There has been a lot of debate lately related to the Penguin and Panda updates from Google. Some of this debate has focused on link strategies, the quality of sites that you gain links from, and the anchor text used. There are other factors such as the age of a link, however, this is becoming less of an issue with Google showing a distinct preference for fresh content – you can’t have both, fresh content with old links.
Conversations often mention that Google doesn’t like to see every link being a keyword, yet this seems to be glossed over or totally ignored when discussing link strategies. Perhaps its time to revisit this particular issue in regard to inbound links. I have a vague recollection (I can’t seem to find the reference) to a Matt Cutts discussion from four or five years ago where he talked about “natural” anchor text.
The general gist of that conversation was that Google’s interpretation of a ‘natural link’ was one in which the business name, the site name, or the website URL where the actual anchor text. In recent weeks, there have been references from Google related to inbound links using anchor text that was not keyword specific. From an SEO perspective, keywords do help the search engines match a search term to a page. I wonder now how much help the search engines really need.
If we accept that a link from a quality site to one of your pages is a ‘vote’ of quality, does every link to that page need to include a keyword. Natural linking would see that a reasonable proportion of inbound links were more generic by nature and less keyword targeted. Google will already know what your page is about. That page has been indexed, and other inbound links will have helped to match your contents to search terms. Generic links help to build authority rather than raising any flags to Google that these links are in any way spammy.
Miranda Miller on Search Engine Watch made this observation back towards the end of March:
For example, an unnatural link profile for a flower shop might look like: 1,000 links with the brand name as the anchor text; 3,500 links using “buy flowers online”; 5,000 links using “order flowers online,” etc. You would expect more links to use the brand name as anchor text; large quantities of links using very specific, high search volume terms, even more than the name of the business, could be a red flag.
Are you constantly hunting links that are tightly keyword targeted, or are you using a diverse range of links including your brand, website name, or more generic terms? If not, it may be time to rethink your inbound link anchor text strategies.