As an SEO, you already know the importance that anchor text selection plays in the ranking game. Choosing the right anchors is a constant balance between pushing up your keywords while simultaneously dodging Penguin penalties.
The first step in anchor text selection is finding your niche specific target anchor text distribution. If you haven’t read my previous article I suggest you go back and review before proceeding forward. Otherwise, get a pen and paper handy because I’m about to drop 6 anchor text selection tricks that will allow you to blow past your competition’s amateur SEO efforts.
6 Pro-level Anchor Text Selection Tricks
1. Never use the same target anchor text more than once
Whenever I make any SEO decision, I ask myself the question: “Does what I’m about to do look natural?” Anchor text selection is no different.
Back in the earlier days of SEO when you could pretty much get away with anything, people that wanted to rank for “dog training” would simply send all their anchors as “dog training”.
Clearly this doesn’t work anymore but I still see it quite often. Money sites will have a balanced anchor text distribution (50% brand and URL, 10% misc, etc), but all 20 of their target anchors will be the same (dog training, dog training, dog training, …)
What are the odds of this happening naturally? The probability of 20 independent websites all linking to another website using the exact same anchor text is pretty slim. If you have 500 backlinks it might move into the realm of “remotely possible”.
Instead, never use the same target anchor more than once and mix up your keywords by throwing in filler words. Not only does it look more natural, but it actually gets a better result with fewer links.
2. When stuck, break up your keyword phrase
Let’s say your keyword is “plumber new york”. If you’re stuck in the rankings and simply aren’t getting any movement no matter how many links you throw at it, try sending just the word “plumber” or just the word “New York”.
I’m not exactly sure why, but it works. Likely because it just looks more natural. It’s completely possible that a New York newspaper writes an article about home maintenance companies in the area. They wouldn’t be making anchors like “New York plumber” because it’s already implied, being that they’re a New York newspaper.
I can’t count how many times this technique has gotten me out of a rut. Give it a shot.
3. Optimize in relation to your URL
Over-optimization isn’t just a function of your niche-specific target anchor text distribution. It also depends on the URL that you’re linking to. If your URL has your keywords already in it, you’ll have less room to send in anchor with those same keywords.
In example URL #1 above, the word plumber isn’t used at all, so you have the highest degree of freedom when it comes to sending anchors with the word “plumber”. URL #3 uses a variation of “plumber” twice, which really limits you in how many target anchors you can send to this URL. I would be extremely careful about over-optimization if you’re in the same boat as URL #3.
URL #2 is what most people are probably working with. In that case, stick to the niche-specific target anchor text and you should be fine. URL #2’s configuration is also what I recommend in my free Onsite SEO guide (found in the sidebar of my blog).
4. Write anchors in English, not SEO-ese
When people are trying to rank for local terms, such as “plumber chicago”, what they typically do is create backlinks with the anchor “plumber chicago”.
But how does this look in an article?
“Most families in the area prefer to visit Dr. John Smith, whom is the top-rated plumber chicago.”
Our number one job as SEO’s is to make it seem like we’re not doing our own SEO, and to make it appear that people are linking to our sites on their own accord. Now looking back at the example anchor, no natural website would ever link like this.
Instead, just use “plumber in Chicago”. You’re still getting credit for “plumber chicago”, but you look natural while doing it, which results in a better ranking boost. Note: this isn’t based on just theory. This is based on results.
5. Use Synonyms
This is handy trick is used to get credit for your keyword, while avoiding over-optimization. Google has built in an extensive amount of latent semantic indexing (LSI) and synonym matching into its algorithm. You see this on a daily basis but you might not notice it.
When you search for “how to sell automobile online” you’ll see that Google actually bolds the keywords that match your search terms. The word automobile has 4 synonyms (car, cars, auto, vehicle) that you can use instead. And this is just what’s shown on page 1.
When you’re reaching your limit on how many times you can use your target keywords, start to throw in synonyms instead. You’ll get the ranking boost while dodging Penguin over-optimization.
6. What to do if you’ve messed up
Now that you have this information, you don’t necessarily need to go in and fix all your anchor text to be perfect. However, if you realized you’ve really screwed yourself, then I highly recommend that you don’t change your anchor text on existing links, but instead delete links and replace them with new links using the anchor text that you want.
Remember, the name of the game is to look natural. What kind of business owner would have the ability to contact all the ‘web developers’ who naturally built links to his site? Only an SEO.
If you’re already ranking decently, don’t change a thing. Simply use these techniques going forward when you build links and get a ton of additional value out of them.