With link profiles coming into the spotlight ever since Google started cracking down on anchor text manipulation (in an update labelled The Penguin Update), it is strongly advised that every website owner do an audit of the anchor text used in links pointing to their website.
A perfect link profile that will last until the end of time is one where the anchors are not manipulated at all. By common consensus the largest portion of the anchor texts in a link profile needs to be some variation of the brand name of the website being linked to.
There have been a number of studies that look at the percentage of branded anchor text that is required to be natural. Search Engine Journal did a study and found that about 55-75% of anchor text needs in some way or another to contain the brand. The other part of the profile will be made up of either commercial anchor text or anchor text made up of stop words or call to actions.
Each webmaster or website owner needs to do an audit like the one I will do below. Identifying manipulated anchor text is a very simple and methodical thing to do. Simply follow a set of rules.
In order to find examples to compare side-by-side, I took a commercial search phrase of “hotell stockholm” and queried Google.se for results. I am looking for actual hotels that are ranking in the results, so I ignored the booking engines in my search results.
Unmanipulated Anchor Texts Profiles:
Simply using the natural anchor text profile definition, these two sites below may be considered unmanipulated.
Nobis Hotel – http://www.nobishotel.se/: 54% of the anchor texts linking to this domain contains “nobis”. The rest of the anchor text profile looks to be free of commercial anchor text.
Grand Hotel – http://www.grandhotel.se/: 62% of the anchor texts linking to this domain contains “grand”. The rest of the anchor text profile looks to be free of commercial anchor text.
Potentially Manipulated Anchor Text Profiles:
Nordic Light Hotel – http://www.nordiclighthotel.se/: 45% of the anchor texts linking to this domain contains “nordic”. The rest of the anchor text profile looks to be free of commercial anchor text. When I first looked at this percentage it seemed low, and when I scanned the remaining anchor texts I saw there are a lot of stop words and text that would not be not be considered manipulation of any specific ranking term for the website.
Manipulated Anchor Text Profiles:
Connect Hotels – http://connecthotels.se/: 53% of the anchor text in this case is branded, but when we dig deeper into the remaining 47% of the anchor text profile, it becomes very clear that the anchors are designed to manipulate search engine rankings on specific keywords. Below I show a selection of the anchor texts used that do not contain the brand. This is in stark contrast to the above examples and it makes this website a manipulator of anchor text.
Hotel Stureplan – http://www.hotelstureplan.se/: 36% of the anchor text is branded. Based on our single criteria of percentage of banded anchor text, we should investigate the quality of the anchor text that does not contain “sture”. Below is a sample.
It is important to note that not all these anchor texts should be considered manipulated. Action only needs to be taken on certain links in the profile in order to reduce the risk of being filtered out of the search results by a future algorithm or data refresh.
What should these websites do?
Action: Remove the links with anchor texts that are clearly manipulated.
Connect Hotels: Here is a list of domains that I would try to remove links from. Note that some of the “read more” and other stop word anchors are still in the list. I deliberately left them there after doing a quick review of the quality of the domains they are linked from. Find the list of domains I would investigate here.
Hotel Stureplan: Just as with the above, here is a list of the links pointing to this website that I would remove (or investigate with a thought to removing). I have chosen to narrow this list down to only anchors that have a mention of “Stockholm” as these are the ones probably most used to manipulate the rankings of “hotell stockholm” that we used at the start of this investigation. For this list click here. I would strongly suggest that as many of these links be removed as possible.
If you have ever had a contract with an SEO company, I would run this check on your back link profile. Strategies that used to work don’t any more. And more importantly, the past actions can cause great problems to your search engine rankings going forward. Finding manipulated anchor text profiles is very easy to do. Because it is so systematic and simple, machines can do the same job; this is what search engines like Google are becoming better at doing.
If you are interested in doing the same audit on your website, the tools that I used to find back link profiles was Majestic SEO (https://www.majesticseo.com/ – €39.99 Monthly). Or you can use other tools like Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz or Ahrefs. For bigger link removal projects, I would recommend either hiring in someone to work under your direction, or asking a specialist agency to help you.