WARNING: this will be the most epic article you’ve EVER read about anchor text. It’s nearly 7,000 words, so make sure you bookmark this ASAP for future reference.
Anchor text can be scary and confusing at first, but once you understand / master it, you automatically become a million times better at SEO. It’s crazy because it can literally make or break a campaign.
With that being said, I’m going to explain EVERYTHING you’ll ever need to know about how to use anchor text in a hostile post-Penguin world.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a self-proclaimed white hat or a down-and-dirty blackhat, the strategies you’re about to learn straight out work in all scenarios.
Let’s do this.
What is Anchor Text?
It simply the visible and clickable text in a link. For example, you may be reading an article and see something like: “the SEO strategies over at Gotch SEO” – “Gotch SEO” is the anchor.
Why Does It Matter?
It will always “matter” as long as backlinks matter. Prior to the Penguin update in 2012, anchor text was one of the easiest ways for Google to understand the relevancy of any given website.
Now in 2014, it is one of the best ways for Google to penalize spam and over-optimization.
Does this mean anchor text is becoming meaningless? Not even in the slightest.
I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it’s even stronger than it was before (when used the way I’m going to show you).
Pre-Penguin Anchor Text
Before the first Penguin update, you could go absolutely buck wild with your anchor text. You could literally use 100% exact match anchors for all of your backlinks and you would rank.
It was like stealing candy from a baby, and Google obviously had to make a change.
That change was the Penguin update.
Google Penguin 1.0: The Update That Changed It ALL
The first Penguin update in 2012 literally changed the link building game forever.
Penguin targeted any website that was blatantly doing low-quality, artificial, or spammy link building in an effort to “game” the search engine.
How did they determine if a website is building links artificially or using spam to rank?
Why, might you ask?
Because a normal website would not have 100% of its backlinks with the anchor text “Pay Day Loans”. And at the time, many people doing SEO were using these crazy high percentages.
In 2014, you really need to understand how Penguin analyzes anchor text and determines whether a site should be penalized or not.
I promise, it’s not complicated, but it is CRITICAL that you understand to keep your site safe.
Here’s exactly how Penguin works:
- You build a backlink
- Google indexes the backlink
- Google places this new backlink into its database for your specific website, also known as your “link profile”
- Steps 1-3 are repeated over-and-over, and now you have a “link profile” that the algorithm can analyze
Now, this is where the real magic happens:
The algorithm analyzes your link profile and compares it to the on-page factors for your website or target page.
So, if your on-page content is optimized for “PayDay Loans” and 100% of your anchors are about PayDay Loans, then you will get a penalty because it’s very easy for Google’s algorithm to see that you’re:
A) trying to rank for “PayDay Loans”
B) you’re building links artificially
They can dish out penalties to sites that make this mistake simply based on the amount of exact match anchor text + the on-page keywords being used. It’s really that simple.
So, how do you avoid getting penalized?
You need to understand HOW, and WHEN to use your keyword-rich anchors.
You’ll be learning about this in the next sections.
Different Types of Anchor Text
Before, I get into strategy, it’s critical that you understand all the different types of anchors so that you’ll be able to create a diverse and “natural” link / anchor profile.
In a separate excel file, there will be a nice list of anchor variations for each type.
Any anchor that uses your brand in it.
Sentence sample: “Over at GOTCH SEO you can learn search engine optimization.”
Branded anchors are by far the safest as long as your site is not an exact match domain (more on this later). Simply take a look at any big brand and look at the percentages of branded anchors in their link profile.
Here are few examples that you’ll want to follow:
1. Best Buy
The most “normal” form of anchor text such as:
- “click here”
- “go here”
- “check this site out”
In a sentence: “Go here if you’re looking for SEO information.” – “Go here” is the generic anchor text.
Naked Link Anchors
Simply linking back to a website with your URL.
No Anchor Trick
This is a tricky little strategy I see big brands doing.
Whether purposefully or not, it’s a good idea.
Go back to the previous images under “branded anchors”. You’ll see that these brands have “noText” anchors.
What’s a better way to diversify your anchor profile, then not having ANY words at all?
The easiest way to building “noText” anchors is through images or you can simply “forget” to include an anchor within an article, which will have a similar effect.
I always throw in image links with every campaign because I think it’s a great way to diversify. Some SEOs claim that the anchor text isn’t counted in images, but in my experience it does count.
Google uses the “ALT” tag as the anchor text in an image.
If you leave this blank, you’ll get a “noText” anchor like I mentioned above.
Brand + Keyword Anchor
This is another great way to stay “safe” and for building a diverse, natural anchor profile.
I’ll use “Gotch SEO” as the brand and my target keyword as “link building”.
The anchor text would look like this:
- “link building strategies by Gotch SEO”
- “Gotch SEO link building strategies”
You’re simply combining your target keyword with your brand.
“LSI” is the acronym for “Latent Semantic Indexing”.
It really just means variations of your main keyword.
So, if I’m targeting “link building”, then some LSI keywords would be:
- “what is link building”
- “building links”
- “link building example”
- “define link building”
Finding LSI keywords is super easy. You can either use Google’s suggest options in the search bar, “Searched related to ___” at the bottom of the search results, or for more extensive keywords, you can use the Keyword Planner.
Related Searches Options
Google Suggest Options
Google Keyword Planner
Partial matches are very similar to LSI’s, but the biggest difference is that you’re making it up as opposed to using Google’s suggestions or using keywords that have search volume.
Here are some examples for target keyword “link building”:
- “learn about link building”
- “quality link building guide”
- “this link building article”
I use partial-match anchors quite a lot because it’s a very natural way of linking to another website.
Long anchors are really just an extension of partial-match except they are a little longer.
Here are a few examples for “anchor text”:
- “anchor text is the key to link building”
- “I used anchor text to get these rankings”
Exact Match Anchors
The king of all anchor text. It has the power to increase your rankings, but also has the power to penalize your website.
To simply put it, an exact match anchor is the exact match of whatever your target keyword is.
Example: if “link building” is my target keyword, then my exact match anchor would be “link building”.
Co-Occurrence: Build Relevancy Without Exact Match Anchors
Before I jump into percentages, you need to have a firm understanding of co-occurrence. Don’t feel intimidated by this nerdy terminology. It’s actually really simple.
So since you won’t be using a ton of keyword-rich anchor text, you will need a way to create relevancy for your links. I’m not kidding when I say this, I use the co-occurrence technique I’m about to show you, with every single link I build.
Mainly because I try to make every single link relevant even if it isn’t using a keyword-rich anchor or even if it’s on a website with average relevancy to mine.
How can you do this? Very simple.
You’re going to surround your anchor text with your target keyword. Getting the target keyword as close to the anchor as possible is the best, but as you’ll see in the examples, it doesn’t always have to be.
Do what’s natural and don’t try to stuff keywords around your anchor.
Sample #1: Generic Anchor
Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “go here”
“If you’re looking for more information about anchor text go here right away.”
Sample #2: Branded Anchor
Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “Gotch SEO”
“Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link. For more in-depth information you should read this article from Gotch SEO.”
Sample #3: Naked Link
Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “http://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/”
“For more in-depth information about anchor text I highly recommend this article: http://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/.”
Using the co-occurrence technique is a must for any anchor text including exact match. The greater the relevancy of content surrounding your anchor, the stronger your backlink will be.
This is why I always use super targeted content in my link building campaigns.
Place Your Anchor Text in Super Relevant Content
Below, I’ve given you a few different examples of the types of content I would use for link building purposes. The better the relevancy of your article to your target keyword, the higher you will rank.
Keyword: “anchor text”
Instead of writing a broader article about link building, I would actually write articles specifically about anchor text. The tighter the relevancy of the linking article, the stronger your link.
Keyword: “New York personal injury lawyer”
I would write an article like “How to Find a Reputable Personal Injury Lawyer in New York” instead of a generic article about personal injury.
Keyword: “garcinia cambogia”
Instead of writing an article about health or weight loss, I would write an article like “10 Garcinia Cambogia Scams to Watch Out For”.
Last Word on Co-Occurrence
Surround your links with highly relevant content to increase their power. Google is fully capable of understanding the relevancy of a certain link without you needing to shove hundreds of exact match anchors in its face.
Bringing me to the next very important section where you’ll learn the exact anchor percentages I use with every link building campaign.
Sound good? Keep reading.
Anchor Text Percentages
So now that you have a firm understanding of all the different anchor text you can use, I’m going to show you the anchor text percentages that have kept my websites safe through every Penguin update.
These percentages are not the law, and you can change these if you want.
But keep in mind… I’ve spent $50,000 + testing this stuff, analyzing the link profiles of thousands of websites, and successfully ranking client’s websites in the most competitive industries online.
I’m not telling you this to brag, but I want to you know that you’re not reading some theory or generalization. This is what works!
Branded Anchor Text: 50%
Google wants you to create a brand. Not a fly-by-night website. One of the easiest ways for them to differentiate between a “brand” and a SEO-driven website is to look at the amount of branded anchors hitting the site.
In the next section, I’m going to show you the best platforms for getting quality branded links.
Naked Links: 25%
As I mentioned above, naked links are a very safe and a very natural anchor text. A bulk of your backlinks should be using naked links.
Generic Anchors: 20%
Generic anchors keep your link profile looking “natural” and are a necessity. Try not to use “click here” for every single one. You can pretty much use any word in the English language that isn’t related to your keyword, and it will be considered generic.
I’ll have a nice list of generic anchors in the excel file that you can start using.
LSI, Partial Match Anchors: 1-5%
Okay, so after branded, naked, and generic anchors, you’re left with around 5% leeway for keyword-rich anchors. The majority of the last 5% anchors should be variations of your main keyword.
Exact Match Anchors: Less Than 1%
I use exact match anchor text as a LAST resort, not a first option. Keep in mind, the less you use it, the more powerful it becomes.
Assigning a percentage to exact match anchors is very, very, VERY dangerous!
Think about this for a second:
If we take the agreed upon percentage in the SEO community that says around 5% exact match anchors is “safe”, and place that same percentage on three websites with more or less links, watch what happens:
Website A: 100 backlinks = 5 exact match anchors
This is definitely possible and generally would not put your site at risk.
Website B: 1,000 backlinks = 50 exact match anchors
The possibility of 50 different websites linking to your page with the same exact anchor text is pretty unlikely.
Website C: 10,000 backlinks = 500 exact match anchors
Obviously this isn’t possible and your page or website would get drilled by Penguin.
Okay, so now do you see why assigning a percentage to exact match anchors is a bad idea?
The good news is that the strategy I’m about to show you is a million times more effective than just hitting your site with the same keyword-rich anchor over-and-over.
Let me introduce you to anchor text cycling.
Anchor Text Cycling: More Rankings With Less Backlinks
Most of the time, you won’t need to reuse the exact match because you’ll already have reached the first page.
Scenario: brand new website with fresh link profile (fresh = no backlinks built)
The first thing I do with a fresh link profile is hit the site with an exact match anchor text from a strong source. Now, you’re probably wondering: “isn’t it dangerous to hit a brand new website with an exact match anchor??”
It’s not, and it never will be. No one in the history of SEO has been penalized from one link. Sites get penalized for their link PROFILES, not one or two links.
It’s like saying eating McDonalds one time is the reason why you’re overweight. We know that it’s the combined effect of a bad diet over a period of time that leads to obesity. The same goes for your link profile.
Repeatedly building over-optimized, spammy backlinks overtime will lead to a penalty.
Now that I got that out of the way…Why do I use an exact match anchor for my first backlink?
Because I want to see how the site reacts and because it’s telling Google “Hey! My website is about ____” right off the bat.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t take a ton of backlinks to rank in most niches. Often times, less than 100 backlinks is all that’s necessary to rank in low-medium competition niches.
Always focus on quality over quantity and your rankings will stick. The smarter you are with anchor text, the less links you’ll need to rank.
After I hit the site with an exact match anchor, then I begin the process of cycling. In the excel file, there will be a few examples of how to I would cycling through anchors with a branded site, an EMD, and partial match website. The entire point of using anchor cycling is to build a diverse and natural link profile.
Want to know the secret to a having a “natural” anchor profile complete randomness. There should be no patterns EVER.
* Site #1 is the typical link profile you’ll see with someone using automated link building tools or someone who has no idea what they’re doing. Google’s algorithm can easily conclude that this site is building links artificially. A manual reviewer wouldn’t even be necessary.
* Site #2 has a natural and diverse anchor profile. It will outrank site #1 with less backlinks and less keyword-rich anchor text, and it will survive any Penguin updates.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing black, grey, or white hat SEO, this concept still applies to you. The only difference is that a true white hat SEO would write content, and try to attract a diverse link profile naturally.
I’ll admit this does work, but the biggest problem is how long it takes to build momentum.
The other option is to create the “natural” anchor profile artificially. This expedites the ranking process.
In the next section, I’m going to explain the exact types of websites you should use for building keyword-rich, generic, and branded anchors.
Laser Targeted Anchor Text Placement
If you understand what I’m about to show you, you will be 99.9% safe from any Google updates. Understanding WHERE to place your anchor text is absolutely critical. Many SEOs immediately stop using a link building platform once it’s been devalued by Google.
This is the wrong approach.
The only reason why certain platforms such as article directories, web directories, and press releases have been “devalued” is because of people using commercial anchor text trying to “game” the search engine.
Many of these “devalued” properties are still very good sources for sending authority and trust to your website as long as you use the right anchor text.
Below, I’m going to show you every type of backlink along with what anchor text you should use.
All of the following links are where you should concentrate your keyword-rich anchors. I call them “power links” because they are the strongest, and best for increasing your rankings. Most power links will be contextual (within content) because Google gives such links more weight.
You will not need a ton of these to make a serious impact in most niches.
Characteristics of a “Power Link”:
- PageRank (PR) 2 or above – you can acquire strong links from sites with PR less than 2, but they need to have strong DA and PA.
- Domain Authority (DA) 20 +
- Page Authority (PA) 25 +
- TrustFlow 10 +
Remember, ALL of these metrics can manipulated, so make sure you do your due diligence whenever competing for domains in auctions, or buying links.
Private Blog Network Links
Building your own PBN is the best investment you’ll ever make in SEO. Not only can you control all aspects of your link profile, but you will crush the competition.
Since you spent money acquiring expired domains in auctions, you deserve to put them to work!
PBNs are where you should use your exact match, partial match, and LSI anchor text.
If you don’t feel like creating your own private blog network, then you can always purchase links on other people’s network or on relevant websites. Once again, if you’re paying for these links, then you should use keyword-based anchors.
WARNING: Be careful with public blog networks and make sure you do a lot of research before paying. If you do decide to join one, the network should NOT be providing reports, should have all link trackers like Ahrefs, Majestic, and Open Site Explorer completely blocked, all the domains should have private WHOIS, every site must be a separate host (not SEO hosting), and each site in the network shouldn’t have more than 30-40 outbound links.
Relevant Guest Posts
As much as Matt Cutt’s would like you to believe, guest posts are not dead. In fact, they are still a great option for getting strong links. The only problem with guest posts is that most will not get any time on the homepage where the authority resides.
Fortunately, Page Authority (PA) increases very quickly on strong domains with some solid tier two links. So, if you do decide to launch a guest posting campaign, focus on domains that have 20 + Domain Authority (DA) and build some strong tier two links.
For anchor text, stick with partial-match anchors and LSI anchors.
Using exact match anchors on guest posts is a little risky, but you will be safe as long as it’s not excessive. If you’re following the anchor cycling strategy, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be using exact match anchors on these posts anyway.
Donations / Sponsorship
Although finding donation or sponsorship pages that aren’t spammed is pretty difficult, there are some diamonds in the rough. If you find a donation or sponsorship page with low outbound links, you can use a partial match anchor since most of these pages are extremely authoritative.
If they only accept images for their sponsors, then take advantage of it and use an exact match anchor in the image ALT tag.
When you sign-up for my free newsletter, you receive an excel file with a ton of different search strings you can use in Google to find sponsorships or donations.
* 301 redirects (Be Careful)
If you’re a beginner, then I do not recommend messing with 301s quite yet. As you may or may not know, 301 redirects are basically like stealing rankings in Google. In a flash, your site can transform from a weak new website, to an authoritative one overnight.
If you didn’t know, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect of a website. With a 301, a large majority (not all) of the authority is transferred to the new domain.
So, why am I telling you this? Because one thing that many people do not take into account, is that the 301 will also transfer the anchor text from the redirected domain.
This means, if the redirected domain has a spammy anchor profile, it WILL transfer to your new website. It also means, if the redirected domain was penalized for over-optimized anchor text, there is a good chance that it will transfer to the new website.
There are some ways to avoid this.
Option #1: make sure the new website has a good amount of unoptimized anchor text BEFORE you hit the site with the 301 redirect.
Option #2: build unoptimized anchors to the domain that will be redirected if the anchors are too aggressive.
I recommend combining both options to make sure your new site stays safe.
Power links carry the most weight, but they also need supporting links to increase the diversity and “naturalness” of your anchor profile.
Remember, although you’re using non-keyword rich anchors, you will still be getting the benefits of co-occurrence with the links below.
Paid Directories – There are many paid directories that are still worth it because they can send trust and authority to your website. Always use branded anchor text with paid directories.
Traditional Directories – quality free directories come few and far between, but when you do find them, always use branded anchors.
Business Directories – business directories are great for trust because it shows Google that you’re treating your website like a business. Most business directories only allow naked links, which is exactly what you want.
Press Releases – Google has laid the hammer down on press releases on a couple of different occasions, and has forced many SEOs to say “they aren’t worth it.” It’s true. Press releases alone will not increase your rankings and if you used incorrectly, could actually be detrimental.
However, if you’re trying to diversify your link and anchor profile, then they are perfect.
In a typical press release, you’ll have around three backlinks and it will distributed across a wide array of websites with unique IPs.
Let’s say your press releases gets picked up by 70 websites. That means your website will now have 210 un-optimized anchors added to your profile. Many of these links will also be “nofollow”, which is also good for diversity.
Press releases are my go-to for diluting my anchor profile. ALWAYS use branded, generic, and naked link anchor text.
Do not use keyword-rich anchors in your press releases EVER. They designed for newsworthy information about your business, not for increasing your rankings in Google. Act like a business, and be treated like a business by Google.
Web 2.0s – web 2.0s are a great way to diversify your anchor profile and send a ton of relevancy to your website. At this point, there is a very good chance that Google will dramatically devalue free web 2.0 properties in the future because of high level of spam.
For this reason, you’ll probably want to avoid using keyword-rich anchor text and focus on branded links. You can probably use LSI or partial match anchors and be okay, but if you’re more of a risk adverse type, then you’ll feel better knowing that you built non-keyword rich anchors.
Keep in mind; all of the content surrounding your link on the web 2.0 is going to be highly relevant, so the anchor will still have power. Don’t underestimate co-occurrence.
Learn how to manually build web 2.0 properties here.
Forum Signatures – Participating in forums a great strategy for increasing traffic, and most importantly, showing Google that you’re trying to be a part of your niche’s community. You should only use branded and naked link anchors in forum signatures.
Profile Links – there are many websites where you can get quality DoFollow profile backlinks, but you should always use naked link anchor text for these.
Social Bookmarks – always use generic and branded anchor text with social bookmarks. I only use SB’s for diversity and a little “social signal” action.
Blog Comments – participating on relevant blogs through comments is perfect for referral traffic and is another great way to show Google that you’re an active participant in your niche’s community.
ALWAYS use your name in blog comments. You can sometimes mix it up and throw in your brand, but this is as promotional as you should get. If you’re able to get some DoFollow blog comments, then you should only use generic or naked link anchors.
Article Directories – back in the day, article directories were the go-to for link builders. Google devalued many of these directories, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still benefit from them. Only focus on article directories that have manual reviews of articles, and most importantly, never use keyword-rich anchor text.
Always use branded or naked link anchors if you decide to use article directories. Many of these directories are DoFollow and do have some pretty strong authority, so don’t feel like you need to completely rule them out. They are perfect for building a diverse anchor and link profile.
Tier Two and Three Anchor Text
Figuring out anchor text on tier one is hard enough, but what about tier two and three? Fortunately, the percentages aren’t as strict.
Before I explain, you need to know what “tier” links are:
- Tier One = the backlinks directly hitting your website
- Tier Two = the backlinks directly hitting your tier one
- Tier Three = the backlinks directly hitting your tier two
Tier Three -> Tier Two -> Tier One -> Your Website
Since these links aren’t hitting your site directly, you can be a little more aggressive, but don’t go too crazy.
Here’s how my tier two anchor ratios typically look:
- Naked links: 40%
- Generic: 30%
- LSI, Partial-Match: 25%
- Exact Match: 5%
To get the most bang for your buck, you should use high PR or PBN links for your keyword-based anchors, and high PR DoFollow blog comments, and social bookmarks for your naked link and generic anchors.
Just like your tier one, you’re using your keyword-based anchors only with your most powerful links and saving the average links for diversity.
I typically don’t build a tier three, but if you decide to, you can go pretty crazy with anchor text.
When I do use tier three, here’s how I do it:
- Naked links: 10%
- Generic: 10%
- LSI, Partial-Match: 50%
- Exact Match: 30%
EMDs, PMDs: Avoid Like the Plague (If You’re a Beginner)
First, let’s make sure we understand what EMD and PMD actually mean.
Exact Match Domain (EMD): a domain that is an exact match of your target keyword.
Example: if my target keyword is “anchor text”, then my exact match domain would be “anchortext.com”, “anchortext.net”, etc.
Partial Match Domain (PMD): a domain with part of the keyword or a domain with the keyword, but also with filler words.
Example: if my target keyword is “anchor text”, then two different PMDs could be “anchortextbible.com” or “theanchorbible.com”.
So, why should you avoid these types of domains if you’re an SEO / link building beginner? Because EMDs are very susceptible to over-optimization penalties. PMDs aren’t as dangerous, but in inexperienced hands, could trigger a penalty.
Now the real question: are EMDs or PMDs even worth it? Most SEOs who follow the Google propaganda would say they are “dead”. This is mainly because of the EMD update in September 2012.
Those SEOs are partially right.
LOW-QUALITY exact match domains with thin content, low-quality links, and over-optimized anchor text are definitely dead.
All the percentages I’ve shown earlier in the book, are suited for branded domains. But for EMDs, we need to change up the percentages to not only rank, but to keep your site safe.
Ratios for Exact Match Domains:
- Branded / Exact Match Anchors: 1-5%
- LSI: 5%
- Partial Match: 5%
- Generic: 40%
- Naked Links: 40%
Over-Optimized Anchor Text Recovery
If you’ve been hit by an algorithmic penalty, then it IS possible to get your rankings back if anchor text is the problem.
In my experience, over-optimized anchor text mixed with over-optimized on-page SEO, is the perfect formula for getting your website hit by Penguin. Keep in mind, there is a lot of evidence that both Google Panda and Penguin work together when analyzing a website. Both updates analyze different factors, collect and pool data, recognize spammy patterns, and then penalize a site.
The good news is that both of these problems are pretty easy fixes. Although this is a book dedicated to anchor text, I will explain some quick tips for fixing up your on-page to bring your rankings back and avoid getting hit in the future.
On-Page Changes for Penalty Recovery
The biggest problem generally has to do with keyword density.
YES, keyword density DOES matter.
Stuffing a page with the same keyword over-and-over will set you up for a penalty. Go back to the section “How Penguin Works” to understand why this happens.
So, obviously, the first thing you need to do is fix your density. If you want to rank a particular page, you don’t need to go crazy with stuffing keywords.
Place your target keyword in these critical spots on your page:
- First sentence
- ALT tag of first image
- First H1 or H2 tag (you can use a variation of the keyword here)
- Last sentence
Assuming your article is longer than 600 words, your density will probably be 1% or less. This is ideal. You can go as high as 3%, but I don’t recommend anything higher if you’re looking for long-term rankings.
If you’re having trouble keeping your percentages low, then you need to use variations main keyword. Not only will this keep you safe, but also it will actually help your rankings for all variations of your keyword.
Many people don’t take this one into account, but it can really hurt your rankings. Keyword “dilution” when you’re trying to rank more than one page for the same or very closely related keywords.
For example, if my homepage was targeting “Los Angeles Personal Injury Law Firm”, and I had a subpage targeting “LA Personal Injury Law Lawyer”, Google would then choose which page it thinks is most relevant to the searchers. At the same time, whatever page it chooses will decrease in value because it’s a spammy on-page tactic whether it’s on purpose or not.
This problem can be solved very easily:
1.) Target only ONE page for your keywords: after the Hummingbird update, Google is very good at ranking pages for many variations of the same keyword. So, if you’re target “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer” and you use the anchor text strategies in this book, your page will rank for all variations of that keyword such as “LA personal injury attorney”, “personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles”, etc.
2.) If you decide to keep an inner page for targeting your keyword, then change the META information on the duplicate page to avoid keyword dilution. If you’re going to use the homepage to target your main keyword, then 301 direct the other landing page to the homepage.
Backlink Strategies for Penalty Recovery
There are a few different link building techniques you can use to recovery from a penalty. Depending on the severity of the penalty, these tricks will work on the majority of penalized domains.
Keep in mind, my personal approach to penalties is to just start over with a fresh domain. But if you’re in love with your current site, the strategies below will help.
I wanted to clear air before I explain the strategies. Disavowing is an absolute LAST resort, not the first. The only time when you really need to use this tool is if your website was hit with negative SEO or it’s impossible to remove some of the links that you previously built.
You can recover from ALL algorithmic penalties without ever needing to use this tool. If you have a manual penalty, then it may be necessary (I’ll be addressing manual penalties after this section).
Remove Links Links With Commercial Anchor Text (From Spammy Sites)
As I discussed in the section about anchor text placement, you should only use commercial / keyword-rich anchor text on high-quality sources. High quality sources are going to be relevant, have 20+ DA, have 50 + pages of unique content, and look like or be REAL websites.
As a reminder of what types of links should be hitting your money website, please read How to Build Tier One Backlinks.
If you made the unfortunate mistake of building backlinks on low-quality sources with keyword-rich anchors, then you have two options: go back and delete the links. If you can’t delete the links, then disavow.
After you’ve done all you can to remove keyword-rich anchors from spammy sources, then you can jump into anchor text dilution.
Please notice that I said “spammy” sources. Don’t go on a link deleting spree and delete links that are actually decent.
Anchor Text Diluting
This is the most common technique and it does work in many cases. All you’re going to do, is build unoptimized backlinks to your website with nothing but branded, generic, and naked link anchors.
Absolutely no keyword rich anchors!
Before Penguin 3.0, you could counter over-optimized anchors by using the dilution technique. Diluting still works, but there are some added elements. Most importantly, we’ve noticed like the Micro Site Masters, that one important element of the penalties is a lack of GOOD links.
Now, if you combine a low-quality link profile with lots of keyword-rich anchor text, then you’re asking to be hit.
These are the links you should use in to create a better anchor profile (in priority order):
1.) Strong, Relevant Backlinks
These are the most costly, but are also the best for improving your overall link profile. Get as many as you can. Relevancy is king with or without a penalty.
2.) Business Directories / Local Citations
Take the time to create business listings on the popular websites. It’s a huge trust signal and most give a DoFollow link with a naked link anchor.
3.) LEGIT Social Profiles
Go out and build REAL social profiles for your website. Populate the profiles with your information, content, etc. Only use the best sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Tumblr, etc. These sites will give you a nice mix of NoFollow and DoFollow unoptimized anchors and will build trust for your website.
4.) High-Quality Press Release Distribution
Create a quality press release and distribute it through a quality channel. Create for getting unoptimized anchors from many different IPs quickly. You’ll also build diversity in your link profile because of the NoFollow / DoFollow mix.
301 Penalty Recovery Trick
Remember in an earlier section when I said that anchor text travels through a 301 to the new website? You’re going to use this to your advantage to recovery from an algorithmic penalty.
There are two variations of the 301 penalty recovery trick.
Expired Domain -> Penalized Domain
For the first variation, you’ll need to find a quality expired domain and win it in an auction like GoDaddy Auctions. You’ll want to make sure the anchor profile is clean and has little, to no keyword rich anchors.
Look for a domain with branded, generic, and naked link anchors or what some people may refer to as a “natural” anchor profile.
Although you’re not necessary using this expired domain for ranking purposes, it’s not a bad idea to find one with solid metrics. Preferably PA 30 +, DA 20 +, PR 2 +, and a Trust Flow of 10 +. Also, if you can find a domain that is relevant to yours, it will work even better.
All that you’re going to do now is simply 301 redirect this expired domain to your penalized site and wait.
Links -> Penalized Site -> New Website
For variation two, you’re going to start fresh with a new website, but we’re going to piggy back off the authority of your penalized domain (hopefully it has some).
Step 1: buy a new BRANDED website (avoid EMD, PMD)
Step 2: build high-quality branded backlinks to your new website
Use business directories, quality paid directories, quality traditional directories, press releases, etc. Only use branded anchor text – this will show Google that you’re now acting like a brand.
Step 3: build unoptimized backlinks to your penalized domain
The goal is to decrease the percentage of keyword rich anchors. The percentage all depends on severity your particular situation is. If you have 70% keyword rich anchor text, then you’ll need to get that down to at least 30% or less. If you have 30% keyword rich anchors, then you’ll want to get it down to 10% or less.
Step 4: check your anchor profile with Ahrefs, Majestic, or Open Site Explorer.
Step 5: if you’ve cut your keyword rich anchors in half, then it’s time to redirect your penalized site to the new domain.
This works because A) you’re using a new branded website with an established branded text anchor profile, B) you’ve improved the anchor profile of the penalized website, and C) you’re transferred authority to a new domain.
What About Manual Penalties?
It’s less headache and much more cost-effective to just start a new website, then to try to get out of a manual penalty.
Like I always tell my clients, getting a manual penalty is like going to prison for a felony. Although you may get out of prison one day, you’re still always going to have the felony on your record. Do you really think Google wipes the slate clean for a website that was previously given a manual penalty?
Even if you do get the penalty lifted, ranking your site will never be easy and it’s always going to feel like “something is holding you back”.
Changing Anchor Text: Red Flag?
I’ve heard this question a lot and I’ve actually done this many times.
The answer is: sometimes. Annoying, right?
One of the biggest ways to place a ton of attention on a particular link is when you change a non-keyword rich anchor to a keyword rich anchor. Google may or not devalue a link when this happens, but it’s definitely not worth it. Just leave the link how it is, and go build one somewhere else.
Situations that won’t throw up a red flag:
1. Changing a keyword rich anchor to a non-optimized anchor – going back and decreasing your amount of commercial anchor text can often increase your rankings. That is, if there is a high level of them. If your exact match anchors or keyword-rich anchors are above 25%, then you may want to consider un-optimizing some of those.
2. Deleting an anchor and placing it within a different part of the article – if you decide to change an anchor, you should always place the new one in a different part of the article. When you do this, it makes the anchor / link “new” in Google’s eyes. You’ll be losing an aged link, but in theory, starting with a fresh link.
IMPORTANT: You should only change anchor text under extreme circumstances. Most over-optimized anchor text issues can be solved with the techniques I listed in the penalty recovery section.
Number of Links + Brand Searches = ?
Although this has more to do with links in general, it’s still important to note. If you have a certain amount of links, then you should be getting a certain amount of branded searches. It’s hard to give a definitive number or ratio of brand searches to links, but Google is actively implementing this into the algorithm and it will be a strong ranking factor once it’s refined.
So, for example, if Gotch SEO has 1,000 backlinks, then hypothetically, 1,000 websites have found my content or site to be useful. For this reason, my website will have buzz and people should be searching to learn more about my brand in Google or to revisit my website.
I should be getting searches like “Gotch SEO”, “Nathan Gotch”, “who is Nathan Gotch”, etc.
This is exactly what you want.
Now, there are two ways to get more people searching for your brand.
- #1: create highly valuable content that people share and link to naturally
- #2: create highly valuable content, rank it well in Google, THEN people will share it naturally.
Option #1 is the hoping and praying approach, while #2 is the take-action approach. As you’ll notice, creating valuable content is a must for both.
Don’t get obsessed with rankings, and forget that you’re actually suppose to provide the searchers some sort of value. If you don’t, then you won’t make money from your website or business, and you just wasted however many months trying to rank in Google for no apparent reason.
Focus on Option #2, and you’ll get the branded searches you need to keep your site looking natural in the eyes of Google.
Anchor Text Tracking: Don’t Shoot Blindly at the Target
Tracking your anchor text is absolutely critical if you’re building backlinks. If you aren’t, you’re basically shooting at a target blindfolded. There needs to be organization and you need to make sure you’re not overdoing it with keyword-rich anchors.
I use a good ol’ excel sheet to track my anchors. In the excel sheet, I typically only track the keyword-rich anchors and keep mental note of the branded links I’ve built thus far.
Download this excel file and you’ll see a sample of how I track my anchors along with all types of anchor variations you need.
That’s a WRAP on Anchor Text
That’s all I think can of on anchor text and I know these strategies will help you achieve some awesome rankings while keeping your site from any future Penguin updates. If you enjoyed this article, then you better share it with your friends!!! Okay, thanks for reading and leave your questions below to keep the conversion going.