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Dofollow, Nofollow, Sponsored, UGC

A Change to Nofollow

Last month Google announced they were going to change how they treated nofollow, moving it from a directive toward a hint. As part of that they also announced the release of parallel attributes rel=”sponsored” for sponsored links & rel=”ugc” for user generated content in areas like forums & blog comments.

Why not completely ignore such links, as had been the case with nofollow? Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.

In many emerging markets the mobile web is effectively the entire web. Few people create HTML links on the mobile web outside of on social networks where links are typically nofollow by default. This reduces the potential signal available to either tracking what people do directly and/or shifting how the nofollow attribute is treated.

Google shifting how nofollow is treated is a blanket admission that Penguin & other elements of “the war on links” were perhaps a bit too effective and have started to take valuable signals away from Google.

Google has suggested the shift in how nofollow is treated will not lead to any additional blog comment spam. When they announced nofollow they suggested it would lower blog comment spam. Blog comment spam remains a growth market long after the gravity of the web has shifted away from blogs onto social networks.

Changing how nofollow is treated only makes any sort of external link analysis that much harder. Those who specialize in link audits (yuck!) have historically ignored nofollow links, but now that is one more set of things to look through. And the good news for professional link auditors is that increases the effective cost they can charge clients for the service.

Some nefarious types will notice when competitors get penalized & then fire up Xrummer to help promote the penalized site, ensuring that the link auditor bankrupts the competing business even faster than Google.

Links, Engagement, or Something Else…

When Google was launched they didn’t own Chrome or Android. They were not yet pervasively spying on billions of people:

If, like most people, you thought Google stopped tracking your location once you turned off Location History in your account settings, you were wrong. According to an AP investigation published Monday, even if you disable Location History, the search giant still tracks you every time you open Google Maps, get certain automatic weather updates, or search for things in your browser.

Thus Google had to rely on external signals as their primary ranking factor:

The reason that PageRank is interesting is that there are many cases where simple citation counting does not correspond to our common sense notion of importance. For example, if a web page has a link on the Yahoo home page, it may be just one link but it is a very important one. This page should be ranked higher than many pages with more links but from obscure places. PageRank is an attempt to see how good an approximation to “importance” can be obtained just from the link structure. … The denition of PageRank above has another intuitive basis in random walks on graphs. The simplied version corresponds to the standing probability distribution of a random walk on the graph of the Web. Intuitively, this can be thought of as modeling the behavior of a “random surfer”.

Google’s reliance on links turned links into a commodity, which led to all sorts of fearmongering, manual penalties, nofollow and the Penguin update.

As Google collected more usage data those who overly focused on links often ended up scoring an own goal, creating sites which would not rank.

Google no longer invests heavily in fearmongering because it is no longer needed. Search is so complex most people can’t figure it out.

Many SEOs have reduced their link building efforts as Google dialed up weighting on user engagement metrics, though it appears the tide may now be heading in the other direction. Some sites which had decent engagement metrics but little in the way of link building slid on the update late last month.

As much as Google desires relevancy in the short term, they also prefer a system complex enough to external onlookers that reverse engineering feels impossible. If they discourage investment in SEO they increase AdWords growth while gaining greater control over algorithmic relevancy.

Google will soon collect even more usage data by routing Chrome users through their DNS service: “Google isn’t actually forcing Chrome users to only use Google’s DNS service, and so it is not centralizing the data. Google is instead configuring Chrome to use DoH connections by default if a user’s DNS service supports it.”

If traffic is routed through Google that is akin to them hosting the page in terms of being able to track many aspects of user behavior. It is akin to AMP or YouTube in terms of being able to track users and normalize relative engagement metrics.

Once Google is hosting the end-to-end user experience they can create a near infinite number of ranking signals given their advancement in computing power: “We developed a new 54-qubit processor, named “Sycamore”, that is comprised of fast, high-fidelity quantum logic gates, in order to perform the benchmark testing. Our machine performed the target computation in 200 seconds, and from measurements in our experiment we determined that it would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to produce a similar output.”

Relying on “one simple trick to…” sorts of approaches are frequently going to come up empty.

EMDs Kicked Once Again

I was one of the early promoters of exact match domains when the broader industry did not believe in them. I was also quick to mention when I felt the algorithms had moved in the other direction.

Google’s mobile layout, which they are now testing on desktop computers as well, replaces green domain names with gray words which are easy to miss. And the favicon icons sort of make the organic results look like ads. Any boost a domain name like CreditCards.ext might have garnered in the past due to matching the keyword has certainly gone away with this new layout that further depreciates the impact of exact-match domain names.

At one point in time CreditCards.com was viewed as a consumer destination. It is now viewed … below the fold.

If you have a memorable brand-oriented domain name the favicon can help offset the above impact somewhat, but matching keywords is becoming a much more precarious approach to sustaining rankings as the weight on brand awareness, user engagement & authority increase relative to the weight on anchor text.

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Spring Clean Your Website

Spring is often associated with a fresh, new, clean start and a renewed sense of life. For many, this getting rid of the old and in with the new takes on the form of spring cleaning.  While you may be thinking about the house, why not think of refreshing and reviving your business’ website?  After all, your website is your business’ presence online and is the first interaction customers have with your company.

Does your website accurately display your company’s character, personality and culture? Is it current and up to date?

Like your home, you may acquire a different taste in décor and choose to go beyond cleaning to overhauling a room’s look. Spring is a great time to do the same for your business website.

There are some things to consider when spring cleaning your website:

 

Update Content and Information

 

Does the content of your website still embody your company’s personality and mission? Is your last blog post or “news” item from a year or two ago? Is the company contact information and personnel biographies current?

Nothing is more boring or unprofessional looking as a website that is full of outdated, incorrect information. Additionally, consider adding regular blog posts so your site. This can give your site a constant stream of fresh content that piques the interest of customers and catches the attention of search engines.

For e-commerce websites with online ordering and a catalogue of products, make sure the description for each product is correct and updated. Be sure to display current inventory, not discontinued items.

Test Out the Website’s Usability

 

Is your website easy to navigate and do all the internal links work? If not, site visitors will be quick to leave. It is also a good idea to check if your website is compatible on different devices such as phones and tablets. Also, look through all the content for grammar, spelling, punctuation errors and industry jargon. The tone and style of the content should be consistent on each webpage and should reflect the image and personality of the brand.

A website that looks nice and is easy to use increases the time visitors spend on the website, whereby increasing their chance of converting.

Give it a Fresh Look

 

Like your personal home décor preferences, your business will undergo a brand refresh to update and freshen its look to match its evolving personality. The frequency of this change can also be attributed to the preferences of a business’ targeted customers and the industry a business is in.

When undergoing a brand or website redesign, it’s a good idea to work with a professional website designer as they  know their way around the colors and font styles and sizes and their emotional and psychological effects. He or she will know which complimentary colors should be incorporated as well as the appropriate website design and layout for the look and feel of one’s brand and the personality it wants its website visitors to experience.

In addition to changing up the layout, typography and color scheme, also consider adding new photos (that are optimized) along with fresh content. Adding an events calendar and current news can also revive the appearance of a bland website.

Make Sure the Links Work

 

Outdated or broken links can can lower your business’ credible, trustworthy, professional appearance. If the internal and external links point to pages that are either outdated or no longer exist, your page’s SEO and online visibility can suffer. One should check out each link on their website frequently and regularly.

Make Sure Third Party Website Apps and Extensions Work

 

Are your company’s social media and RSS feeds properly linked and connected to your website? Are third party on-page analytics trackers up and running? Is the spam filter on your blog post comments turned on or should you disallow all commenting on old blog posts to avoid spam? If your business has an app, does it work properly? If the third party apps and extensions installed on your website  fail to work properly, you miss out on  taking the biggest online advantage you have, making your content shareable, and valuable analytics information about your website users and their behavior and interaction with your website. Without these analytics data, it is hard to assess the areas of improvement.

Evaluate and Clarify Your Site’s Call-to-Actions

 

Are the calls to action (CTA) of each page of your website obvious and clear? If it isn’t noticeable or clear, website visitors won’t know what action to take which can lead to missed conversions, purchases and e-newsletter subscriptions. When people come to your site, they not only want to quickly find the information they are looking for, but they also want to be told what to do with the information you provide.

Renew or Re-evaluate the Domain Name and Web Hosting Plan

 

It’s always a good idea to look at your website hosting plan each year as many plans require annual renewal. Did the hosting provider take care of any or all the glitches of your website? Did they provide adequate website protection? Were they responsive and easy to work with? Did prices go up or do you feel like you’re overpaying for service? Your website can’t function without a hosting provider. You need to be sure the one you choose is skilled, experienced, trustworthy, responsive and are comfortable to work with.

Similarly, yearly evaluation of your website’s domain is also a good idea. Does it clearly communicate the company’s name and targeted keywords? Is it catchy, concise and memorable? If you’re overhauling a company re-brand, will the current domain name fit the new brand identity and personality?

Spring is a great time to clean up your website and bring new life into your business. This entails ensuring that your website functions correctly, that it is easy to navigate and that the content is accurate and current. Besides being easy to use and fun to interact with, one’s website may be in need of redesign and a new look.

Whether you’re undergoing a major re-branding or simply want to make a few minor tweaks and improvements, the professionals at SEO.com can help. We are a full-service digital marketing company with professional developers, website designers, content and SEO specialists and PPC professionals. Contact us today to learn more about we can help you in your website spring cleaning.

The post Spring Clean Your Website appeared first on SEO.com.

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The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People

A matchstick lightened up in front of dark background. Looks impressive.

How do you optimize websites for people that is actual readers who are suffering from chronic attention shortage?

You need to make them findable, intriguing, readable, engaging, usable, popular or in short “fire up“.

“fire someone up – Fig. to motivate someone; to make someone enthusiastic.”

A shocking reading statistic from US libraries says: around one fifth of Americans don’t read books at all.

 

Online reading habits

Likewise people on the Web don’t read. They mostly scan pages and read just a few words here and there if they click the headline at all.

8 out of 10 people do not even go beyond the headline and bounce immediately in the worst case. Many return to search results to click something else.

Google even counts the number of people who hit the back button or do not even click after viewing search results. Your site gets downgraded based on that data.

 

My shameful past

Let me confess: I didn’t read books until I was 16. I didn’t even read newspapers or magazines until I was 14.

We didn’t have the Internet or mobile phones back then so I wasn’t reading websites or SMS either!

To make things worse my mother was a linguist focused on teaching language and editing literature.

These days I roughly read a 500+ pages book a week. Sometimes I read two or three books at once.

 

A miraculous transformation

How did that miraculous transformation happen? My case seemed to be hopeless like with the rest of this miserable one fifth of the population.

Why didn’t I read at all as a teen? It wasn’t that I couldn’t read. I could read in three languages by the age of 14.

I didn’t want to read. I didn’t think books were attractive enough for me. I didn’t appreciate books and I didn’t think reading could enrich my daily life.

It’s not a story about me here though. My point is that you can make books or reading in general

  1. findable
  2. intriguing
  3. readable
  4. engaging
  5. usable
  6. popular

so that everybody will want to read and enjoy it. You have to treat the people who don’t read like disabled people.

It just happens that roughly the same number of people is also really disabled, almost 1/5 fifth in the US and the UK.

People who don’t read lack a basic human experience. They don’t have access to a whole universe of knowledge.

It’s our task to enable these literally disabled people to read again or at all. Librarians seem to have given up on them already.

With websites and mobile phones being used by almost everybody it’s far easier to make people read in these times. How? You need to make your site

findable

You have to ensure the findability of your content – be it text or mixed content (text and images) or solely images.

Even images without text can make people read. Image captions are a good start.

How did I finally start reading?

When I was 14 my mother pointed out an article to me about my favorite sweets in the weekly magazine my father had subscribed to for years.

I have looked at the magazine covers for ages but didn’t even read when they featured barely clad women.

The mags always lay around the living room. Thus my mother only needed to point it out casually. She didn’t have to get up, search for it and peruse dozens of other magazines to find it.

Nowadays it’s not as easy to be around where the hard to reach audience stays.

One day it’s Facebook, next day it’s Instagram, third day it’s Snapchat.

Don’t just stay in your ivory tower or library and claim that everybody has to come visit you. Spend some time on outreach efforts.

You can publish quotes from your favorite authors on social media. Indeed on sites like

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter

aphorisms work best!

Don’t just optimize for Google. Work on your internal search. Tag your content.

Make sure your images and quotes can be found on Pinterest or Twitter.

A picture quote which is popular on Pinterest saying: "sometimes it's better to react with no reaction".

intriguing

Now you agree that just staying where you are and waiting passively may not be enough.

You will probably wonder how to make people who never read become interested in what you want to see or rather read then.

One of the most likely candidates for your help are dyslexic people. These people are really disabled in that they can’t read fluently.

People who can’t read or comprehend fast need books or graphic novels or other forms of text that don’t require huge chunks of text.

Song lyrics or even poems can be a good starting point! They have to pick them up where they are though.

The Beat Generation may be a good start for young people or those who have failed to reach their full potential like many non-readers probably have.

Another typical non-reader is what I’d like to call the “tough guy” who is “too cool to read”.

“Real men” sometimes believe that reading is somehow compromising their manliness.

Survival or bodybuilding resources probably won’t hurt.

You need to intrigue them. Don’t just attempt to make people read what you think they should. Give them what they want in print or online form.

Even clickbait can help. Don’t give away everything in the headline. Consider this example: “Ursula K- Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88”.

A headline that gives away the hwol news already by sacing that "Ursual K Le Guin, famed writer, dies at 88".

Why would I click that link? I already know why she was famous and how old she was when she died. I know that she’s dead in the first place.

How about “the #1 reason why Ursula K. Le Guin will be remembered” instead? To find out you can click through actually read that article!

We are intrigued. We wonder: is she already dead? What did she do that made her so memorable? We want to know!

readable

Symbol for for an eye reading from a distance. It divides its attention between three short paragrphs.

Readability is a huge problem with both books and websites alike.

In these times our attention spans are extremely short.

Small screens on mobile devices make reading even more difficult.

We can’t focus on longer paragraphs or even sentences anymore.

This is also an issue with truly disabled people. They may have cognitive deficits.

I have cognitive deficits myself when I’m tired or when I experience pain from migraine attacks. I can’t read properly then.

Other people may be perfectly average but have difficulties when reading while on the go, holding a baby on their arm or trying to multitask in general.

Keep sentences short. Don’t complicate things to sound smart. Your website should be written for everybody.

It’s not about writing a thesis in college. It’s about reaching a wider audiences. Twitter is a good exercise.

Make your messages work in 140 characters and write like that for the rest of the Web.

Authors like Ernest Hemingway or Paul Auster have used simplicity to reach millions.

Simple word choices, short sentences and paragraphs won’t suffice though. You need to format text.

  • blockquotes
  • lists
  • bold text
  • text-marker effects

have proven to work best to enhance website readability.

engaging

There is this old social media cliche that “you have to engage in the conversation”. It’s true.

That’s like you have to write on the Web. Write in a conversational tone. Talk to your reader.

Become a buddy of your reader. Imagine sending an SMS to your ideal reader. Say “hello”!

Ask questions in your articles, not just rhetoric ones. Add calls to action asking for feedback!

Appeal to emotions by telling stories and speaking about real people like yourself or your family.

Cover worthwhile causes. Don’t just promote yourself and push what you like. Publish what others love.

You are meant not to judge a book by it’s cover but we all do. What’s on top and gets seen first counts.

Make a good first impression by placing attractive visual content on top of your page, each page.

usable

A neo sign saying entrance shedding only a dim light below so that we don't see an actual door.

OK, you have done everything right. Now the fire is already burning. Your site and content are findable, intriguing, readable, engaging…

What’s the problem then? Your site may still fail as a whole. It can be all of the above but when it’s not usable it’s wasted.

Usability or in modern words user experience matters on many levels. Can everybody access and use the site?

Or is it rather built for healthy white males, speaking English as seems to be the case with the new WhiteHouse.gov website?

Some of these non-readers may be actually disabled – blind for example! Don’t slam the door in their face!

When you fail to provide alternative text to your images and make the page navigable using the keyboard you lose that person.

Others may be healthy and enabled at the first sight – but like me often sick and tired (no pun intended). After staring all day into the screen

  • I can’t read long paragraphs anymore
  • sift through huge mega menus
  • or even deal with bright colors with a lot of contrast.

Don’t be overtly creative when building sites. The website is not the artwork, it’s the frame the artwork is in.

Keep it simple with low cognitive load by not reinventing the wheel.

Just place the logo on the top left, the navigation on top and the content below. Don’t add more than 6 menu items.

Cut out or limit the blinking ads and misleading “you may also like” partner stories.

popular

Facebook demographic by Sprout Social. All kinds of audiences ar epresent. High school kidsfrom the nner city and older suburban dwellers.

Even when the fire is burning and almost everybody can use your site it’s still not enough to succeed with your website.

You of course need to become popular. You can become popular in general but also in your niche or area.

Popularity can be relative. A popular restaurant in your neighborhood does not have to be Mc Donald’s.

Consider popularization as explaining science to larger audiences. It’s about understanding. Keep it simple!

When scientists write for each to get reviewed by their peers nobody else will really understand them.

Many bloggers and website owners write like scientists only for their colleagues. They ignore people outside their industry or beginners.

Remember to publish for average people as well.

Cover topics that matter for many people. Use language even your mother can understand without cryptic acronyms and insider lingo.

Don’t assume everybody knows what you are talking about and provide context on top. Try to explain things in a way even kids can get!

Last but not least simplify the linking and sharing process without only focusing on third party sites.

Let people link to your site easily and share your content by mail or using messenger apps.

Allow copy and pasting! Sometimes it’s even impossible to select a headline or text quote due to bad design.

 

Are you enthusiastic now? I certainly hope so. Of course I tried to use the FIRE UP approach myself here.

Did it work? I have no idea! You have to tell me below in the comments or using your favorite social media channels!

The post The FIRE UP Approach: How to Optimize Websites for People appeared first on SEO 2.0.

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The Complete Anchor Text Guide for 2019 (NEW)

What is anchor text and how do you optimize it for maximum SEO performance?

That’s what this guide is all about.

You’re going to learn:

  1. How to optimize your anchor text so you get SEO better results with less backlinks
  2. Why modeling your competitors anchor text is dangerous
  3. My advanced anchor text optimization strategy

Ready to become an anchor text optimization pro?

Let’s jump in.

Need more backlinks? Get access to 7 untapped link building techniques.

What is Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link.

Here’s how it looks in HTML:

<a href=”http://www.mywebsite.com/”>my cool website</a>

The phrase “anchor text” applies to all hyperlinks including internal and external links.

This guide you’re going to read is about external anchor text.

Why?

Because it alone can make or break your SEO performance.

But before you can learn how to optimize anchor text, you need to know the history.

A Short History of Anchor Text

Let’s rewind the clock back to 2011.

In those days, keyword-rich anchor text was all the rage.

anchor text in 2011

All you had to do was build links with keyword-rich anchor text and you would rank fast.

Then Google decided to launch the first Penguin update on April 24, 2012.

In short:

Your rankings got wrecked if you were using keyword-rich anchor text.

Google Penguin Penalty

When I say “your”, I mean “my” rankings.

Many of my sites got wrecked with the first Penguin update. That’s because I was nothing more than an algorithm manipulator back then.

But in hindsight:

I’m grateful for that update because it forced me to actually learn SEO.

It also motivated me to figure out how to optimize anchor text in a safe and effective way.

But before I can show you the methods, you need to know the basics.

The first thing you need to know are the different types of anchor text you can use.

9 Different Types of Anchor Text

Here are nine different types of anchor text you can use from the safest to least safe:

1. Branded Anchors

“Branded” anchors are any anchor that uses your brand name. Here are some examples:

  • Gotch SEO
  • Nathan Gotch
  • Nathan Gotch SEO

Sentence sample: “You can learn search engine optimization at Gotch SEO.”

Branded anchors are the safest type of anchor text if you’re using a branded domain.

If you have an exact or partial match domain, you need to be careful.

More on this in a later section.

To see the power of “branded” anchors, look at any big brand’s link profile.

Here are some examples for you:

Nordstrom Anchor Text

Best Buy Anchor Text

WebMd anchor text

2. Generic Anchors

“Generic” anchors are often calls-to-action (CTAs) like:

  • click here
  • go here
  • this website

In a sentence: “Go here if you are looking for SEO information.” – “Go here” is the generic anchor text.

3. Naked Link Anchors

Any anchor that uses a raw URL is considered a “naked” link.

Here are some examples:

  • https://www.gotchseo.com
  • www.gotchseo.com
  • gotchseo.com

4. No Anchor Trick

This is a tricky little strategy I see big brands doing.

Whether purposefully or not, it’s a good idea. Here’s what it looks like:

no text anchor text

The easiest way to build “noText” anchors is through images. You can also “forget” to include an anchor within an article.

5. Image Anchors

Google uses an image’s ALT text as the anchor text for a linked image.

6. Brand + Keyword Anchor

You can diversify your anchor tex profile by combining your brand name and your target keyword.

For example:

  • Gotch SEO Ahrefs
  • anchor text by Gotch SEO
  • Gotch SEO link building tactics

7. Keyword Variations

Keyword variations are perfect for diversifying your anchor text profile. They can also help drive more topical relevance to your page.

Here are some examples of my target keyword is “backlinks“:

  • what are backlinks
  • where to get backlinks
  • how do you build backlinks

8. Partial Match Anchors

Partial match anchors are similar to keyword variations. The key difference is that you’re adding generic words around the primary keyword phrase.

Here are some examples for the target keyword “anchor text”:

  • this anchor text guide
  • cool anchor text article
  • read this anchor text post

9. Exact Match Anchors

Exact match anchors are the king of all anchor text.

They have the power to increase your rankings, but also have the power to get your site penalized.

An exact match anchor is an exact match of whatever your target keyword is for the target page.

Example: if “buy backlinks” is my target keyword, then my exact match anchor would be “buy backlinks“.

Those are all the anchor text variations I recommend using.

Now let’s talk about something that will make your anchor text even more powerful.

How to Build Relevance Without Exact Match Anchors

Google recently filed a patent about: “anchor tag indexing in a web crawler system”.

Google Anchor Text Patent

Don’t worry:

I’m not going to bore you to death.

Once you get past all the technical language, there’s one big idea in this patent:

Google uses the text around your link (“annotation text“) to assign its topical relevance. It will also use the anchor text of the link to accomplish that goal as well.

So what does that mean for you?

The good news is that it’s simple and makes perfect sense.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Find relevant websites in your industry
  2. Get backlinks within content that’s relevant to your target page
  3. Try to place your primary keyword close to your link
  4. Use intelligent anchor text
  5. Understand that relevance is the key to link building success

Here are some examples for the target keyword “anchor text” (link placement in red):

“If you are looking for more information about anchor text go here right away.”

Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link. For more in-depth information you should read this article from Gotch SEO.”

“For more in-depth information about anchor text I highly recommend this article: http://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/.”

Here’s the big takeaway:

Place your links in relevant content and place your primary keyword close to your link.

Now the question is:

What anchor text should you use?

The Right Anchor Text to Use

There’s a common trend among the hundreds of penalized websites I’ve audited.

They almost always have aggressive anchor text percentages.

Over-Optimized Anchor Text

In fact:

It’s the first place I look when someone needs help with a penalized website.

You can analyze your anchor text distribution right now with Ahrefs.

Open up their Site Explorer tool and enter your domain.

Ahrefs site explorer

Then click on “Anchors”.

Ahrefs Anchor Text Section

Now before I go any further, I need to cover an important question:

Should You Copy Your Competitors Anchor Text?

My friend and fellow SEO, Matt Diggity recommends this strategy.

Matt Diggity Anchor Text

In short:

You should look at the anchor text percentages of the ranking competitors and model them.

I agree with the philosophy, but there are some issues.

1. Modeling the anchor text percentages of an authoritative website is risky.

Authoritative websites have built a lot of trust. Therefore, it’s more “acceptable” for them to have high percentages of keyword-rich anchors.

If you copy them, you’ll likely get wrecked.

Why?

Because your site doesn’t have the authority and trust to do so.

2. It doesn’t take into account site-wide anchor text percentages.

How do some websites get away with aggressive exact match anchor text?

It’s because they:

  1. Have the authority and trust to do so
  2. Have a high percentage of unoptimized anchors in their site-wide profile

That’s why you can’t model them on a page-by-page level.

You have to model their entire anchor text profile.

Let’s take Moz.com for example.

If you examine their site-wide anchor text, you’ll see that most of it is branded or generic.

Moz Anchor Text

This gives them the leeway they need to be more aggressive on the page level.

Here’s their anchor text for their “anchor text” page:

Moz anchor text percentage

One could argue that this is “aggressive”. But it’s acceptable because they have authority, trust, and unoptimized anchor text across the site as a whole.

59% is huge on its own, but it’s small relative to their entire site:

example

So what’s the big takeaway?

You shouldn’t model your competitor’s anchor text if you don’t have authority, trust, and unoptimized anchor text across your site.

Then what should you do?

Follow these percentages and you’ll never need to worry about penalties and you’ll still get awesome results.

Safe Anchor Text Percentages That Work

These percentages are not a law. Do what’s best for your situation. However, these ratios have helped me A) avoid getting penalized and B) still drive huge results (without being risky).

  • 70% = Branded Anchors
  • 20% = Naked Link Anchors
  • 5% = Generic Anchors
  • < 5% = Partial Match Anchors
  • < 1% = Exact Match Anchors

Now let me introduce you to a strategy I developing for building a natural anchor text profile.

How to Rank With Less Backlinks

My strategy is “Anchor Text Cycling” and it works like this:

Step 1: Hit your target page with an exact match anchor

You might be wondering:

“Isn’t it dangerous to hit a brand new website with an exact match anchor?”

Nope.

Sites get penalized for their link profiles as a whole.

Not one or two links.

It’s like saying eating McDonalds one time is the reason why someone is 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!

Now that I got the weird analogy out of the way…

Why do I use an exact match anchor for my first backlink?

A) I want to see how the site reacts

B) I want to establish what my site or the target page is about right away

The next step is to:

Step 2: Hit your site with unoptimized anchor text variations

Use branded, naked link, generic, and keyword variations at this stage.

Step 3: Track your rankings and watch the progress

You can get a decent read on your performance within 1-3 months. If your page isn’t moving, then you need to reassess. The answer is rarely to use more exact match anchor text.

Often times pages aren’t performing well because:

  • The site isn’t strong enough
  • The page doesn’t have enough backlinks
  • The backlinks you do have are low-quality
  • The page is poorly built

If you feel you have a 10/10 on those three facets, then:

Step 4: Hit your site with another exact match anchor (if necessary)

Repeat this process over-and-over until you rank.

The entire point of using anchor cycling is to build a diverse and natural anchor profile.

Do you want to know the secret to a having a “natural” anchor profile?

The key is to be random and avoid patterns.

Take a look at these two examples:

Site #1 is the typical link profile you’ll see when someone is spamming anchor text.

Google’s algorithm can easily conclude that this site is building artificial links. A manual reviewer wouldn’t even be necessary.

Site #2 has a natural and diverse anchor profile.

It will outrank Site #1 with fewer backlinks and less keyword-rich anchor text.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing black, grey, or white hat SEO, this concept still applies to you.

Now that you understand how to cycle your anchors, let me show you WHERE to place your anchors.

Where to Place Your Anchor Text

Every link opportunity requires a unique anchor text strategy.

This is by far the biggest misstep I see people make.

They apply anchor text ratios and use cycling, but they place their anchor text the wrong way.

I would argue that this section is the most important part for you to understand.

Here is a list of every link type and exact anchor text you should use:

Exact & Partial Match Anchors

Concentrate your exact and partial match anchor text on your best link opportunities. “Best” link opportunities are often those that are difficult and expensive to get.

Here are some examples:

1. Niche Relevant Guest Posts

If you can score a link in the body of the content, then use a keyword-rich anchor. But if you can only get an author bio link, then use a branded (or unoptimized) anchor text.

guest posting dead

Google cracked down on spammy guest posting practices a long-time ago. One consistent footprint is when people jam keyword-rich anchors in author bios. Don’t do this.

2. Resource Pages

Resource pages are great opportunities to place exact or partial match anchors.

resource page

Using the title of your resource is an effective (and safe) route as well.

3. Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

I don’t mess around with PBNs anymore, but you should use exact and partial match anchors. You invested money to buy the expired domain, so you should try to get the most out of it.

Go here to get 7 of my favorite untapped link building techniques.

Where to Place Unoptimized Anchors

All foundational (non-editorial) links should unoptimized anchor text.

Some examples include:

  • Paid Directories
  • Traditional Directories
  • Business Citations
  • Press Releases
  • Niche Relevant Blog Comments
  • Web 2.0s
  • Forum Signatures
  • Site-Wide Sidebar or Footer Links
  • Profile Links
  • Social Bookmarks
  • Donations/Sponsorships

Only use branded, naked, or generic anchor text on these link types.

Now let me show you how to handle anchor text whenever you’re using 301 redirects.

How to Handle Anchor Text from a 301 Redirect

A 301 redirect is permanent redirect. All of the anchor text from the page or website being redirected gets transferred to the new page.

Why does this matter?

It matters because spammy links and aggressive anchor text will transfer to your new page or domain.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Avoid redirecting any garbage to your website
  2. Build unoptimized anchors to the new website

This will help combat anchor text over-optimization issues when you redirect.

How to Optimize Tier Two and Tier Three Anchor Text

You can be more liberal with your keyword-rich anchors on tier two and three.

Just don’t go crazy.

Here are tier two ratios that I stick to:

  • Naked links: 40%
  • Generic: 30%
  • LSI, Partial-Match: 25%
  • Exact Match: 5%

The same principles explained above apply here.

Concentrate your keyword-rich anchors on your best opportunities.

Here are my tier three ratios:

  • Naked links: 10%
  • Generic: 10%
  • LSI, Partial-Match: 50%
  • Exact Match: 30%

How to Optimize Anchor Text for Exact & Partial Match Domains

I always tell beginners to avoid exact or partial match domains. Why? Because they are super easy to over-optimize.

But if you already have one, let me show you how to optimize your anchor text the right way.

Here are the ratios I aim for with an exact match domain:

  • Naked Links: 70%
  • Generic: 20%
  • LSI: 5%
  • Partial Match: 1-5%
  • Branded / Exact Match Anchors: 1-5%

You’ll notice a few different things here.

First, I reduce the “Branded” anchor text percentages.

Why?

Because EMDs aren’t actually branded. They’re just keywords in a domain.

I also increase the amount of naked and generic anchor text. This helps combat over-optimization.

But there’s one thing you can do to make your life a lot easier.

Even if your domain is “exactmatchanchortext.com”, you can still create a brand name. So although your domain is “exactmatchanchortext.com”, your brand name could be “Growth Crew”.

Then you can build branded anchor text (“Growth Crew”) without getting any worries.

How to Fix Over-Optimized Anchor Text

Websites rarely get penalized for just having over-optimized anchor text.

That’s because aggressive anchor text strategies are often accompanied by other poor practices. The truth is that websites get penalized because they’re doing a lot of stuff wrong.

Google doesn’t have “Penguin” or “Panda” updates anymore.

However, these concepts still apply. You could theoretically have over-optimized anchor text and not get penalized if you’re doing everything else right.

But like I said:

This is rare.

Most websites with over-optimized anchors also have low-quality links, low-quality content, poor UX, and will often be too aggressive with on-page SEO.

You’ll need to run an SEO audit to tackle these issues.

But let’s just focus on over-optimized anchor text.

The first question is:

Should You Disavow?

I wanted to clear the air before I explain the strategies:

Disavowing is an absolute LAST resort.

There are two situations when it’s warranted:

  1. Your site is getting hit with negative SEO or its been hacked
  2. It’s impossible to remove of the links you built

That said:

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).

Here are 3 ways to fix over-optimized anchor text without disavowing:

3 Ways to Fix Over-Optimized Anchor Text

1. Remove Links With Commercial Anchor Text (From Spammy Sites)

Before you go buck-wild removing links, listen carefully:

If you remove any link from your profile, your site’s authority will decrease.

EVEN IF THE LINK SUCKS.

You must replace the low-quality links you removed with high-quality links.

Just removing links won’t recover your rankings.

In fact:

It may hurt even more because you’re decreasing your site’s authority.

As I discussed in the section about anchor text placement, you should only use commercial / keyword-rich anchor text on “power” link sources.

If you made the unfortunate mistake of building backlinks on low-quality sources with keyword-rich anchors, then you have two options:

  1. Go back and delete the links.
  2. If you can’t delete the links, then disavow.

After you’ve done all you can do to remove keyword-rich anchors from spammy sources, then it’s time to jump into anchor text dilution.

Please notice that I said “spammy” sources.

Don’t go on a link-deleting spree because you will end up deleting links that are actually helping you.

2. Dilute Your Anchor Text

This is the most common technique and it does work in many cases.

All you are going to do is build unoptimized backlinks to your website with nothing but branded, generic, and naked link anchors.

Absolutely no keyword-rich anchors!

Use the “foundational” links I explained in the previous section to dilute your anchor text profile.

Before Penguin 3.0, you could counter over-optimized anchors by using the dilution technique.

Diluting works, but you need to consider this:

Websites aren’t just penalized because of the existence of low-quality links.

They’re penalized because the ratio of low-quality to high-quality links in their profile is off.

In other words:

You need more quality links to offset the low-quality links. That’s why some websites can “get away” with low-quality links in their profile.

Here are some link types to help you dilute your anchor text profile:

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 because it’s a perfect way to send quality link unoptimized anchors to your site. Just make sure your NAP-W information is consistent.

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 Follow 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. Press releases are great for quickly getting unoptimized anchors from many different IPs. You will also build diversity in your link profile because of the NoFollow / Follow mix.

3. Use the 301 Penalty Recovery Trick

Remember in an earlier section when I said that anchor text travels through a 301 to the new website?

You are going to use this to your advantage to recover from an algorithmic penalty.

There are two variations of the 301 penalty recovery trick.

Variation #1: Expired Domain > Penalized Domain

For the first variation, you will need to find quality expired domains through a service like Freshdrop. Make sure the anchor profile is clean and has very little 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 are not necessary using this expired domain for ranking purposes, it’s not a bad idea to find one with solid metrics.

Preferably DR 20 +, DA 20 +, and a Trust Flow of 10 +.

If you can find a domain that is relevant to yours, it will work even better.

Then just 301 redirect the expired domain to your penalized site and track the results.

Variation #2: Links > Penalized Site > New Website

For variation two, you are going to start fresh with a new website, but you are going to piggyback 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, niche relevant blog comments, press releases, etc. Only use branded anchor text.

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 the severity your particular situation.

If you have 70% keyword-rich anchor text, then you will need to get that down to at least 30% or less. If you have 30% keyword-rich anchors, then you will 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 have 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 are using a new branded website with an established branded text anchor profile, B) you have improved the anchor profile of the penalized website, and C) you have transferred authority to a new domain.

Frequently Asked Questions About Anchor Text

What About Manual Penalties?

It’s less of a headache and much more cost-effective to just start a new website, than 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 are 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.

I know it’s an annoying answer.

If you want to raise a red flag, then change a non-keyword-rich anchor to a keyword-rich anchor. Google may or may not devalue a link when this happens, but it’s definitely not worth it.

Just leave the link how it is, and go acquire a link 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. If your exact match anchors or keyword-rich anchors are above 25%, then you may want to consider unoptimizing 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 will 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.

Anchor Text Tracking: Don’t Shoot Blindly at the Target

Tracking your anchor text is absolutely critical if you are building backlinks.

If you aren’t, you are basically shooting at a target blindfolded.

There are two ways to track:

1. Manually input every anchor text into a Google Sheet or Excel file

2. Use a tool like Linkio to streamline your anchor text monitoring and optimization.

I used to track my anchor text manually, but Linkio streamlines the entire process.

They pull anchor text from Ahrefs, Moz, and Google Search Console, which makes life a lot easier.

Regardless:

You need to be tracking your anchor text and optimizing throughout the entire link building process.

Last Word About Anchor Text

Anchor text is one very small piece of the SEO puzzle. Most websites are littered with on-site SEO, SEO content, and backlink quality issues.

These areas need to be tackled first. Once you’ve optimize those well, then dive into anchor text optimization. It can give you the edge you need to dominate your competitors.

Now to you:

Do you feel like an anchor text pro now?

Let me know your thoughts and questions below.

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