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First Things First – Fix Your Anchor Links, Baby

By vish | SEO

Jun 07

If you suspect your site got hit by the Penguin update that just rolled out, the first thing you need to do is STOP WHINING because it won’t help you.

Stopped?

OK 🙂

Now calm down, take a deep breath and examine your “anchor link” over-optimization (Penguin is mostly about the anchor links pointing back to your site).

This is largely responsible for majority of penalties, in addition to the penalty for low quality links… that is backlinks on pages that have thin content, low trust, low page rank, located on de-indexed sites, on poor sites etc. – and I will make a separate post explaining that later.

What happened with the Anchor text penalty – is that Google does not want you to “game” them so easily by using your main “money keywords” (primary and secondary keywords you want to rank for) in the backlinks.

They figured that people gaming the rankings and doing SEO have simply left a “pattern” of unnatural anchor links in their backlink profile – that is easily detectible because it contains mostly money keywords as the anchors and not keywords that look natural… natural being the “anchor link pattern” and ratio that the other majority sites have.

Google figured that people forcefully doing SEO would repetitively stuff and use money keywords in their anchor links – in their race to rank on top. And, this is unnatural.

This is ironical because…

The original Google algorithm and patent defined how it ranked pages in the first place… using keywords in anchor text links, as a measure to pass link juice down to pages and rank pages for specific keywords, and devise the PageRank factor for each page.

Now, fixing your anchor links profile is going to take a little more than simply changing a few of your anchor link this time.

You’re going to want to make it look as natural as possible to the search engines.

This means building a lot of links that have LSI keywords (please see note at end if you don’t know what LSI keywords are), generic keywords, raw URL links, general niche links, brand links, full sentence links, randomly looking anchors as well as image links.

For example: if you have used your main keyword as the anchor text link in over 50% of your backlinks, chances that your site got hit are very high.

Google is giving sites a negative penalty for doing this, rather than devaluing the links. This is definitely the most dreadful thing they have done. As a negative penalty is harder to recover from – and requires you to fix things and then file a Disavow Tool and a reconsideration request for your site recovery – which probably may not happen (as per survey done only 10% of sites that are hit have been able to recover). We will discuss how to do all the formalities of recovery in another document in this report as it requires detailed and careful handling and understanding.

So here is the new “rule” of ratio distribution for you to follow while you are building your anchor links.

What ratio you choose finally, also largely depends on what the current 3 to 5 top ranking sites in your niche are using.

10% – main primary money keywords mixed up and varied very well (more on this later)
10% – related secondary & LSI money keywords

20% – brand keywords (need to vary a bit by exact and sometimes with space if brand has 2 keywords), example – Apple, iPhone etc.

All the above “power” anchors should appear in mostly the contextual backlinks that have more authority and link juice. The ones below can also appear in contextual backlinks and other link types like Social Bookmarking, etc.

20% – plain raw URLs / 8 combo rotation *see below for list

20% – generic anchors (like click here, visit our page, visit our online store to buy shoes, etc. Also make sure to use as diverse many as possible, and also use custom generics derived for the niche – like “click here to by blue shoes”. Make highly natural sounding. For tips access competitors backlinks profile in Ahrefs or MajesticSEO. ** see below for full list

10% – niche specific and highly generic keywords (10%) … like “shoes”

10% – random full sentence links from the contextual posts.

Also, include some image links when possible.

To get a full detail on Post-Penguin anchor link distribution ratios read this post.

And, here is a video from Matt Cutts (Head of Google Webspam) confirming that Page Rank flows even through image links.

Basically as a general rule of thumb — you need to promote your main keyword, your brand anchors, universal anchors (general keywords), LSI anchors, and naked URLs, and images as the backlinks.

Just make sure to mix it up well AND study the anchor ratio of the top ranking sites in your niche.

How do you decrease or increase your backlinks so they conform to the above distribution numbers for already existing sites?

If you already have a large number of backlinks with your main anchor text then you have two options…

1. Go to each site and update the links or delete them, or mail the webmaster asking them to remove the links.  (highly UN-advisable)

or…

2. Start creating new anchor text links using other secondary LSI keywords and generic keywords, brand anchors, generic niche links and random sentence links only (specifically – don’t use your main keyword as the anchor) in an effort to “dilute” the percentage of your main keyword.

A key point to remember is that Google gives slightly more weight to new links as opposed to older ones, so hopefully, if you can dilute quickly – you might gain some SERPs quickly.

Of course, it is very important that you keep in mind that you need to now focus on building pages with higher quality contextual baclinks… and lesser low quality links – specifically if your density ratio of low quality links to high quality links is very high.

Of the two above, the second one is easier to do with lesser resources, time and cost.

However, it would be wise to use a tool such as MajesticSEO, Ahrefs or SEOmoz to check the ratio of anchor link distribution on the top 3 to 5 sites that you consider are your top competitors and that are still holding the ranks. This will give you a more specific ratio to target. Each niche is different.

Also, do not include big brand sites that sell a whole multitude of products (like Amazon) as your competitors in this anchor distribution study even though they do sell competing products / services – as the data from them will be skewed given that they will have millions of links that cover all products they carry.

As we said, there is no “one solution” and “one size fits all” here. You need to look at your niche and competitors and accordingly make the updates!

What are LSI keywords?

LSI keywords are basically other similar keywords related to your main search keyword. They are great to use in your articles as secondary keywords as they make your article stronger from an on-page content point of view – as they pass a clear signal to Google that your article is on the related topic and is very strong post about the group of keywords being targeted. We need to use Google’s own weapon to conquer it!

For getting other related keyword to the primary keyword, that is the LSI keywords, you can simply do a Google search and then scroll down to the bottom section after the search results to see a section titled “related Searches to keyword” and get them from there.

Here is a snapshot for a search I did for “seo services” …

 

LSI

However, apart from looking at the footer section of searches a good free LSI keyword tool (that will help you generate similar keywords to your main keyword) can be found at lsikeywords.com (how natural does that anchor link look!).

Raw URL Anchor Examples

www.site.com
www.site.com/
site.com
site.com/
http://www.site.com
http://www.site.com/
http://site.com
http://site.com/

Generic Keywords Examples

You can combine all these with your main keywords to make custom generics.

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And, here’s a mega list of generic keyword anchors that you can use –

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The key is to make sure to diversify your anchors as much as you can with the anchor text links above, always making sure your money keywords appear in rotation and variation, in your most powerful backlinks.

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