Click here to read all about a natural link profile

Sint Smeding IM’d me tonight, pointing me to this post on his blog, which basically is the Dutch version of what Brian Clark is talking about: whether or not to use “Click here” as anchor text for links. The first thing I had to think of was a post by Jennifer Slegg about choosing the anchor text for links, which I agreed with completely back then, and still do. Having “click here”, “read more about X” or even “http://www.example.com” as anchor text every once in a while is an important part of creating a natural link profile.

Another Dutch SEO wrote a week ago that Google “can’t algorithmically detect paid links” (translation mine). Well, if you agree with him, I beg you to reconsider that. If you had 200 links on day 1 with all sorts of anchor text, and you went out and bought yourself 500 links with only 3 different anchor texts, you don’t think Google (or any other search engine) can detect that? Then I’m very glad you’re not doing my link building. (And I’m not even talking about the horrible code patterns some of these guys have, you can recognize an awful lot of TLA “blogroll” lists without any trouble if you know how their WordPress plugin works.)

You have to remember, that Google doesn’t only have the current snapshot of your domain and it’s links, it has the entire history. Your link building profile is coming along with your domain for the rest of it’s existence. Eric Ward talked about that on SearchEngineLand back in April, and we’ve had quite a few new clients at Onetomarket over the last year with the same problem: a link profile full of spammy links. And believe me: a spammy link profile is not something easily fixed.

Back to your natural link profile: it’s natural for me to have a lot of links with the anchor text “Joost de Valk”, “yoast.com”, or even “Joost de Valk’s SEO Blog”. It would not be natural for me to have twice as much links with just “SEO Blog” as with “Joost de Valk”. That would raise flags. So using “click here” as an anchor text every once in a while might be a great idea. It’s not “wasted anchor text”, it’s just a natural addition to your natural link profile. And if you’re smart, you’ll use it in places where you actually want people to click, because, as Brian pointed out, people work that way. Want to test it?

Click here to get my WordPress Google Analytics plugin, and it will automatically tag all your outbound links in posts.

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16 Responses

  1. Liam DelahuntyBy Liam Delahunty on 18 September, 2007

    Furthermore with “click here” type links, Google will look at the surrounding text so the link is not entirely wasted for keywords.

  2. JohannesBy Johannes on 18 September, 2007

    Couldn’t agree more. Yahoo had an interesting paper on this: http://research.yahoo.com/node/398/2821

  3. David HopkinsBy David Hopkins on 25 September, 2007

    There was an interesting post on Matt Cutt’s blog a while back which gives you some insights into what Google are actually doing in regards to ‘natural link text’ rather than all the theories that have become artificial reality via the blogosphere. Just fishing it out … Click Here!

    :P

  4. Sint SmedingBy Sint Smeding on 27 September, 2007

    I totally agree with your story Joost. Google can (and will) indeed examin the pattern of the description of all your internal links to get a view of your link building intentions.

    Like you said, it’s a bit suspicious if you gain, say, 100 inlinks within a week with only three different linked texts. But Google will get more convinced of your evil plans when you’re not only having just a few variations of link descriptions, but also when these descriptions contain keywords that are strongly popular.

    Me spamming my links around the web by commenting on several blogs with the text “Sint Smeding” attached to it, won’t be such a big deal because this string is pretty unique. But with all the knowledge Google has of the web, they can easily detect which keywords are the most competitive. If you are optimizing your inbound links with keywords like ‘seo’ or ‘insurance’, alarm bells might start ringing much earlier than when you are trying to get some more links for ‘best recipe for apple pie’.

    Like you say in your post and we discussed by IM, putting valuable keywords in your link texts is smart, but it would be stupid to over do it, like most things in SEO.
    I strongly believe the best way to build your link popularity is to write good content, so the choice of the link text will be left over to the creativity of whoever decided they wanted to add a link to your site :-)

  5. David HopkinsBy David Hopkins on 27 September, 2007

    Sint, you bring up an interesting idea there that a search engine could use the competition of a keyword to weigh out whether someone is spamming. However, there are some cases where a company might be legitimately using competitive link text. For example, the Society for Experimental Mechanics will have a lot of link text with their acronym, SEM.

    I think that it would be too dangerous for a search engine to put much resources into monitoring something such as this because the results would be too unpredictable. Search engines don’t want to be known for accidentally penalising a site for just having their company name or acronym in their link text. Another thing to keep in mind is that the same string of letters (a word) can have different meanings in different countries. For example in Portuguese the word ‘sem’ translates to English as ‘without’ and hence would have a huge number of web pages that would be returned for that keyword. Despite being an acronym for Search Engine Marketing, the string ‘sem’ is very uncompetitive in the UK and US. Should an English language site be marginalised because their company name is an extremely competitive search in another language or context. It just bring up too many questions.

  6. Sint SmedingBy Sint Smeding on 28 September, 2007

    @David: I get your point, but wouldn’t it be easy to notice when the usage of competitive keywords is legitimate or not? With all the information search engines gather, would it be hard to find out when a word combination is relative for the content, or “just a label”, like a company name? And the language the word is in could also be chosen based on the surrounding content…
    I agree that my theory is a bit controversial, but I just think that a “natural link profile” should be dependant on the content used on the website too. Especially because of the possible usage of company and personal names in links.

    A company that put a keyword in it’s companyname should neither be penalized, nor receive an advantage to companies that didn’t. But if the link descriptions and keyword profiling/density used are not in relation to a website’s content AND the keywords used are very popular, this increases the suspect of a non-natural link profile.

    Let’s also not forget that a link description is not only a way to optimize your website for search engines, but it is also a way a webmaster describes what is behind a link. So if there are 1000 websites that are linked by the text ‘seo blog’, the importance of this text is less relevant in comparison to 10 websites that are linked with description ‘best apple pie recipe ever’.
    I strongly believe it would be very useful to search engines if they could have a slight idea when a link description was just made up because someone wants to rank good for a certain keyword string, or because someone thought “hey, this describes exactly what is to be found out there”.

    Maybe there is not a direct connection, but I suspect that there is at least a bit of influence on a website’s karma or authority for these keywords.

    But it could also be nonsense what I’m saying :-)

  7. narutoBy naruto on 2 November, 2007

    everything what are you talking about is a guess. google is not perfect, google is just a product with much problem to solve.
    what are you talking about is a perfect search engine.

    whant to know how google look link profile? ONLY one way: practice.

  8. Bret heart bobbyBy Bret heart bobby on 5 November, 2007

    Thanks for writing this, Brian. Now I’ll have something to point to when the boss tells me that we should ALWAYS use keyword-rich anchor text, instead of “click here,� no matter what the situation.

    Often, “click here� is the best anchor text to use, especially when you’re trying to make a sale!

  9. JamesBy James on 19 February, 2008

    I take naruto’s comment – but practice is only so good for an indeterminate period of time – it will change or modify eventually. And i for one would also like to see more recognition on the engines’ part for descriptive link text actually presenting an accurate overview of the website linked to. Forget this “click here” business – not only is it bad for the backlink, it also makes for harder understanding of the piece.

  10. Getoninter.net Web DevelopmentBy Getoninter.net Web Development on 16 June, 2008

    Its a good job a came across this post i always use click here links. In my point of view it makes easy for the reader but as i now am paying close attention to SEO. I understand that search engines look at links differently to the user its getting the half way point that matters, especially with Google and Yahoo cutting right down on spam nowadays.

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