Last week, SEOMoz’sRand Fishkin had an interesting article/video about how anchor text was being slowly phased out by Google in favor of co-citation. The idea was that as Google’s algorithms became more advanced the importance of anchor text would be slowly dialed down and associative citations from high-authority sites (or a lot from lower authority sites) would replace it. The post does raise quite a few questions, the most obvious being Is exact match anchor text hurting my SEO efforts? And Is co-citation the future?
The answer, as always, is neither direct nor easy. The last few post-Penguin months have seen quite a bit of changes happening in the SEO landscape especially in regards to exact match domains. With Google’s hand on the keyword dial some questions regarding the diminishing relevance of exact match domains have arisen recently with a significant trend of decreased relevance over the past two years identified. Curiously enough, this trend is mostly identifiable in the top-level domains other than .com, although this might be a direct consequence of stronger brand presence (and thus more SEO with faster response times) in the .com TLD.
Exact Match Domains are far from dead although their significance will likely dwindle fast especially if they are keyword stuffed. The same can be said of anchor text. It is not dead, it is not hurting your SEO, or at least it isn’t unless your keywords are particularly long and overused in anchor text.
The second question is a bit more difficult, especially as there still isn’t a working theory of how co-citation actually works. If site and product co-citations from a variety of sources of different authorities are accepted then you or the search engine marketing agency handling your site should adjust and optimize for co-citation immediately! If instead Google takes a slower, safer approach in order to avoid a flurry of namedropped companies and products sprouting in posts around the web then it will likely implement changes to its algorithms to account for these types of shenanigans or simply rank mentions in picky, high authority sources vastly superior to a DA 30 article farm, much like it does with backlinks nowadays.
As always, reading Google’s mind isn’t something anybody can do precisely but the gist of the matter is that anchor text is indeed being slowly faded out, as it has become (always been?) a consistent part of the spammer’s arsenal. However Google knows that many sites still rely on it a lot and will be unlikely to just turn the EMAT dial down to 0 overnight. And yes, when all is said and done, co-citation is likely to become a new and stable tool in the SEO toolkit.