Avoiding Over-Optimization of Your Anchor Text
Chris Dreyer | May 28, 2014
The ways in which links to your site are configured are just as important as where they come from. Google clearly states in its quality guidelines that it doesn’t want anyone building manual links to their sites. We all know that isn’t realistic, and you can also build manual links to your site that are of the same high quality as naturally built ones. You have to be careful not to over-optimize your anchor text, though.
What Is Over-Optimization and Why Should I Avoid It?
We know that you can help a page rank better by using targeted keywords. These could be exact-match phrases, branded terms or single words that you use as anchor text. We also know that search engines that use links as a factor in their ranking methods don’t like people building links in an effort to manipulate rankings.
Although many SEOs build links manually (and many do it well), making exact match anchors out of too many of your inbound links starts to look unnatural. When things look unnatural, Google notices, and the company may take manual or algorithmic action against your domain by either devaluing or de-indexing it completely.
You will be hard-pressed to find a clear answer on the ratio of exact match to generic anchors pointing at your site. Some say it’s about a 70% generic to 30% exact match keyword ratio. Other marketers will give you different percentages. However, the thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to portray a “natural picture.” Are there sites that only have exact match anchors built to them that have happened completely naturally? I’m sure there are.
If you are just starting out with link building, it’s important to remain consistent. If you have an existing link profile, try to determine the pattern through which links have been built onto it, and match that.
You can make changes, but avoid spikes in data. Spikes indicate that someone is doing something manually, whereas gradual changes in link building patterns tend to denote a natural change.
Tools You Can Use
You can certainly download links to your site using webmaster tools and Excel. If you don’t have that many links, this might be a good way to go. If you have a lot of links to your site, you can use a tool like Ahrefs.com.
You can enter your website’s domain and check out some preliminary information for free. If you want to unlock more stuff, you’ll have to become a subscriber. Tools like these can help you identify links that could be harming your site but there are best practices for building new links.
• Avoid spikes in data. That is, don’t all of a sudden start building lots of exact match anchor links.
• Monitor natural links that are being built to your site so you can adjust for that activity.
In SEO you can think you are doing things right when in reality your actions are hurting your site. Remember that Google wants things to happen naturally when it comes to inbound links and your website. If it’s clear that you are manipulating search, you will get penalized for it.