After Penguin, link building was forever changed. Google and other search engines began cracking down on spammy link practices in the form of link buying schemes and producing thin content for backlink acquisitions.
Many SEO experts still maintain that anchor text remains a partial factor in determining rank and link relevance, even if it’s importance has been devalued over the past decade. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, there exists a fine line between optimizing anchor text for backlink portfolios and over-optimizing.
So what are the safest methods to include anchor text in your backlink portfolio without receiving a Penguin penalty? This further leads us to ask how important anchor text remains for our backlink strategy and whether we should bother optimizing them?
What is Anchor Text?
First, let’s define what anchor text is. Anchor text represents the clickable portion of a hyperlink commonly found within a webpage’s content and navigation bars. The anchor text should signify the topic of the landing page being linked to.
Webmasters utilize targeted keywords as anchor text in an attempt to index their webpages categorially for specific keywords and phrases.
History of Anchor Text
Anchor text once played a prominent role in Google’s PageRank algorithm. Of course, the ability to insert your own customized anchor text that was a direct line to ranking better led to malicious black-hat link building practices.
These practices led to numerous Google bombs, where users created web pages using keyword-rich anchor text links to rank celebrities for specific keywords. Repeatedly linking various George W. Bush webpages with the anchor text “miserable failure”, users were able to rank George W. Bush as the top 3 results for the search “miserable failure”.
Google bombing ended in 2007, but users were still able to rank their webpages highly for uncompetitive niche keywords by spamming the internet with exact match anchor text. Penguin changed all of this in 2012 and websites began to receive harsh penalties for receiving too many exact match anchor text links from other websites.
Under Penguin, Google actually factored the frequency of exact match anchor text links that pointed back to a user’s website to determine manipulation. Penguin also took the ratio of how different anchor text forms were used to determine manipulation, as well as the sources of the links.