I’ve been reading a lot lately about varying anchor text. While it’s a practice that has been pretty customary, it seems I’ve come into contact with a lot of websites that have over optimization of anchor text in their backlinks.
With recent changes to Google’s Algorithm(s), these backlinks (may) have caused penalties and very upset business owners are asking why. It’s all about the anchor text and Benjamin’s baby….
When link builders are given a budget, there’s feasibly only so many links you can build with that budget. The layman’s short route to achieving rankings is by focusing all those efforts on a short list of keyword phrases. But in the long run, it can hurt.
Julie Joyce at Search Engine Land recently wrote about backing down from our reliance on keyword driven anchors, and here on SNC, David wrote about understanding search user behavior.
Both of these posts are a great read if you haven’t had a chance to view them yet, and are important in understanding what we can do as link builders and SEOs to improve our chance at showing up in SERPs.
I searched around the web looking for some good posts on tips to vary your anchor text, and while there are some decent ones, I figured I’d write a post myself which lists just about every one of them that I could think of (with the help of my SEO-expert co-worker Jason Hendricks too!).
Elements to consider for anchor text
It’s only natural that a diversified backlink profile would have anchor text linking to the homepage AND internal pages using the company name. If you’re manually building links don’t forget your company name with and without spaces, company name home, company name home page, etc…. In press releases you’ll naturally see the company name as an anchor text, along with guest blog posts, in the author bio of articles, etc…
Similar to company name, your URL should be used as the anchor text on occasion as well. Varying it up with both http://www.companyname.com and CompanyName.com, as well as www and non-www variations is recommended.
Synonyms and Antonyms
The Thesaurus can be your friend when trying to come up with varied anchor text suggestions. Simply enter in your key word and let the Thesaurus do the work for you. Check out the concept thesaurus, which gives even more suggestions of synonyms relating to the keyword. Even throwing in an antonym here and there can be useful, depending on the industry of course. My co-worker Jason also suggested using quintura.com, soovle.com, UberSuggest.com, and even Delicious to see how users are currently bookmarking sites and the phrases they use to describe them.
Focusing on the phrase match instead of the exact match in your link building is important. So for the keyword ‘debt consolidation’ try out: consolidating your debt, one payment for credit cards, consolidation of debt, debt consolidated, money consolidation, credit card debt consolidation, etc…
Adding words such as ‘in’, ‘an’, ‘the’, ‘of‘, in addition to plurals, and modifiers like ‘best’, ‘cheap’, ‘buy’, ‘online’, are all ways to vary your anchor text. Creating long tail words often involves adding these words to your anchor text, so keep a list of them handy when you’re looking to vary your anchor text.
“Click Here” “Read More”
Naturally, you’ll receive natural links using the anchor text “Click Here”, “Read More”, “Download Here”, “Visit Here”, and others. Make sure you integrate these anchor texts in your link building efforts.
Somewhat irrelevant or long phrases can be seen in the backlinks of a site who has received many natural links. Linking a whole sentence, a quote, or just a long phrase that might not have much to do about your site is yet another way to vary anchor text. See the first link in my post? I’d consider that a long phrase, un-optimized, but natural link to SEOMoz.
If you’re not already doing so, you should: build links with images. Host a few good images on your site, and insert them in your regular guest blog posts, articles, banner advertising, and press releases. Or use user-domain (free to use) images linked back to your site as well. When possible, add descriptive text to the image alt tag as well. Try for both optimized and non-optimized images image alt tags.
Mix of Homepage URL and Internal Page URL
It seems like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised looking at some websites backlinks. Mix up the anchor text AND the URLs you’re pointing to with that anchor text. Naturally your homepage is expected to have somewhat targeted anchor text, but with internal pages really try to focus a lot more variance on anchor text.
Upper and Lowercase
I almost forgot this one, thanks to Jason for pointing it out: vary your anchor text with both upper and lower case letters. It would seem unnatural to always link using lower case anchor text to your site, right?
Hyphens in Anchor Text
Another one Jason pointed out to me: hyphens in anchor text. Hyphens are seen as spaces to search engines, so vary it up a bit and add some hyphens.
Misspelling a company name or keyword is very common when viewing the backlink profile of any naturally linked to site. Integrate a few misspellings in with anchor text for a more varied approach when link building.
Did we miss any? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.