What Is Co-Occurrence? SEO’s Path to Thematic Relevance

Adam Steele
Mar 8, 2024
what is co-occurrence

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Co-occurrence—it’s everywhere in SEO circles, whispered among experts, and tossed around in tutorials. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. We’re about to crack this thing right open and reveal the true face of co-occurrence, especially as it pertains to your quest for search result success.

To get you up to date, here’s what I have in store for you:

  1. A crystal-clear answer to the question, “What is co-occurrence in SEO,”
  2. examples of how co-occurrence shapes our world,
  3. and actionable tips to leverage co-occurrence in your own content marketing endeavors.

What Is Co-Occurrence in SEO?

Co-occurrence in search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the proximity and frequency of relevant keywords within a website’s content. It’s all about strategically weaving together semantically related terms throughout separate web pages, mimicking the natural way we use language. Think of it as building bridges between related concepts and establishing your website as a hub of topical expertise.

Just like words like “pen” and “paper” often go hand-in-hand, relevant keywords naturally appear together in well-written SEO content. Search engines, like Google, use this proximity and frequency to understand the broader meaning of your pages and how well they might answer a user’s search query.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

Co-Occurrence vs. Co-Citation

Before we move on, let’s explore a similar and related concept to co-occurrence, co-citation.


  • As you’ve just read, co-occurrence analyzes the frequency and proximity of relevant keywords within a single piece of content or website.
  • Co-occurrence helps search engines understand the thematic coherence of your content and how well it addresses a specific topic.


  • In SEO, co-citation focuses on how frequently multiple web pages are linked together by other websites, offering insights into their authority and topic connections.
  • Co-citation is used to identify influential references within a specific field and assess the credibility and authority of content.

So, to reemphasize, co-occurrence operates on a micro level, focusing on keyword relationships within your own content, while co-citation plays out on a broader scale, examining connections between different sources.

Why Is Co-Occurrence Important?

Understanding the importance of co-occurrence will help you understand how to align with Google’s—and other search engines—constantly evolving standards around content quality and, ultimately, delivering value to your target audience.

And, what’s more, by embracing co-occurrence, you’re embracing Google’s stance on creating “people-first content.” That is to say, content that demonstrates aspects of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness—commonly known as E-E-A-T. In Google’s own words, “People-first content means content that’s created primarily for people, and not to manipulate search engine rankings.”

With that said, let’s dig a little deeper and explore further why co-occurrence is muy importante in terms of SEO.

Understanding Search Algorithms

Search engines like Google utilize sophisticated algorithms like Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) to analyze text and identify the underlying topics and subtopics. Co-occurrence plays a crucial role in this process. When relevant keywords appear consistently and in close proximity within your content, it sends a clear signal to the algorithms that you’re not just keyword stuffing but truly delving deep into a specific topic.

If you can integrate this approach into your content creation process, you’ll give yourself the best shot at building thematic relevance and strengthening the association between your page and related search queries.

Content Relevance and User Experience

Co-occurrence isn’t just about appeasing search algorithms. Oh, no, my friend. It’s also about offering your visitors the best user experience possible.

For instance, let’s say you stumble upon a recipe for “chocolate chip cookies” (yum!) and find it intertwined with discussions on “desserts to bake” and “healthy dessert alternatives.” Associations such as this create a sense of coherence and authority. It demonstrates the website’s deep understanding of the topic and provides users with valuable context.

A focus that’ll directly contribute to building trust and strengthening E-E-A-T.

Moving Beyond Traditional SEO Practices

While the traditional SEO school of thought relies heavily on exact keyword matches and backlink strategies, co-occurrence takes a more nuanced approach. While creating content, instead of stuffing pages with the same target keyword ad nauseam, a co-occurrence-focused approach helps focus on building semantic relationships between relevant search terms.

Here’s a deeper look:

  • Traditional SEO emphasizes individual keywords, while co-occurrence prioritizes the broader context and thematic coherence.
  • The overuse of keywords, or worse, keyword stuffing, feels robotic and forced, whereas co-occurrence encourages incorporating relevant terms organically into your writing.
  • Exact keyword targeting can become obsolete with algorithm updates, whereas building semantic relationships provides a more future-proof SEO strategy.

Leveraging Co-Occurrence for SEO Success

Now that you’re armed with an understanding of co-occurrence, let’s tackle the practical side of things:

Write Naturally

Instead, group them into thematically relevant clusters. If you’re tackling a topic on Thanksgiving decorations, think “fall decorations,” “outdoor lighting,” and “DIY centerpieces.” This signals to search engines that you’re not writing content simply to appease search algorithms but, instead, are a master of autumnal ambiance.

Focus on Topic Clusters

Organize your website content around clusters of semantically related topics. Create a hierarchical structure that’ll help search engines understand your thematic expertise and rank your content more effectively.

Build Bridges Between Your Content

Use relevant anchor text to link pages within your topic clusters, creating a web of connections that guides both users and search engine crawlers through your thematic forest.

Vary Your Content

Branch out beyond blog posts. Experiment with infographics and videos that naturally incorporate your relevant terms, engaging your audience and further strengthening your thematic authority.

Co-Occurrence FAQ

Q1: How Does Co-Occurrence Differ from Keyword Density in SEO?

Answer: Keyword density focuses on raw keyword repetition, while co-occurrence weaves relevant terms naturally into your content, building thematic coherence and engaging readers.

Q2: How Does User-Generated Content Influence Co-Occurrence?

Answer: Comments, reviews, and forums on your website provide valuable data on how users naturally associate keywords with your content. Analyzing this user-generated language may reveal unexpected semantic connections and guide your content creation to align with your audience’s expectations.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Co-occurrence is a powerful tool for crafting content that resonates with both search engines and audiences. By weaving relevant keywords organically into your content, you’re inviting both search crawlers and human readers to experience thematic coherence and user-first value.

So what are you waiting for?

🚀 Head over to our comprehensive suite of SEO services, and let’s get that website of yours ranking! 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Adam Steele on March 8, 2024

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.