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SEO Basics: How to start with SEO?

You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running. 

So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!

  1. Install Yoast SEO

    Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.

  2. Get that first link

    Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!

  3. What do you want to rank for?

    Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? Find out as much as you can about your audience.

    SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.

  4. Set realistic goals

    For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.

    If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.

  5. Internal linking

    As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking. 

    If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.

  6. Start writing

    In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.

    While you’re writing, make sure to use the words you want to be found for. Use them in headings and in the introduction and conclusion of your text. After writing your text, you should optimize your SEO title and your meta description. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you to do all these things.

  7. Get those links!

    External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.

    Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.

And then what?

The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!

Read more: wordPress SEOL the definitive guide »

The post SEO Basics: How to start with SEO? appeared first on Yoast.

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Rand Fishkin: Google oggi è il competitor di tutti i siti web

Keynote di Rand Fishkin sull'evoluzione di Google

La scorsa settimana, parlando delle reazioni della comunità SEO all’attacco del Wall Street Journal contro Google, avevamo riportato anche la posizione di Rand Fishkin, sottolineando come fosse significativo il suo intervento in difesa di Big G, contro cui il fondatore di Moz e di Sparktoro non è mai stato particolarmente tenero. Ed ecco che arriva una nuova conferma, con l’intervento “Google in 2020: From Everyone’s Search Engine to Everyone’s Competitor” con cui Fishkin ha aperto l’evento SMX East a New York.

Google è il nuovo competitor di tutti i siti

Dalle pagine del blog della sua (nuova) compagnia, Fishkin spiega il ragionamento che ha portato avanti nel suo intervento (oltre 80 slide, leggibili sempre all’interno della pagina): Google sta abbandonando il suo ruolo di motore di ricerca (search engine) per avvicinarsi a un motore di risposta (answer to engine) e, tendenza sempre più recente ed evidente, a competitor diretto di un numero enorme di siti e settori di business.

Sempre più strumenti, funzioni e risorse per catturare utenti

In questa ottica, la strada per i web marketer sembra chiara e segnata: la più grande fonte di traffico sul web – gratuita e a pagamento – sta diventando un “giardino recintato“, interessato non solo a mantenere le persone nelle sue proprietà, ma a competere direttamente con le realtà che l’hanno aiutato a diventare un potere monopolistico e dominante. Lo abbiamo visto di recente con Google Shopping, ma anche con gli esempi di SERP senza link e con box diretto di risposta.

Come diversificare le fonti di traffico secondo Rand Fishkin

Secondo Fishkin, “se sei un marketer o un’azienda che si affida a Google hai ancora tantissime opportunità, almeno nella maggior parte dei settori – mi dispiace per Expedia, Yelp, TripAdvisor e chiunque cerchi di competere contro YouTube”. Tuttavia, per stare al passo bisogna pianificare il metodo giusto di diversificare le fonti di traffico, far crescere la domanda branded al di fuori della ricerca e come guadagnare valore dalle ricerche a zero clic.

Nuove stime sull’erosione di traffico organico

Proprio su quest’ultimo fronte arrivano nuovi dati che confermano l’erosione dei clic provenienti dalle pagine di ricerca di Google: oltre la metà delle ricerche su Google da mobile e quasi il 35% da desktop si è conclusa senza che l’utente abbia poi visitato altri contenuti, come segnala l’analisi di Jumpshot. Inoltre, secondo Fishkin la tendenza continua a essere un calo dell’organico a fronte di un aumento di ricerche che si completano su Ads o con nessun clic.

Quota di mercato dei motori di ricerca

Il 7,5 delle ricerche porta a proprietà Google

Nello specifico, solo a settembre 2019 “il 7,5% di tutte le ricerche ha portato a un clic su una proprietà Alphabet“, ovvero la holding che controlla Google e le altre aziende collegate. Quindi, già oggi “Google è il principale beneficiario della Ricerca su Google, perché nessun altro sito si avvicina a quel dato del 7,5%”, emerge dall’indagine. Basti pensare, come dicevamo anche in un altro articolo sull’ottimizzazione SEO delle immagini, che il secondo motore di ricerca più usato è Google Immagini!

Google lancia la sfida a ogni sito e settore

Ma non c’è solo questo da evidenziare, perché Google è entrato in competizione in tanti altri settori attraverso le risposte dirette e le “incursioni” in nicchie verticali, come meteo, viaggi, locali e recensioni, che consentono all’utente di ottenere le informazioni richieste senza mai fare clic sui siti che hanno originariamente pubblicato questi contenuti.

Portando come dimostrazione i risultati di Google Hotels, Flights, Jobs Search, del “local pack” e degli altri tipi di rich results che compaiono sulla pagina principale dei risultati, Fishkin afferma che “la tendenza è molto diffusa” e sottrae traffico e business “a Skyscanner e Kayak nei viaggi, a Eater e Yelp nei risultati local, da US News e FiveThirtyEight nelle classifiche dei college, a Wunderground e Weather.com per il meteo, a MetaCritic e PC Game”. In pratica, tutti i siti tranne quelli di Alphabet stanno perdendo quando si cercano temi di “cultura popolare e media“.

Come resistere a Google?

Cosa possono fare i siti per continuare a competere? Nel suo intervento, l’esperto SEO offre qualche indicazione pratica: il primo passo è ” trovare il modo di rendere il nostro marchio quello che cercano gli utenti”, ovvero brandizzare la ricerca. Proseguendo l’esempio sulle previsioni, “non voglio più solo traffico per la keyword meteo, ma voglio ricerche per il mio marchio, per Weather Underground, Weather.com e Weather Channel”.

Esempio di query monopolizzata da Google

Puntare su ricerche branded e rafforzare il marchio

Inoltre, bisogna trovare il modo di beneficiare delle ricerche a zero clic, cercando di posizionarsi nei featured snippet con contenuti mirati e guadagnare così la fiducia e la familiarità degli utenti verso il proprio brand, che può aiutare la visibilità. Anche l’acquisto di Ads può essere pensato come strategia, così come possono risultare utili campagne promozionali offline vecchio stampo, come “cartelloni pubblicitari, annunci radiofonici e televisivi”, che possono influenzare il comportamento di ricerca.

È poi importante implementare correttamente il knowledge panel legato al proprio brand, certificandone la proprietà e chiedendo eventualmente modifiche se necessario, perché questa feature può aiutare a influenzare positivamente la percezione del marchio. Insomma, secondo Rand Fishkin dobbiamo pensare alla gestione della reputazione e alla branding awareness in ottica SEO per ottimizzare i risultati delle ricerche branded.

Le strategie per continuare a competere

Si pone a questo punto il classico dilemma del prigioniero, che per i siti assume questa forma: “Ottimizzo i contenuti per le ricerche a zero clic, per fornire queste risposte, contrassegno i miei risultati nel modo in cui Google li vuole, ma dall’altro lato mi espongo a una consequenziale perdita di traffico organico dalle ricerche”.

Dilemma SEO: ottimizzare o no per rich snippet?

La soluzione al dilemma del prigioniero SEO

Il meccanismo suggerito per uscir fuori da questo dubbio divide il problema in due categorie: un percorso da seguire per tutti i tipi di contenuto che possono emergere come rich results (l’immagine qui sopra) e un’altra specifica per i risultati di ricerca derivati ​​da dati strutturati (l’immagine successiva).

I siti che si trovano nel primo caso devono porsi due domande: “ho benefici nel posizionarmi per questa query anche senza traffico?”, seguita da “il mio team o cliente darà credito ai posizionamenti che non portano traffico?”. In caso di risposta affermativa a entrambe le domande, si deve investire in quella che Fishkin definisce On-Serp SEO, ovvero l’ottimizzazione per i rich results e le altre feature proposte da Google; altrimenti, bisogna focalizzare gli sforzi sulle parole chiave che generano (ancora) traffico.

Per i dati strutturati, le domande sono “guadagno o perdo valore aggiungendo dati strutturati che Google potrebbe usare in un box di risposta diretta?”, e poi “preferisco piazzarmi in un answer box o cederlo a un competitor per focalizzarmi su altre parole chiave?”. Se le risposte sono positive, si andrà a lavorare all’aggiunta dei dati strutturati, mentre in caso opposto conviene da subito spostare la strategia verso altre opportunità.

Soluzioni per chi opera con dati strutturati

Creare una domanda per il brand per proteggersi da Google

In definitiva, ogni sito deve cercare di proteggersi dalla competizione che sicuramente Google porterà in ogni settore, ma Fishkin lascia un messaggio di speranza dicendo che “abbiamo opportunità per costruire il nostro brand e avere successo”. È chiaro che basarsi sui motori di ricerca per raggiungere i clienti rende intrinsecamente i marchi dipendenti dal modo in cui tali motori di ricerca forniscono risultati: tuttavia, integrando gli sforzi SEO con una strategia che crea domanda per il brand potremmo riuscire a preservarci da questi cambiamenti e stare al passo con la concorrenza.

L’articolo Rand Fishkin: Google oggi è il competitor di tutti i siti web proviene da SEOZoom.

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25+ Shocking Remarks on Search & Social Media to Ruin the Holidays

Christmas tree lights that are just a bit blurred.

It’s the holiday season again. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are always a time when we are confronted with real life.

We can’t connect to Facebook all the time, tinkering with websites is frowned upon by partners, children and other relatives.

Writing blog posts doesn’t make much sense as nobody reads them anyway, being either on vacation or meeting with their families.

Yet some of us simply can’t give up on their online identity even during that time of the year. We are still professionals – even in awkward circumstances, aren’t we?

Yet here are some of the remarks that guarantee to ruin the holidays for you and your family. Use them at your own peril or simply remember to refrain from mentioning those.

Ah, You Work with Computers!

By now your family may already know that you work on the Internet. They may still consider you to be an IT person though. This is risky.

They will wonder why you can’t fix their Windows XP machine – it’s just 20 years old! Unless of course you can distract them by starting a conversation.

What can you talk about with people who more or less appreciate you but still just have only a very broad idea about your daily business?

You have to start the conversation before they begin asking questions about you! What to tell them? Hard to say – I can certainly warn you not to say things that will ruin the rest of the holidays for you and everybody else.

I compiled 25+ shocking remarks about search, social media, Facebook & Google that will certainly ruin your holidays. Keep clear of them!

Educating Your Family

You want to spread the word about technology. After all it means progress! Yet some things better remain unsaid. Don’t assume that what you say will also be understood the way you meant it.

You probably live in a city and are surrounded by other hip people who work in technology jobs. You are probably still puzzled how the US electorate could vote for Trump or the Brits voluntarily choose to leave the EU. You are probably an arrogant hipster. Shut up and listen.

always make people understand how they are affected by what you do and by the Internet.

Don’t try to surprise them or even shock them with your superior knowledge of all things Internet.

You may know a lot of buzzwords and even grasp same of the concepts behind them. For the others they are merely magic spells and downright scary. Most people still assume that

  • blogging is not a real job
  • social media is a waste of time
  • search engine optimization is spam.

Anything else that is even more surprising might cause real harm. Heart attacks and divorces are much more common during the holidays than the rest of the year. Beware! Here are the stupid remarks that will get you in trouble.

Search

  • Have you ever asked yourself why the top Google result is there? In most cases it’s due to search engine optimization. Otherwise it’s an ad or Google owned service.
  • Your mum sees different search results from you. Why? Google knows where you live and what you have searched in the past.
  • Any website can make money. It doesn’t have to sell something. On the Internet you can earn money from “nothing” when your site ranks on Google.
  • Search engine optimization is neither advertising nor marketing – it’s not about buying ads. Google optimization is like learning how to drive while Google ads are like paying for a taxi.
  • All those who don’t like SEO should use the noindex meta tag on their sites. It prevents them from spamming the search results themselves.

Social Media

  • What would Jesus do if he lived today? He would use social media. Like Jesus you can share things without giving them away and the more you share the more they multiply.
  • Most of the blog posts written 20 years ago were as long as Facebook updates today. Thus everybody who can use Facebook can blog or actually already blogs.
  • You do not use social media – social media uses you. In cases where a tool is free you are not the customer you are the product they sell. It can be your content, your social relations, your data or all three.
  • The more you oppose something on social media like Twitter the more popular it gets! When you hate something, don’t mention it all!
  • Most social media sites use algorithms now. What does it mean? They only show you things you like and agree with. It’s called a filter bubble.

Facebook

  • The number one use of Facebook for parents is to spy on their kids. That’s why kids use Snapchat now where they can delete messages automatically.
  • Did you know that Facebook tracks you everywhere on the Web once you’re logged in?
  • You can’t delete a Facebook account. Your data stays with Facebook forever. You just lose control of it when discontinuing your Facebook account.
  • What is the business model of Facebook? Selling your friends and their private information to advertisers. Facebook even targets vulnerable teens.
  • Everything you post on Facebook is public. A friend of yours just needs to share your drunk images on his account publicly.
  • Facebook is already on the way down in the US. It sends less traffic to publishers than Google after years of dominance. It’s already on the same path as MySpace or Friendster.
  • Not being on Facebook is like not even having a TV set a few years back.
  • Facebook uses your face to advertise third party products.
  • Facebook face recognition software can recognize you on these drunk images automatically.

Google

  • Google is not a search engine. It’s not an Internet company. It’s an advertising firm. It earns more than 95% revenue from text ads. Saying Google is a search engine is like saying that McDonalds is about real estate or agriculture.
  • You can search and browse the Web without all the distracting ads from Google if you want. Just use DuckDuckGo instead and choose to hide ads.
  • Nothing you search on Google is private. They keep your search logs for 18 months. According to the Patriot Act they have to hand over the data to US authorities when asked for. Even when you’re outside the US.
  • Do you think it’s great to work for Google? They work 60+h a week. It must be great then. Who outside of China wants to work such long hours?
  • Google has discontinued more than hundreds of products and features. They might discontinue the free service you use any day.
  • Do you know what the second largest search engine is? It’s YouTube. It’s also owned by Google btw.
  • Google is not the only good search engine. You may know Bing or Yahoo but have you tried DuckDuckGo or Ecosia?

Don’t be rude but don’t let others to be rude either

Of course you have to be gentle to your family members. Believe me, the holiday season is the time of the year when everybody wants to ask

  • why you are “spamming Google”
  • when you will get “a real job”
  • why you didn’t befriend them on Facebook

Indeed you are far better off by deciding what the topic of your conversation is. Why not talk about your healthy hobbies. Yoga!

Suggest to show them right away. Immediately the room will become empty. Also some of the remarks above can actually end the conversation.

In case you wondered: all of these remarks are true! I just didn’t just want to make a link list to prove it. Look them up yourself. Nonetheless they are shocking. The truth is better not divulged during the holidays though!

The post 25+ Shocking Remarks on Search & Social Media to Ruin the Holidays 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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