Remember Google Penguin updates? Of course you do! If you’re one of the SEOs that got your sites penalised by the updates, you’ll probably be a little cautious of keyword anchor text links. But are they really the devil they’re made out to be?
Fear of using keywords in anchor text has led to many SEOs discarding the practice altogether. Of course, a natural and balanced link profile will have all kinds of links with all kinds of anchor text, but they’ll naturally be around the brand or the products they sell.
Just a few years ago one of the easiest ways to get a keyword to rank higher on Google was to use that keyword as anchor text. Put the keyword in an article about that keyword, link to your site and you would see a ranking improvement.
There are many situations where getting a link, using generic anchor text just aren’t a contextual fit. For example, a user reading a piece of content with a group review of products will be happy to click the name of the product and be taken to a point of sale.
With links like that, I say go for it – keyword anchor text that link up. But be smart about it and make sure the text makes sense in the sentence, not just contextually. No more “buy used cars Southampton” shoehorned into every sentence with a keyword anchor text link each time.
To be fair, this works better with products than it does with services and locations, because it sort of feels natural to click on a product name. In fact, we expect it when we’re shopping online. That doesn’t mean that there’s no situation where it can’t work for services and localities too – you’ve just got to play it smart and give each situation individual treatment.
I won’t go on about the Penguin update too much – by this point, anyone with an interest in SEO knows what it’s about. It targets sites with abundant links that look unnatural and the site is then penalised.
So What Should You Do?
Each link needs to be treated differently. It’s funny – pre 2012, SEOs would be thinking about getting their links in thousands at a time. Now, it’s almost on a one-by-one basis (or at least it should be).
Remember it’s not just the anchor text – the source and context are important too. Let’s say you make an great piece of content. You share the post and do some outreach to influencers, the title is probably going to find its way into the anchor text linking to it several times. Not by force, but by nature. And that’s a good thing. You should encourage it. If you get the same anchor text in every link you acquire, don’t start freaking out that Penguin is coming for you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You did EVERYTHING right. The content is great and the title is on point (and just so happens to be a keyword). Most importantly, people love it and it’s getting shared.
Always aim for that kind of link – the one your user made. If they make it with keyword anchor text, then you did a good job!