[003] Understanding Backlinks and Anchor Text

In an earlier tip [Web Content That Actually Ranks] I mentioned Penguin and backlinking.

Well, Off-page SEO is primarily about backlinks.

For those of you new to this, here a quick history lesson.

Google was a university project to create a search engine that actually delivered the result that people wanted. Before Google all search engines were simply a big index of the web page. As the web rapidly grew the results basically became less meaningful.

Google’s innovation was to use backlinks (one web page linking to another) as an indicator of usefulness. The theory being that if one web page links to another webpage they must have found it useful.

Page rank (invented by Larry Page) was used to give each web page a measure of importance. If any page linked to another page it passed on an amount of it’s own importance to the other page. So the more links from the more important sites [to your site] the more important your site became.

This simple principle changed the face of search engines and was the start of Google. However things have moved on a pace since then and the Google “Algorithm” as it has become known. Changes continuously to improve how we search and the results we get.

The Importance Of Backlinks?

As I mentioned in my earlier email there was a point at which Google was almost 100% driven by backlinks. There was another factor added to backlinks and that was the anchor text.

Anchor text is the actual text or the words you click on to go to another web page. In it’s simplest form it is literally some words but it can be an image (remember alt text from my previous email?).

The anchor text allowed the links to be put into context. I.e. if the link text was “buy green beans” then there is an expectation as to the page content it points to. Once again this was abused by SEOers by pointing the same anchor text with their main keyword, thousands of times to a page to make it rank.


Penguin was the major change that killed of many sites as it looked at the anchor text profiles and the backlink profiles of web pages. If they were deemed to be “spammy” then that site would get an automated penalty and see it sink to the depths of the search results.

So in SEO 2015 and beyond you need to be very careful with your backlinks.

However through all the changes backlinks are still the most powerful things to get your web page on Google page one. However you can no longer just point hundreds or thousands of back links to your page from anywhere and expect it to rank. That way lies dismal failure.

Google can spot what it calls “spam” backlinks and will immediately penalize your site and you will find it nowhere in the search results. Or at least so far down it doesn’t matter.


The whole idea of profiling seems to be a way Google are going. They will use their own systems and often human reviewers to analyze existing web pages. So the human reviewers will look at a web page and perhaps score it for usefulness and quality etc. Google’s robots will then look at all aspects of the [human] good and bad pages and identify any trends or commonality that allows them to identify a bad page. Once this is completed they can role out the automated tests (Google Algorithm) and give automatic penalties to those it finds with the “bad” signals.

Backlink Profiles

First lets talk about backlink profiles. Google are always looking for “natural” patterns. Natural is good as far as Google are concerned. So for backlinks that really means a good mix of backlink PR. i.e. coming from a variety of pages. A bad link profile will see a lot of low PR pages pointing to your page. This will be penalized. So now it’s more about less but higher quality links.

How and when you backlinks arrive will also effect your rankings, or more accurately your penalties.

Backlinks would natural grow over time, so that’s what Google expects. If you want to kill off a brand new site then send it 1000s of backlinks in one day! Although all forms of paid backlinks are considered spam by Google I would guess that very few new sites just sit and expect people to find them and link to them. So drip feeding backlinks to your sites and pages is the name of the game. i.e. adding links over a period of weeks or months.

Anchor Text Profiles

The next things to understand is anchor text profiles. As I mentioned anchor text are the actual words on the web page that are linked to another page. These might be anything from “click here” to “buy gold bars”. Sometimes these anchor text will give information on what to expect on the linked page. Although this seems like it would be useful Google have found that profiles with a lot of the same anchor text is a hallmark of bad SEO techniques (in their eye). So once again you need to have a diverse anchor text profile.

In practice this has tightened up over a number of Penguin updates and at this time it is generally considered a bad thing to actually use the same anchor text as your main keyword.

Better to use variations of it, Even so that should probably only account for about 5%-10% of your total anchor texts.

More emphasis has now been put on “branding”. Google gives an SEO advantage to a brand name. Type in McDonald’s or Nike and look at the results. However this is not just true for major brands. You can brand yourself or your website and gain similar advantage.

Branding is whole subject on it’s own so I cannot go in-depth I this email. In short think about getting a brand domain name along the lines of Willoughby.com or WilloughbyCarRental.com.

Now the majority of your anchor text can be your brand ( Willoughby) or your URL ( Willoughby.com). This will give you the backlinking power without the penalties.

This also works perfectly with silo sites (another whole new subject).

Social Metrics

Of course off-page SEO can also include social metrics such as likes, follows, tweets etc. These act like backlinks from social networks and will count towards your rankings. It seems that these social signals do not have a huge impact on website rankings currently but it is also likely that they will have more in the future.

What You Need To Do

The main thing to take away from this and my previous emails is that there is a lot to do to create a well ranked and profitable website.

Starting with the crucial process of niche and keyword research, ensuring your keywords are profitable, identifying and understanding the competition, finding good quality content ideas and suitable and legal images and videos.

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