Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

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.

More Articles

WordPress robots.txt: Best-practice example for SEO

Your robots.txt file is a powerful tool when you’re working on a website’s SEO – but it should be handled with care. It allows you to deny search engines access to different files and folders, but often that’s not the best way to optimize your site. Here, we’ll explain how we think webmasters should use their robots.txt file, and propose a ‘best practice’ approach suitable for most websites.

You’ll find a robots.txt example that works for the vast majority of WordPress websites further down this page. If want to know more about how your robots.txt file works, you can read our ultimate guide to robots.txt.

What does “best practice” look like?

Search engines continually improve the way in which they crawl the web and index content. That means what used to be best practice a few years ago doesn’t work anymore, or, may even harm your site.

Today, best practice means relying on your robots.txt file as little as possible. In fact, it’s only really necessary to block URLs in your robots.txt file when you have complex technical challenges (e.g., a large eCommerce website with faceted navigation), or when there’s no other option.

Blocking URLs via robots.txt is a ‘brute force’ approach, and can cause more problems than it solves.

For most WordPress sites, the following example is best practice:

# This space intentionally left blank
# If you want to learn about why our robots.txt looks like this, read this post: https://yoa.st/robots-txt
User-agent: *

We even use this approach in our own robots.txt file.

What does this code do?

  • The User-agent: * instruction states that any following instructions apply to all crawlers.
  • Because we don’t provide any further instructions, we’re saying “all crawlers can freely crawl this site without restriction”.
  • We also provide some information for humans looking at the file (linking to this very page), so that they understand why the file is ’empty’.

If you have to disallow URLs

If you want to prevent search engines from crawling or indexing certain parts of your WordPress site, it’s almost always better to do so by adding meta robots tags or robots HTTP headers.

Our ultimate guide to meta robots tags explains how you can manage crawling and indexing ‘the right way’, and our Yoast SEO plugin provides the tools to help you implement those tags on your pages.

If your site has crawling or indexing challenges that can’t be fixed via meta robots tags or HTTP headers, or if you need to prevent crawler access for other reasons, you should read our ultimate guide to robots.txt.

Note that WordPress and Yoast SEO already automatically prevent indexing of some sensitive files and URLs, like your WordPress admin area (via an x-robots HTTP header).

Why is this ‘minimalism’ best practice?

Robots.txt creates dead ends

Before you can compete for visibility in the search results, search engines need to discover, crawl and index your pages. If you’ve blocked certain URLs via robots.txt, search engines can no longer crawl through those pages to discover others. That might mean that key pages don’t get discovered.

Robots.txt denies links their value

One of the basic rules of SEO is that links from other pages can influence your performance. If a URL is blocked, not only won’t search engines crawl it, but they also might not distribute any ‘link value’ pointing to that URL to, or through that URL to other pages on the site.

Google fully renders your site

People used to block access to CSS and JavaScript files in order to keep search engines focused on those all-important content pages.

Nowadays, Google fetches all of your styling and JavaScript and renders your pages completely. Understanding your page’s layout and presentation is a key part of how it evaluates quality. So Google doesn’t like it at all when you deny it access to your CSS or JavaScript files.

Previous best practice of blocking access to your wp-includes directory and your plugins directory via robots.txt is no longer valid, which is why we worked with WordPress to remove the default disallow rule for wp-includes in version 4.0.

Many WordPress themes also use asynchronous JavaScript requests – so-called AJAX – to add content to web pages. WordPress used to block Google from this by default, but we fixed this in WordPress 4.4.

You (usually) don’t need to link to your sitemap

The robots.txt standard supports adding a link to your XML sitemap(s) to the file. This helps search engines to discover the location and contents of your site.

We’ve always felt that this was redundant; you should already by adding your sitemap to your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts in order to access analytics and performance data. If you’ve done that, then you don’t need the reference in your robots.txt file.

Read more: Preventing your site from being indexed: the right way »

The post WordPress robots.txt: Best-practice example for SEO appeared first on Yoast.

Read More »

AMP'd Up for Recaptcha

Beyond search Google controls the leading distributed ad network, the leading mobile OS, the leading web browser, the leading email client, the leading web analytics platform, the leading mapping platform, the leading free video hosting site.

They win a lot.

And they take winnings from one market & leverage them into manipulating adjacent markets.

Embrace. Extend. Extinguish.

AMP is an utterly unnecessary invention designed to further shift power to Google while disenfranchising publishers. From the very start it had many issues with basic things like supporting JavaScript, double counting unique users (no reason to fix broken stats if they drive adoption!), not supporting third party ad networks, not showing publisher domain names, and just generally being a useless layer of sunk cost technical overhead that provides literally no real value.

Over time they have corrected some of these catastrophic deficiencies, but if it provided real value, they wouldn’t have needed to force adoption with preferential placement in their search results. They force the bundling because AMP sucks.

Absurdity knows no bounds. Googlers suggest: “AMP isn’t another “channel” or “format” that’s somehow not the web. It’s not a SEO thing. It’s not a replacement for HTML. It’s a web component framework that can power your whole site. … We, the AMP team, want AMP to become a natural choice for modern web development of content websites, and for you to choose AMP as framework because it genuinely makes you more productive.”

Meanwhile some newspapers have about a dozen employees who work on re-formatting content for AMP:

The AMP development team now keeps track of whether AMP traffic drops suddenly, which might indicate pages are invalid, and it can react quickly.

All this adds expense, though. There are setup, development and maintenance costs associated with AMP, mostly in the form of time. After implementing AMP, the Guardian realized the project needed dedicated staff, so it created an 11-person team that works on AMP and other aspects of the site, drawing mostly from existing staff.

Feeeeeel the productivity!

Some content types (particularly user generated content) can be unpredictable & circuitous. For many years forums websites would use keywords embedded in the search referral to highlight relevant parts of the page. Keyword (not provided) largely destroyed that & then it became a competitive feature for AMP: “If the Featured Snippet links to an AMP article, Google will sometimes automatically scroll users to that section and highlight the answer in orange.”

That would perhaps be a single area where AMP was more efficient than the alternative. But it is only so because Google destroyed the alternative by stripping keyword referrers from search queries.

The power dynamics of AMP are ugly:

“I see them as part of the effort to normalise the use of the AMP Carousel, which is an anti-competitive land-grab for the web by an organisation that seems to have an insatiable appetite for consuming the web, probably ultimately to it’s own detriment. … This enables Google to continue to exist after the destination site (eg the New York Times) has been navigated to. Essentially it flips the parent-child relationship to be the other way around. … As soon as a publisher blesses a piece of content by packaging it (they have to opt in to this, but see coercion below), they totally lose control of its distribution. … I’m not that smart, so it’s surely possible to figure out other ways of making a preload possible without cutting off the content creator from the people consuming their content. … The web is open and decentralised. We spend a lot of time valuing the first of these concepts, but almost none trying to defend the second. Google knows, perhaps better than anyone, how being in control of the user is the most monetisable position, and having the deepest pockets and the most powerful platform to do so, they have very successfully inserted themselves into my relationship with millions of other websites. … In AMP, the support for paywalls is based on a recommendation that the premium content be included in the source of the page regardless of the user’s authorisation state. … These policies demonstrate contempt for others’ right to freely operate their businesses.

After enough publishers adopted AMP Google was able to turn their mobile app’s homepage into an interactive news feed below the search box. And inside that news feed Google gets to distribute MOAR ads while 0% of the revenue from those ads find its way to the publishers whose content is used to make up the feed.

Appropriate appropriation. 😀

Thank you for your content!!!

The mainstream media is waking up to AMP being a trap, but their neck is already in it:

European and American tech, media and publishing companies, including some that originally embraced AMP, are complaining that the Google-backed technology, which loads article pages in the blink of an eye on smartphones, is cementing the search giant’s dominance on the mobile web.

Each additional layer of technical cruft is another cost center. Things that sound appealing at first blush may not be:

The way you verify your identity to Let’s Encrypt is the same as with other certificate authorities: you don’t really. You place a file somewhere on your website, and they access that file over plain HTTP to verify that you own the website. The one attack that signed certificates are meant to prevent is a man-in-the-middle attack. But if someone is able to perform a man-in-the-middle attack against your website, then he can intercept the certificate verification, too. In other words, Let’s Encrypt certificates don’t stop the one thing they’re supposed to stop. And, as always with the certificate authorities, a thousand murderous theocracies, advertising companies, and international spy organizations are allowed to impersonate you by design.

Anything that is easy to implement & widely marketed often has costs added to it in the future as the entity moves to monetize the service.

This is a private equity firm buying up multiple hosting control panels & then adjusting prices.

This is Google Maps drastically changing their API terms.

This is Facebook charging you for likes to build an audience, giving your competitors access to those likes as an addressable audience to advertise against, and then charging you once more to boost the reach of your posts.

This is Grubhub creating shadow websites on your behalf and charging you for every transaction created by the gravity of your brand.

Shivane believes GrubHub purchased her restaurant’s web domain to prevent her from building her own online presence. She also believes the company may have had a special interest in owning her name because she processes a high volume of orders. … it appears GrubHub has set up several generic, templated pages that look like real restaurant websites but in fact link only to GrubHub. These pages also display phone numbers that GrubHub controls. The calls are forwarded to the restaurant, but the platform records each one and charges the restaurant a commission fee for every order

Settling for the easiest option drives a lack of differentiation, embeds additional risk & once the dominant player has enough marketshare they’ll change the terms on you.

Small gains in short term margins for massive increases in fragility.

“Closed platforms increase the chunk size of competition & increase the cost of market entry, so people who have good ideas, it is a lot more expensive for their productivity to be monetized. They also don’t like standardization … it looks like rent seeking behaviors on top of friction” – Gabe Newell

The other big issue is platforms that run out of growth space in their core market may break integrations with adjacent service providers as each want to grow by eating the other’s market.

Those who look at SaaS business models through the eyes of a seasoned investor will better understand how markets are likely to change:

“I’d argue that many of today’s anointed tech “disruptors” are doing little in the way of true disruption. … When investors used to get excited about a SAAS company, they typically would be describing a hosted multi-tenant subscription-billed piece of software that was replacing a ‘legacy’ on-premise perpetual license solution in the same target market (i.e. ERP, HCM, CRM, etc.). Today, the terms SAAS and Cloud essentially describe the business models of every single public software company.

Most platform companies are initially required to operate at low margins in order to buy growth of their category & own their category. Then when they are valued on that, they quickly need to jump across to adjacent markets to grow into the valuation:

Twilio has no choice but to climb up the application stack. This is a company whose ‘disruption’ is essentially great API documentation and gangbuster SEO spend built on top of a highly commoditized telephony aggregation API. They have won by marketing to DevOps engineers. With all the hype around them, you’d think Twilio invented the telephony API, when in reality what they did was turn it into a product company. Nobody had thought of doing this let alone that this could turn into a $17 billion company because simply put the economics don’t work. And to be clear they still don’t. But Twilio’s genius CEO clearly gets this. If the market is going to value robocalls, emergency sms notifications, on-call pages, and carrier fee passed through related revenue growth in the same way it does ‘subscription’ revenue from Atlassian or ServiceNow, then take advantage of it while it lasts.

Large platforms offering temporary subsidies to ensure they dominate their categories & companies like SoftBank spraying capital across the markets is causing massive shifts in valuations:

I also think if you look closely at what is celebrated today as innovation you often find models built on hidden subsidies. … I’d argue the very distributed nature of microservices architecture and API-first product companies means addressable market sizes and unit economics assumptions should be even more carefully scrutinized. … How hard would it be to create an Alibaba today if someone like SoftBank was raining money into such a greenfield space? Excess capital would lead to destruction and likely subpar returns. If capital was the solution, the 1.5 trillion that went into telcos in late ’90s wouldn’t have led to a massive bust. Would a Netflix be what it is today if a SoftBank was pouring billions into streaming content startups right as the experiment was starting? Obviously not. Scarcity of capital is another often underappreciated part of the disruption equation. Knowing resources are finite leads to more robust models. … This convergence is starting to manifest itself in performance. Disney is up 30% over the last 12 months while Netflix is basically flat. This may not feel like a bubble sign to most investors, but from my standpoint, it’s a clear evidence of the fact that we are approaching a something has got to give moment for the way certain businesses are valued.”

Circling back to Google’s AMP, it has a cousin called Recaptcha.

Recaptcha is another AMP-like trojan horse:

According to tech statistics website Built With, more than 650,000 websites are already using reCaptcha v3; overall, there are at least 4.5 million websites use reCaptcha, including 25% of the top 10,000 sites. Google is also now testing an enterprise version of reCaptcha v3, where Google creates a customized reCaptcha for enterprises that are looking for more granular data about users’ risk levels to protect their site algorithms from malicious users and bots. … According to two security researchers who’ve studied reCaptcha, one of the ways that Google determines whether you’re a malicious user or not is whether you already have a Google cookie installed on your browser. … To make this risk-score system work accurately, website administrators are supposed to embed reCaptcha v3 code on all of the pages of their website, not just on forms or log-in pages.

About a month ago when logging into Bing Ads I saw recaptcha on the login page & couldn’t believe they’d give Google control at that access point. I think they got rid of that, but lots of companies are perhaps shooting themselves in the foot through a combination of over-reliance on Google infrastructure AND sloppy implementation

Today when making a purchase on Fiverr, after converting, I got some of this action

Hmm. Maybe I will enable JavaScript and try again.

Oooops.

That is called snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

My account is many years old. My payment type on record has been used for years. I have ordered from the particular seller about a dozen times over the years. And suddenly because my web browser had JavaScript turned off I was deemed a security risk of some sort for making an utterly ordinary transaction I have already completed about a dozen times.

On AMP JavaScript was the devil. And on desktop not JavaScript was the devil.

Pro tip: Ecommerce websites that see substandard conversion rates from using Recaptcha can boost their overall ecommerce revenue by buying more Google AdWords ads.

As more of the infrastructure stack is driven by AI software there is going to be a very real opportunity for many people to become deplatformed across the web on an utterly arbitrary basis. That tech companies like Facebook also want to create digital currencies on top of the leverage they already have only makes the proposition that much scarier.

If the tech platforms host copies of our sites, process the transactions & even create their own currencies, how will we know what level of value they are adding versus what they are extracting?

Who measures the measurer?

And when the economics turn negative, what will we do if we are hooked into an ecosystem we can’t spend additional capital to get out of when things head south?

Categories: 

Read More »

What’s Your Name and How to Use it for a Site or Blog?

Hello! My name is John Smith! You can call me agent Smith. What’s your name? Come on! That’s an innocent question, isn’t it?

OK, I admit it! I tricked you. My name is not Smith. It could have been though. There are so many of them!

My real name is truly bizarre for most English speakers and no person can really pronounce it let alone memorize it. When you’re a secret agent on the Matrix it’s hard to blend in with that one.

Why Using Your Real Name May Be a Problem

Do you get my point? You most probably can’t simply use your name for a website or blog. Even when you are John Smith you will face difficulties.

Why not come up with a cool name like Neo, Trinity, Morpheus or even Cypher instead? They may already be taken too.

You have to actively decide what your name is or come up with a nickname, business name or brand name. Then you can start a blog or create a website.

In this post we will learn how to choose a name for your blog, website, business or even yourself. Then we will see how that name or names will fit onto your blog or website.

What’s in a Name? How to Put it There?

When you started out on the Web in the late nineties it was liberating. You could communicate with people all over the world in an instant! Hooray!

The times when you were stuck with schoolmates or neighbors who weren’t interested at all in you or what you love were over. You could find like-minded individuals all over the planet now!

Now that it was possible to connect with Europeans or Asians there was a new issue. They needed to be able to know who you are. It was not just the cultural background (where you were born) but also who you actually were now (your self chosen identity based on interests).

Prejudice didn’t matter as much anymore as before the Web.

  • Religion
  • Skin color
  • Political affiliation

Who cared as long as you had the same hobby online?

on the Internet nobody knew that you’re a dog!” – Peter Steiner

We didn’t even use avatars in those early days on the Web and real names weren’t the norm until Facebook convinced most of us to give up anonymity roughly ten years later.

For most services short and crisp nicknames were required, the same applied to mail addresses and website names or domains.

The Web has changed a lot ever since but names pose still the same challenges now.

  • Do you really want to use your real name? Can it work?
  • Do you need a name for your business, website or blog or does a generic description like “x-services-atlanta” suffice?
  • Is calling a blog simply “blog” good for memorability?
  • Why do people need to memorize your name at all in times of Google?

As you see, there are a lot of questions that we have to ask ourselves before going online. Your nationality, ethnic or even religious background are contained in your name.

You may have a beautiful name like Goldberg but because it’s Jewish some people may be affected by their prejudice against Jews. Prejudice affects other religions and ethnic backgrounds too. That’s the sad reality.

A personal or business website should deal with the topic you choose not automatically your birthplace or parents. You can still be who you choose to be on the Web!

Should You Use Your Real Name for Your Site?

Are you one of the few lucky people who have the perfect online name from birth? It needs to be less common than John Smith but more memorable than my outlandish name. It also needs to be more unique than John Smith so that you can register a domain name like ideally .com for it.

As you may imagine johnsmith.com is already registered. At the same time my name is still available. Would it be a wise decision to use it for a website though?

Even in case you’d decide to use your real name for a domain it would be very easy to get mixed up with all kinds of people with the same name when you’re John Smith or have some other common English name.

Many Asian bloggers and website owners face the opposite issue. They have very long names with uncommon character combinations so that people in other countries can’t read, pronounce or memorize their names.

Only use ethnic sounding names when they really matter. Think kosher food or Chinese restaurants.

The founder of Namecheap – the company behind EasyWP who pays for that post – has both a unique and memorable name: Richard Kirkendall. Yet he chose to name the company after the main product – domain names.

The second part refers to pricing obviously. it worked well for many years. Yet down the road with many new products and services added the name was also limiting. what about premium products? They aren’t cheap.

Even when owning a domain name for John Smith has its drawbacks beyond being too common. Most people outside English speaking countries can’t pronounce or sometimes even spell the English “th”. Let me summarize:

real names alone are rarely a good option for a domain or website name.

You have plenty of name options for everybody who hasn’t the perfect real name. Also remember that marriage and divorce can change you name significantly so that using your real name for a website or business is not always the best option even when it works fine initially.

How to Choose a Website Name Without Embarrassing Yourself

Screenshot from Namecheap.com

What’s your online name then? Is it a business name or personal name? When your personal name is too complicated you may choose your business name for a website or you may have to come up with a business name in the first place.

You may also combine personal and business name. For example you can use a nickname for a business as well. When Web was still new many people at first experimented a lot with nicknames. Online most of the early adopters used a lot of different and often bizarre nicknames.

Some of them mimicked existing names or brand names. Others were ambiguous and some completely made up. Many early nicknames led to some embarrassing misunderstandings sooner or later and felt awkward when people would address you by a name that was not really yours. It felt like a fake.

Many of us ended up with a fully made up nickname. Ideally it’s also a pun. Make sure your website is

  • short
  • unique
  • simply spelled
  • easy to understand
  • memorable

unlike John Smith’s name to make it work well on the Web. Even Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and SparkToro has similar advice for you.

Some people even use programming or coding languages to come up with names for their sites. JavaScript is often used as inspiration.

A site or blog with such an ambiguous and very specific name is which is also a so called “JavaScript event handler” is called onfocus.com – it’s name matches its subject matter (photography) perfectly and thus I remembered it even after many years. It’s not just a pun it also has actual meaning related to whit it covers. Yet even that was not unique enough. Another site called onfocus.news is up by now.

As you see it’s hard to come up with a name that will last for many years to come but as long as it does for a few years you are already pretty good.

When you just want to set up a personal website for the rest of your life you may want to prefer your actual real name. Ideally you have both, a personal site with your name and a business site with a made up specific name to stay findable and visible online for as long as possible.

Sometimes the Best of All Options is a Combination of Them

Even a great name like Rand Fishkin or Brian Dean is not always the best option as it’s original meaning is lost. Rand has nothing to do with fish, Brian is not a dean and John not a smith. Ideally you also express what you do in your website name!

What can you do then? Combine the best parts! Name things you cover or offer by name not just yourself!

  1. What’s your first name?
  2. What is your primary topic you cover or business you’re in?
  3. Where are you or your visitors based?

For a local business that’s easy and most small business business are still local in nature these days. John’s Bakery Brooklyn may perfectly suffice and even lead to more search visitors looking for a baker in Brooklyn!

You are planning to expand in future? Maybe limiting your domain name or website to a location is not a good idea then! John’s Bakery may be too broad then. What’s your specialty though? John’s Vegan Bakery maybe? That’s already pretty unique again.

When you add a blog to it something funny would be more memorable than just a mere “blog”. johnsveganbakery.com/thedailybread

This is almost perfect for more than just a local audience. A blog is read all over the place not just around the corner so it’s a good fit!

You could also make it the other way around. Brooklynsveganbakery.com would draw even more local customers. It’s about long and descriptive though. Again a pun or ambiguity could help. Thedailybread.blog could also work well as a standalone domain name.

When it comes to real names you can also put them elsewhere in your site. My favorite places are the title tag that’s only visible when you look for it or the about page. Instead of a generic about page you can add the real name to the address right away. example.com/about-john-smith

You Can Choose More than One Name

No matter how long you search for the perfect website or domain name you won’t find the silver bullet.

Sometimes it’s better to register more than one domain and redirect the secondary names to the main one. This way you get the best options all in one. You can use both your real name, a nickname and a made up name along with the descriptive domain name then.

In our example it could mean something like this:

johnsbakerybrooklyn.com
thedailybread.blog
johnsmithbakernyc.me

could all lead to

brooklynsveganbakery.com
johnsbakerybrooklyn.com 

would redirect to them homepage.

thedailybread.blog would be rerouted to the brooklynsveganbakery.com/thedailybread address.

johnsmithbakernyc.me could send visitors to the about-john-smith page.

All of these are fine but quite long so at the end of the day you may want to also find a short domain name as well o redirect to those. Something like jbbny.com would make the cut. There is even a similar domain name out on Web for many years: jfbny.com

No matter what name you decide to choose make sure to focus on promoting one address in future and not changing it unless you have really compelling reasons to rebrand or rename your site.

When all else fails you can just use something completely unrelated! Do you think that’s crazy? The biggest tech and online brands use names that have no connection to their business whatsoever. They are not even metaphors!

  1. Amazon doesn’t sell trips to the Brazilian rainforest.
  2. Apple isn’t into agriculture at all or fruits in particular.
  3. Google hasn’t been associated with goo despite its name.

When coming up with a website name or brand for a startup you may want to be less descriptive and rather memorable like those corporations.

No matter what website and domain name you choose one thing is clear. You still need one despite Facebook and all the other tools that try to replace personal and business websites. Here’s why:

This is an infographic by Mike Blumenthal that has been published years ago but which is truer than ever. Your name and your website are the core of your online presence. Facebook and other tools are marginal and can’t replace it.

Once you have come up with a name for your site or blog you can decide how the rest of your address will look like. Make sure to think about that first! Here is some help: an article of mine explaining ways to structure WordPress permalinks.

The post What’s Your Name and How to Use it for a Site or Blog? appeared first on SEO 2.0.

Read More »
Scroll to Top