Anchor text is a powerful tool that can help you rank in link building.
Youssef: I have something to ask about what Bryan said. It brought something to me. Even though I do link-building, I don’t understand this that much. So, he mentioned something about which anchor text we should choose. For example, when we build links for our clients, backlinks, not internal links, how do you know which anchor text and which link we need to use for each client? I still don’t know this.
David: Yes. So, that’s a super question. And I’m sorry to say that I failed training you in link-building if you’re asking it at this point. So, my atonement for failing you, Youssef, is having to…
Youssef: It’s my fault too. I don’t know that much about SEO, I guess.
David: No, you do. You’re a good link builder. We’re going to talk about this. So, I’ll start talking about the Curious Ants process, and I’m going to go a little bit bigger. So, with Curious Ants, one of the steps is to do keyword research. Right? And we figure out all the different things our customers could be searching for to find our clients’ websites. Right? And then, one of the steps is to divide those lists of keywords into certain topics. And each page of the website has a topic. And so, we map it out. We say this page is about blue widgets. This page is about red widgets. This page is about short widgets. This page is about long widgets, right? So, we have four pages and four different kinds of widgets. Well, we have a map that says this page focuses on this topic, this page on this, right? That helps us keep track. Not only what we’re optimizing each page for but what we would like the anchor text to look like towards that page. Because if we’re optimizing a page for blue widgets, we would like to see links from other websites with variations of the phrase, blue widgets are linking to that page. Here is an example from real life. So, this is usually a good analogy for people in the United States. But I think you two can understand this. You heard about an American President a few years ago named George Bush. He was very famous because he started the Gulf War in the Persian Gulf. And he was very controversial in the United States, very controversial because some people felt that he was a warmonger and did not appreciate him. I don’t want to debate that with you, but I do want to point out that a bunch of SEO people got his page on the White House website to rank in Google for the words “miserable failure.” The word miserable nor the word failure were on that page, but it’s still ranked in Google for “miserable failure.”
Youssef: Because they were using the anchor text “miserable failure?”
David: Yes. Yeah, exactly. A bunch and bunch of people used the phrase “miserable failure” and built links to that page. Eventually, Google said that the page must be about miserable failure and ranked the page. So this is called the Google bomb. It’s where theoretically, you could build enough links with enough anchor texts and make any page rank for anything you want. Now, this was way back in 2006 or 2007. So, that’s ancient history in the SEO world. That’s really old. Google has said publicly that it no longer works. That they have corrected the algorithm, and you can’t do that anymore. Well, after George Bush was president, President Obama replaced him. Okay. The president after George Bush was President Obama. When President Obama took office, and you did a Google search for miserable failure, his page ranked for miserable failure, too, because those links are still pointing to the same page, even though the page is about Obama now and no longer about Bush.
David: So, that should tell you how important anchor text links are for Google’s algorithm. Now that’s an exaggerated example because thousands and thousands of links were built in this case.
David: I’d suggest today the modern algorithm would actually penalize a page for that many anchor text links for one phrase. If you had thousands of links to a page with the same anchor text, I think Google would suppress it because it would know something funny is going on and wouldn’t trust it. It would figure out that people are trying to manipulate the algorithm to get something to rank for something else.
David: So, the current thinking about link-building and anchor text is we don’t need a lot of anchor text-rich links to get a page to rank for a phrase. We still need some, but we don’t need a lot. And this is why, Youssef, when I trained you with link-building, we have not talked a lot about this.
David: Because you have to be very, very careful when you’re building exact anchor text links to a page because Google really pays attention to that because it works. And if you want to get in trouble with Google, and you’re not careful, you could get really crazy carried away and find your website, if not banned, what Google can do is rank your website lower artificially for a particular query that it thinks you’re trying to manipulate for. So, if we built a hundred links to our blue widget page with the anchor text “blue widgets,” even if it’s the best page in the universe about blue widgets, Google may push it to the second page because it knows we’re trying too hard.
Youssef: What if it was a really, really good article and many links to us, like generally?
David: Yeah. Well, there you go. So, if it was organic… But that’s what the algorithm is trying to decide. It’s trying to figure out, did someone manipulate this? Or is this sincerely true and organic? The safest play of any link building is the homepage with the company’s name, which will never be a problem for Google. Right?
Youssef: Yeah, true.
David: But if that’s all we do, it might not help, either. There is this balance, and that’s why, before we do any link building, I make sure everybody knows what Google says about link schemes. Google has a document called Link Schemes that everyone should read before you do link building because you need to be aware of the rules, or Google will, at best, ignore the links you build, which means you’ve just wasted your time or at worst, it will kick your website out of the index, and you won’t rank for anything.
David: So, you need to be aware of the rules, and the rules are very strict. So, then we have this balancing act of, in order to do good SEO, I have to do link building. But is any link-building acceptable by Google? One reading of the way Google’s rules are written says you cannot build any links.
David: And so, if you’re going to be too conservative, you don’t try it. But I’d suggest there’s a happy medium of we’re going out and intentionally building links, but we’re also not doing it solely to manipulate the search results. So, we live in this balanced world of I do not want to get one of my client’s websites banned, so I play conservatively. But I still push it. I still need links. Because I’m competing against people who have no problem getting their client’s website banned, and Youssef, one of our clients, who we will not talk about by name publicly, their competitor got banned by Google because they were doing bad link-building. And so, we just went whoop and jumped right up ahead of them.
David: And then, they started back to their full tactics after a while. So, anyway, that’s what anchor text is all about. And that’s why I’d be really careful with it, which is probably why we haven’t talked about it very much.
Youssef: Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah, thanks.
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