When does a good thing (optimization) become too much of a good thing (over-optimization)? Where is that line, and how do we avoid crossing it? There’s no hard-and-fast answer to that. It depends on a constellation of factors, including your content and your site’s authority. In particular, the issue of over-optimized anchor text has been front and center for those concerned with how well their site performs on search engines. Experts have been touting the importance of a natural backlink profile, with links and anchor text that are varied and relevant. Changes to Google’s algorithm continue to force the issue of over-optimized anchor text, thus making it important to understand exactly how to vary anchor text on and off your site.
Forced variance of your anchor text seems like an odd concept; how can you possibly make natural what by nature isn’t natural? You can unnaturally naturally vary your anchor text in a variety of ways, in your online marketing campaigns as well as throughout your site. Here are just a few of those ways.
#1 “Naked” URLs
Your own URL is a naturally occurring anchor text in your backlink profile. No text, no optimization, just a simple raw URL hyperlinked and pointing to your site. Naked URLs could include: www.Domain.com, Domain.com, and http://www.domain.com.
We aren’t all grammar queens and kings; misspelling and grammatical errors are part of human nature. It’s expected (and moderately acceptable) that your backlink profile might contain a few misspellings.
#3 Varied Landing Pages
Not all links using your company name are going to link to your homepage, just like not all product or service related keywords are going to link to an internal page. A natural backlink profile will have links to your About Us page, staff pages, contact form and many other pages using your brand. Try varying up the landing pages for a more natural backlink profile.
#4 “Click Here” & “Read More” Type Phrases
Once the absolute horror for a link builder, “click here” or “read more” links are a welcome treat for an over-optimized backlink profile. These phrases naturally occur across the web. Avoid the urge to ask for a different anchor text and keep some of these phrases naturally occurring.
#5 Long Tail
Adding word modifiers such as “cheap”, “buy”, “online” are all ways to create long tail anchor text. Additionally words such as “an”, “in”, “the” and “of” are worthy. Add these words to an existing exact match anchor to break up the optimization and create a more natural looking hyperlink.
#6 Brand Name
If you have a strong brand you shouldn’t have to do much to encourage others to link to your site with your company’s name. The most natural backlink profile is one with very few product or service specific keywords phrases as the top anchor text. More natural is the backlink profile with iterations of the brand name occupying the top spots.
Building links with images is a good idea. By hosting a few great images on your site and inserting them into guest blog posts, articles or even banner ads, these links to your site will help diversify. Don’t forget to add descriptive text to alt tags for optimization.
#8 Synonyms and Antonyms
You might think you know exactly how someone references your product, services or brand but there are inevitably many variations when it comes to the English language. Use a thesaurus or sites such as ubersuggest.com or soovle to find creative options.
While not my favorite way of varying anchor text, somewhat irrelevant phrases or long tail terms are seen in the backlinks of a site with many links. Linking a whole sentence, even an entire quote or super long phrase can occur naturally.
#10 Upper & Lowercase
Service or product related links would look unnatural if all lowercase, right? That’s why it’s important to vary it up a bit with both upper and lowercase keyword phrases. Keywords will be at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle or even at the end — possibly with a period hyperlinked.
These are just ten of many ways to vary your anchor text. Have some additional ideas we should add to the list? Leave a comment below!
Kaila Strong is the Director of Client Strategy at Vertical Measures, a Phoenix-based search, social and content marketing company. She oversees the link building department and develops core strategies for clients to improve their internet marketing campaigns. Find her online @cliquekaila on Twitter.
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