When it comes to link building one of the most important aspects of it is the optimisation of the actual link. Whether getting the link voluntarily or by contacting webmasters, you have to exert the utmost influence on the link itself. Unfortunately this is also a Catch 22.
When you start controlling the appearance of your link it stops being a natural link.
Thus Google can use filters on such a link to determine it’s ”manufactured”.
So there is a really volatile relationship between links being natural and useful for SEO. Most successful SEO techniques have been abused in the past by spammers so that Google tweaks its algo to curb overtly artificial link building.
Examples of such devalued links are:
- Reciprocal links
- Footer links
- Site-wide links
- Off-topic links
- Exact match anchor text links.
None of these tactics is by itself ”evil”. It’s just their overuse that leads to penalties. Indeed I was reviewing one of my favorite SEO companies to find all of these techniques used in a fairly legitimate way and indeed combined. Let me explain:
Reciprocal links: This SEO company linked to its clients in their case studies and the clients linked back to them.
Footer links: The client sites were linking to them in their footers as it was “who built the site” info nobody expected to see in the content itself.
Site-wide links: Because the footer was added to every single page on the site, the footer links were site-wide, adding up to dozens, hundreds or even thousands
Off-topic links: A fashion or car website linking to a web design and SEO agency is not really a relevant context.
Exact match anchor text links: As the company has built the clients’ sites as a whole, most of the clients had a typical “web design by x” link added where web design was the actual anchor text.
So you see all these techniques by themselves are quite natural; many websites link their web designers like this. Combined, these links look very artificial though. Spammy paid links look very similar in many cases.
Let us return for a while to the concept of a healthy natural link profile. You do not want just each link to be of SEO benefit. You also want to have a healthy natural link profile as a whole. Such a profile is including nofollow and scraper links. An abnormal link profile raises a red flag for the Google algo.
You might get penalised for perceived paid or low quality links without even having them. Depending on the industry, niche or even language of your site, a healthy link profile might look different. So it does not make sense to create another faulty ”keyword density” that allows you to find the perfect numbers for each one link type.
One again it’s common sense that will guide you through the link context and anchor text optimisation. Let me show you the advice I had for this particular colleague of mine:
Write a post or at least a short paragraph about yourself, or let your clients introduce you on their blog or site. Do not just add the link. Introduce the site you are linking to.
Do not only link the generic text as in ”web design”. Link to ”web design by x” or ”thank you to our web designers from x”. Insert your brand for x.
Make it readable
Do not hide the link and its context in the footer or somewhere where nobody will read it. Let them proclaim it right there where we can see and read it. After all, they like your services, don’t they?
Less is more
Linking to you on 2000 pages does not make sense in many cases. One laser targeted page may bring even more leads. Search engines like Google can count links of course, and group them together so that 2000 links from one site is not much better than just one or two.
Treat each link as an individual
Do not use a template or require your link partners always to link in a certain manner. Ask them to include your brand and services, and let them do it themselves or suggest a way that’s appropriate for each site.
Now you could argue that all these link optimisation techniques work only when you actually engage in artificial link building by contacting other webmasters. You can apply the same rules to link bait as well. People are lazy, especially on the Web, so that they share and link in a quick and dirty way.
The title, headline and first sentence or paragraph of the linked-to page will often be the text used to link to you.
Also, typical linkbait techniques like badges, widgets, infographics or downloads can by their very nature be only displayed in certain places and contexts.
Thus you can influence the outcome of your link baiting efforts by creating a badge that is small enough to fit in the sidebar but big enough not to be placed in the footer. Infographics often include an embed code. You could even run a script that randomly chooses one from several anchor text options.
Aside from the technical aspects, Google displays a tendency of trusting brands more and more over the years, so that focusing on generic keyword rich anchor texts is probably the most widely overused SEO techniques nowadays. It might still work; even the other outdated SEO practices mentioned above have all worked in the past. It’s far easier to influence a link when it is put up on a page than trying to fix it afterwards.
Also, don’t change everything at once when fixing your links and anchor texts and adapting to a newer algorithm. It’s pretty certain that link history and stability is taken into account as well, so that links that appear and disappear potentially raise another red flag. Your natural link profile does not change overnight. It grows and withers organically. Don’t hurry when applying changes. Otherwise you might look like a spammer to the indifferent bots.
* Image by Oceanik.