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For this week’s blogger tips post I will be covering something very timely. Well it’s been important for a while, but these days it’s become quite crucial. Unfortunately the rules and best practices for SEO do change over time, sometimes quite quickly.
If you’re new to this series, check out some of the previous blogging tips posts:
- Choosing the Best Blog Web Hosting Sites
- Top 10 Common Mistakes I See New Bloggers Making
- 10 Recommended WordPress Plugins For Your Blog
- Google PageRank, Not Just About Links
- Blog Link Building – Not All Links Are Created Equal
- Importance of Blog Networking
- Effectively Using Keywords On Your Blog
- Optimal Blog Keyword Research for SEO
If you’re actively building links to your blog (as you most definitely should be), there are some things that you absolutely must know. This week’s post covers one of the more important factors to know. Really it should be known before you build your first link, but it’s better late than never. Since this blogging tip applies to both new and established blogs, I’ll try to make this post easy to understand. Feel free to ask questions if I get too technical.
Link Anchor Text Variation Importance
When you’re getting links for your blog, whether it be from commenting, blogrolls, directories or any other place, there is wording that is used as the clickable text for your link. This is called link anchor text. Traditionally it’s been necessary to use keywords in your link anchor text to enforce what keywords your page should be relevant for to search engines. The more links you had using that keyword phrase, the better you will rank. Google even directly told people to follow this practice. Lately that concept has been turned on its head though.
As internet marketers found more and more ways to exploit link anchor text, the search results inevitably filled up with mostly well established websites or websites with the most aggressive marketers. Search engine optimization is really a constant battle between SEO pros and search engines. Search engines want to keep their results spam-free and marketers want to push their sites up in the rankings regardless of the site’s quality.
Google’s latest chess move was to basically backtrack on their advice previously given. In other words, they decided to be a royal pain in the ass to any website marketer who has been aggressive in the past. Suddenly instead of rewarding websites that had focused on keywords, they decided that this kind of optimization should result in lower rankings. Thanks Google.
What Does Google Want Now?
In short, they want to reward natural backlink profiles…or at least ones that look natural to them. Think in terms of how a website’s links would look if they never had any marketing work done. Do you think they’d have 90% of their links all saying ‘debt consolidation loan’? Most likely not. A reputable website would naturally get links with a wide variety of anchor text, usually with extra focus on their brand name.
For example, what kind of link profile do you think Coca-Cola’s website would have? Actually, I’m curious enough to check…be right back. Not surprisingly in their 50 most used anchor texts, not a single one is a generic phrase that you think they’d want to rank well for such as cola, soft drink, soda, pop, beverage, etc. Most of their most used keyword phrases include either ‘coke’ or ‘coca cola’. Mixed in is some completely random things such as ‘click this link’ and ‘visit site’. Google thinks that every website that should be ranked well should have such a natural anchor text distribution. Companies that followed their previous advice get the short end of the stick.
That’s not to say that Coca-Cola didn’t have marketing work done, but their brand identity was so strong that they didn’t need to focus on link anchor text. They would naturally get so many links without them lifting a finger. They also had big enough marketing budgets to focus on getting their product in front of more people than anyone who would search Google for a beverage type. If they cared about that traffic they could easily throw money at pay-per-click advertising for such keywords.
The unfortunate part is how this affects all the smaller companies that were relying on organic search engine traffic. If they didn’t have name recognition and an interesting enough product, they had to find other ways to get the backlinks which would secure the search rankings. In their eyes they were just following the rules set forth by Google. Unless they had the foresight to predict this kind of move, they probably did focus on specific keywords.
Coincidentally these kind of unstable organic search results create a big surge of companies compensating by advertising with pay-per-click on Google AdWords. Maybe Google does sincerely want quality search results and nothing more, but it’s a little too convenient how this kind of thing makes them big bucks. With all the money they pay their engineers, can they not figure out a better way to rank websites? Or are they too busy designing themed logos for every holiday and dead celebrity’s birthday? Perhaps they think that if a company has a budget for SEO, they should be able to afford paid traffic from them.
So How Does This Affect Your Blog?
I do know at least one blogger who seems to have been affected by this recent Google algorithm update. He lost the majority of his search engine rankings literally overnight. From what I could see, it was probably due to how he overly focused on a single phrase with his link anchor text. He didn’t even focus on a popular keyword though. He just seemed to use his brand name in the same format for the bulk of his links. He really should have varied that somehow.
With blogs it is fairly natural to acquire a lot of links using your brand name as anchor text, but Google doesn’t care. They want you to be more like the big brands. They expect more random phrases to be used for anchor text and different variations of your brand name. Maybe instead of just ‘xyz blog’, you’d also get links spread across other phrases such as xyzblog.com, xyz, the xyz blog, Jeremy @ xyz blog, click here, favorite blog, etc. Focusing on a single phrase makes it obvious that your are artificially building links.
I don’t know the exact percentages thagt push you over the limit, but I’d be concerned about any keyword that is used for over 20% of your links. It is possible that your brand may get more leeway. For your info, you can check your most used anchor text variations with a site such as ahrefs.com.
This variation should be on a page by page basis. If you have a post that targets a specific keyword phrase, you can no longer expect it to rank well just by throwing a ton of keyword rich links at it. That is unless you use natural looking variation. Do your link building in an artificial fashion and it very well could catch up to you eventually.
While this is how Google is ranking websites today, we don’t know how they’ll rank websites tomorrow. Sometimes you have to look at it all from their point of view. If they are fighting a battle against spammers, the last thing you want is any kind of activity that makes you look like a spammer too. Avoid getting caught in the crossfire.
Building links may seem easy enough, but building links that Google likes it getting tougher all the time. Check back in the following weeks for more tips of things you should be careful with when marketing your blog.