SEO is a subject that is constantly changing. In fact, it probably changes on an almost day-to-day basis which is why it is so difficult for SEO’s to stay on top of their optimisation techniques. Over the years, there have been a lot of changes to the Google algorithm, as well as the algorithm of every other major search engine out there too and one of the biggest changes most recently includes the over-optimisation change.
This was something that Google introduced in their Penguin update and have been perfecting since. The algorithm update basically targets a range of over-optimisation tactics that SEO’s might be using on their websites. Of course, one of the biggest over-optimisation tactics is using anchor text too much and this is something that SEO’s now need to learn to avoid.
What Is Anchor Text?
I won’t go into too much detail about this because I imagine that most of you already know, but anchor text is essentially the words that actually link to your website when you have any link to your site. Let’s say that you did a guest post on a site and used the words “Buy Bicycles” as your anchor text. This would mean that when someone clicked the words “Buy Bicycles”, they would get redirected to your website.
This is all anchor text is but basically, when your website is naturally getting links, it is unlikely that every single person that links to your site will use the same anchor text. This is why Google introduced their over-optimisation penalty.
#1 – Use Branded Anchor Text
You’ve probably heard the words branded anchor text a million time but you might not know what this means. Basically, it means using your company or brand name in the anchor text rather than a keyword. Let’s say that you have a website selling bicycles but your company name doesn’t have anything to do with bicycles in the title, you might use that company name as your link anchor text for a guest post or directory submission.
The reason that branded anchor text is becoming a weight in Google’s algorithm is because it is highly likely that a lot of the people naturally linking to you will use the name of your company as the anchor text. Let’s say that a newspaper had an article in which you were featured, they would probably use your company name to link to your website as it is only logical. They probably wouldn’t use any of the keywords you are targeting.
Branded anchor text should be making up a large part of your incoming links, but again, don’t overdo it.
#2 – View Your Competitors Anchor Text Distributions
Every industry is slightly different when it comes to SEO. In one industry, you might see a website ranking with exact anchor text of around 30%, whereas in another, it might be the case that almost every website has only a 5% – 6% exact anchor text link distribution. It is highly likely that Google looks at the other sites out there when it takes into account your site. If it finds that your anchor text distributions are exceptionally different to any of your competitors, it might think that something dodgy is going on and thus, penalise you.
The best thing you can do is to look at your competitors before starting your link building on your own site. Use tools like Open Site Explorer and sort your competitors links by anchor text distribution to see what words people are using to link to them. Of course, you need to ensure that you don’t look at competitors using spammy techniques, otherwise you will be following the wrong advice.
#3 – Use Random Words
Ok, not really random words, but you’ll see what I mean. Basically, if your link profile was 100% natural (which hardly anyone’s is these days), people wouldn’t always use your brand name or keywords related to your site, they might often link to your site using what appear to be random words.
Often, people will use words like “click here” or “visit the site” to link to your site which is why you need to ensure that you include these in your link building strategy. It might seem a bit of a waste to be using this kind of anchor text for your links, but it will help show Google that you have a “natural” link profile and will ensure that they don’t penalise you for over-optimisation.
Of course, you don’t need to be using these too much, but you should fit them into your link building strategy wherever you can. Usually, I would opt for around 10% of your links to have random anchor text variations. It is these variations that ensures your website looks natural to other search engines too.
#4 – Keep An Eye On Anchor Text Variations On Your Site
As you build links yourself, it is very easy to forget exactly what your anchor text distribution is like. This is why you need to use a tool like Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer to keep an eye on your own site and ensure that you don’t accidentally use too many keyword links.
Of course, others will naturally link to you over time as well (hopefully) so these people will have some effect on anchor text distribution too. Bare this in mind.
Diversifying your anchor text is an extremely important factor in modern day SEO. Long gone are the days when you could build spammy links from hundreds of sites using the exact anchor text and still rank for your keyword. You need to focus on high quality links with good anchor text variation too!.