With the release of Google’s Penguin update, web-masters have been forced to take a second look at link-building strategies. Google has proven time and again that when it comes to search engine optimization, honesty is the best long-term strategy. Attempting to gain the system by using deceptive tactics eventually ends in Google catching on and lowering your sites rank.
While some attempts at including keywords in your links can be honest and relevant, when every link on your website contains the same keywords, you need to take a step back and diversify. Anchor text is the clickable text portion of a link that you click on to visit the destination page.
Web-masters affected by the recent Penguin update often have a knee-jerk reaction to attempt to save their ranking. Quickly spinning your keyword anchor text is only going to create more problems down the road. Focus instead on changing your anchor text to reflect the content in your page. If you write high-quality content, provide useful services, and gain the loyalty of your readers, you can weather any storm and continue to succeed no matter how often Google changes the game. You need to do much more than simple diversification of your anchor text, you need to also create a plan to strategically distribute your text among more than one platform.
Over Optimized Anchor Text
Websites negatively impacted by the Penguin update don’t necessarily have an issue with poor link quality. The issue is more likely with the anchor text and how it’s used. Penguin made the assumption that highly optimized anchor links lead to low-quality content. The truth is, these two aspects of link building often go hand in hand. Because deceptive webmasters discovered that building highly targeted keywords in their links led to higher search engine rankings, good sites have suffered. Luckily, it’s possible to recover by using a diversification strategy to change your links.
Diversification of Anchor Links
The majority of your anchor links should promote your brand. Google still considers these links to be natural and not an attempt to secure website positioning.
Brand your website and use anchor text to link back to your content. This will provide you with links that both promote your website and avoid seeming like spam.
About a quarter of your links should be the actual website URL. Use the full URL of your website and link to it in a natural way. Make the anchor text a part of a sentence, or to give attribution to an article.
A little less than a quarter of your anchor links should be general or generic. Instead of using keywords, use phrases like, “click here” or “read more.” These natural phrases are used commonly and won’t flag your site as one that is trying to trick search engines. It also makes it possible to create the impression that you’re building natural links and highlighting real text.
The remaining anchor text should include two types of anchors — keyword variations and exact matches. Keyword variations take the anchor text and change it up throughout the text. Instead of using the keyword “summer camps,” change it up to use different phrases, such as “kids summer camps” or “novel summer camps.” Still, you should be careful with this type of optimization as you could get penalized if you’re not subtle enough. You should use exact matches extremely sparingly, but they can be used in moderation. For example, if you are targeting summer camps, use the keyword “summer camps.”
Placement of Anchor Text
The placement of your anchor text is about as important as the actual text links. Place your keywords that use exact matches, keyword variations and brand names on the sites with the highest Page Rank. On sites that have good quality content, use keyword variations, website links and generic links.
Build New Links
One way to reduce the impact of exact and keyword variation based keyword links is to start building more content that uses natural keyword links. In this manner, you don’t need to go through and change all of your existing links. Instead, by adding more content to your website you can decrease the ratio of the problematic links and help to improve the authority of your website. You need both high-quality links and diversification to combat the recent changes made by Panda. In May 2014, Google should release another update to the algorithm. By making the necessary changes now, any negative hit on your Page Rank and website can potentially be mediated.
Links to Avoid
There are some common types of links that you should avoid to ensure you have good anchor diversity and your pages rank highly. Avoid spammy blog-roll links. These links are a list of links that a particular blogger endorses. While these links can be good natured, they tend to be a way for blogs to interlink and often don’t indicate a real authoritative and trustworthy site. Don’t use link networks to advertise your links. Google views these networks as spammy and your results will suffer as a result of using them.
Comments and classifieds are also areas you should avoid. While comments on a popular blog can drive traffic to your site, they are largely, and correctly, seen as spam and will negatively impact your site. Also, avoid forum spam with your signature. This may have worked several years ago, but Google has caught on and is starting to penalize the website that uses this technique to promote their website. While you’re at it, remove all site wide backlinks and stop using free for all directories. Remember, you need to concentrate your efforts on natural link building and legitimate sites. Don’t just place your anchor text anywhere you can.
Correcting Past Wrongs
If you are being linked to by spammy websites, contact the website to have the links removed. If all else fails you can use the Google Disavow Tool to block spammy websites that are hurting your performance. You should only use this tool for sites that are creating a real problem for your search engine results. It can backfire if you don’t know what you’re doing or you remove links that are actually helping your performance.
Check any website you list with the Disavow Tool carefully to ensure that you are listing only harmful websites. Look at the Page Rank in comparison to yours and check the quality of the content to see if the website provides useful and relevant content. If you use the Disavow Tool, don’t forget to remove any of your bad links first.
In closing, remember to always stay ethical and honest when you build links. Don’t succumb to tricks designed to get you listed in search engines more quickly. Scams and spam almost always ends up backfiring. Instead, continue to build high-quality content and focus on using natural and brand keywords to promote your website. Focus on longer articles that provide good details and useful facts that your readers can learn from and share organically. Your anchor text can make the difference between surviving the next Google search engine algorithm update and falling into the abyss of the “No Mans Land” of search engine results.