Appropriate anchor text is the most important off page factor to securing high rankings in Google. It is one of the top things that Google looks for and demands when deciding where to index your page in its search results. It is a huge part of the Google search algorithm. However, you cannot just do lots and lots of low quality anchors. In the past, it was possible to use 100% exact match anchors for all of your backlinks and you would get a good ranking. This is not the case anymore. Since Google carried out the Penguin update, any website that went for this low quality, artificial link building, has been targeted by Penguin. In order to determine if a website is building links artificially or using spam to rank, Penguin uses anchor text. This is because they can identify websites that don’t seem quite normal fairly easily, with them having, for example, 100% of its backlinks with anchor text “765% APR loans”.
So, it’s extremely important that you get it right when planning your linking strategy. This includes not only understanding how to link using the appropriate keywords and terms in the anchor text, but also how Penguin analyses anchor text and determines whether a site should be reprimanded or not.
Before going into how Penguin works, let’s look at how to link appropriately. Often, linking candidates will use the company name as anchor text. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often provide any type of description of the target company’s products or services. This may be really useful for branding but it usually isn’t needed for ranking purposes as most companies already rank very high for searches that incorporate their brand. As an example, if a company was called “Dragonfly Interior Design”, most people will link with just the term “Dragonfly”. This is of limited use because it does not describe the services that the company provides i.e. interior design. If these extra two magical words are added to the anchor text, it may well be possible to drive additional traffic to the site that would otherwise have sadly missed out on Dragonfly’s fabulous design ideas!
Once you have nailed this element, it then comes down to checking that you are not going to get penalised by Penguin for building links artificially. Penguin works by:
You building a backlink
Google indexes the backlink
Google places this new backlink into its database for your website (your link profile)
These steps are then repeated time and time again which gives a link profile that the algorithm can analyse. This analysis compares your profile to the on page factors for your website. So, if the on page content is optimised for “765% APR Loans” and all of your anchors are about “765% APR Loans”, it’s very easy for Google’s algorithm to see that you’re firstly trying to rank for “765% APR Loans” and that you’re building links artificially. Websites that make this mistake can be met with a penalty from Google.
Clearly, getting a Google penalty is not something that you want to be faced with. You therefore need to be careful about how and when you use your keyword-heavy anchors.
So, anchor text diversity is important. Search engines are clever. If your website has 1,000 links pointing to it, but if all of those links use exactly the same anchor text, it is going to raise a serious red alert to the search engine companies. If you have diversity, it’s a sign that the links pointing to you are genuine (and more useful to web users).
Getting a bit more creative with your anchor text will certainly help. When thinking about your product, try to imagine all of the terms that web users might use when searching for your product. So, if you are doing personal training, don’t just go for “personal training”. How about “getting fit”, “gym instruction”, “fitness instructor”, etc?
In addition, there are a number of useful software tools that you can use to get a better understanding of your existing anchor text usage and variance. It is probably helpful to use more than one of these to give you the best picture.
There are a number of other key points to think about in relation to anchor text and how to optimise it, including link placement and relevance. Anchor text is certainly not as straightforward as it used to be and the “scattergun effect” will no longer cut the mustard.
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