penalised by any of the recent updates, especially Penguin, they you’ll know that using the same keywords too often can make your anchor links look decidedly spammy, the solution is therefore easy – simply vary your keywords and use synonyms more often, it may even help.

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