Big Change in SEO “Best Practice” – Anchor Text in Links

One of the toughest things for small business owners is keeping up with all the important advancements or changes in technology that impacts many aspects of their business. Unfortunately, these advancements might be in areas that are NOT the business owner’s core competency, such as Web design, Quick Books updates or new Trade Event booth designs that dramatically cut costs.

Was Ten, Now Nine SEO CommandmentsImproving and keeping your search engine results are one of those areas as well. And for some months now, it appears that Google has drastically changed a top ten “SEO Commandment” I call “standardizing keyword use with inbound link anchor text”. This commandment from now on needs to add “NOT” in it. The updated commandment and the explanation are as follows:

Thou Shall NOT use the same Anchor Text Keywords within all inbound Links 

During most of 2011, Google has focused on trying to reduce the “black hat” SEO sites that are merely content farms housing shallow information that is seldom what a searcher is seeking. One item they continue to analysis AND penalize involves paid links. Their house cleaning consists of punishing violators who are obviously paying for links on a site that isn’t relevant and shouldn’t be sending traffic to the violator’s site.

Small business owners are easy, constant targets for the “we can guarantee your company will show up on Google’s first search page”. One of the often used methods is to sell a service that will increase the amount of incoming links.

FOR YEARS, SEO experts have know that using your most important keywords CONSISTENTLY in the link on the other site increased the importance of showing your site when someone searched on those exact words. This recommendation has been considered a White Hat Best Practice since its inception.

Now that same behavior could get you penalized. Just like JC Penny and Overstock.com (for slightly different link building schemes). Google has determined that if too many of the links on other sites that are pointing to your site use the same exact text in their link, you are probably paying for them.

We would recommend that you build up an expanded list of your most important keywords. If you have the opportunity to request what anchor text to use on another site, keep track. Use Google Webmaster Tools to periodically check natural growth in inbound links. Make sure to include product and company brand names in the links now to further change the links from being all the same.

Google assumes “natural links” would not always use the same words. And if they suspect you are buying those links, they’ll silently penalize you from being displayed on their search results.

Yes, this will happen even if you have only been following Best Practices or Used an professional SEO expert in the past. By the way, this is also the reason you shouldn’t think of SEO as a one time task.

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4 thoughts on “Big Change in SEO “Best Practice” – Anchor Text in Links

  1. How do you know how many links using the same anchor text is too many ? And what if the SEO is concentrated on pushing a ‘keyword’ for a particluar product as the anchor text ? Do you just use the keyword but within a different sentence within the anchor text ??

    • These types of issues, such as “how many links” tend to change with various Google changes. In the testing I’ve done and articles I’ve read, a rule of thumb that seems to have some validity is no more than 10% of all links should be exact. IE, you could have multiple links that are copies of the anchor text, but you don’t want any of them to be more than 10% of the total. We can definitely tell that one site was penalized where a single link was 18% of their total, so I would suggest staying below 8% until further information is uncovered.

      Yes, use the keyword you are targeting multiple times, but change up the phrase somewhat. This penalty issue is more about the complete text being identical:
      “the lightest material for ship sails can be purchased from Vendor XYZ at 50% off” repeated on site after site pointing to your page is more dangerous now than just linking the keywords “lightest material for ship sails”.

  2. It’s hard to know how much to spread your anchor text useage. I seem to have been slightly penalised recntly on one of my sites for a certain keyword, where as on another site, I have a keyword that is in about 80% of my anChor texts, and is going from strength to strengh. I never pay for links, just do articles, blog postings, and links from other trusted sites. It’s difficult to know what to do sometimes !

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