Let’s face it, when there’s been a big Google update, and your portfolio of websites is unaffected, there’s an undeniable sense of schadenfreude. While forums fill to bursting with SEOs tearing their virtual hair out, for some Penguin holds all the threat of a pantomime (or Batman) villain. But if you think it’s time to put your feet-up; remember that in the world of SEO complacency kills.

Laurels are not for resting on, but they do provide a cushion to allow you to appraise an update without panicking. Google’s Penguin update forced SEOs to take a much closer (and long overdue) look at the role of anchor text. And while those webmasters whose sites had been hit-hard set to work artificially ‘naturalizing’ their anchor text profiles; we began to make some interesting observations.

Under the microscope anchor text looked pretty feeble, almost on death’s door. We had no trouble finding pages ranking for keywords which were completely absent from the link text. And we weren’t alone. So the $64,000 question is how is Google able to rank such pages (and there are plenty of them) in the absence of classic SEO signals. And the answer seems to be ‘co-citation’ or ‘co-inclusion’; simply mentioning a keyword on a page with a relevant link.

Google has got smart and managed to put the two together, thereby making a semantic connection between the language of the page and the logic of the page. Put simply Google’s thinking ‘I know that this page is about ‘SEO’, so that outbound link is probably also about ‘SEO’. Add-in Google’s enormous data set, sprinkle on some algorithmic dust, and BINGO!

Of course, none of this means that it’s lights-out for anchor text, just that Google’s getting tuned-in to more subtle signals. Rather than giving SEOs a headache ‘co-inclusion’ should make our lives a little easier, allowing greater link leverage from traditional PR material without ‘management’ getting their knickers in a twist.

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