Take Control Of Your Link Building and Avoid The Google Penguin

by Chris · 27 comments

Google Penguin

When the first Google Penguin update struck back in April, many of us were hit by the anchor text over-optimization penalty. All that work that we put into link building for the past couple of years, actually ended up biting us in the ass.

Gone are the days where ranking in the top spots required 50-70% of our anchor text links to be using our targeted keyword.

Now, any keywords at that level now are no doubt stuck in Google purgatory.

It makes sense too. Over-optimized anchor text is just too big a footprint that can be easily flagged by the Google algorithms.

To survive in this new SEO landscape, you need to be building your links in a more natural way. This means you need to carefully plan what anchor text you are using for your links, in order to craft a better anchor text profile.

So how do you know what a good anchor text profile looks like versus a bad one?

Well, I’m going to show you how. In my last post, I talked about using my newly created (and free) Link Classifier tool to look at the backlink profile of any site.

In this post though, I am going to demonstrate how you can use the updated version of Link Classifier script to check out the anchor text profile of any site as well.

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is to download and upload the Link Classifier on your web hosting account. It can be placed on any domain that you have available. Or if you only have a single domain, then you can add it to a subdomain instead.

Next, you’ll need to get a list of backlinks for the site you want to analyze. I’m currently a big fan of Ahrefs, but MajesticSEO and Open Site Explorer work fine as well.

Using Ahrefs To Get Your Backlinks

For each of these, you just need to specify a url you are and it will return you a list of backlinks to that page which you can then download as a csv file and open up in Excel.

Alternatively, you can use the free Google Webmaster Tools, but this only works for getting backlinks for the sites you own.

Quick sidenote. With any of these services you will want to clean up your links a bit since they often return duplicate urls from the same site. If you are using Ahrefs, I recommend using the option to return 1 url per site. Otherwise, head over to Urlutils.com to clean up your url list before inputting them into Link Classifier.

Once you have your backlinks, put them and your target url into the Link Classifier and give the script several minutes to finish.

When it complete’s you will see something like this:

Link Classifier - Anchor Text Profile

Examining the Anchor Text Profiles Of Authority Sites

So how do you use Link Classifier most effectively?

First, analyze the sites that are authorities in your niche. These are the sites that people link to naturally, because they produce great content or are well known brands. For SEO, this might be a site like SEOMoz. In the blogging space, a site like Problogger and Copyblogger fit the bill. Looking at these site’s will give you a good idea of what a natural link building profile looks like.

When doing this, avoid looking at backlinks pointing to the root domain (ie. http://problogger.net). Since the root domain will often target many different and varied keywords, this will skew your results. Instead, it is most effective to look at the backlinks for inner pages on the site, which only target a couple specific keywords.

The free way to do this is to just search on Google for a handful of popular keyword terms in your niche. Then comb through the results and note down any authority sites you see from the listings.

Alternatively, if you use Ahrefs, then use their Organic Keywords feature to see what keywords a site is ranking for. SEMRush is also good for this as well. Look for any relatively high traffic keyword, that points to an inner page on their site.

Ahrefs organic keywords

Examining the Anchor Text Profiles Of Penalized Sites

Another way to use Link Classifier is to look at your own sites that have already been penalized by the over-optimization penalty. I’ve been doing this with my own sites and it is the best way to pinpoint the link building methods that I’ve been using that no longer work anymore.

Hopefully you are using some sort of Rank Tracking software to track the

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rankings of your important keywords. From there, you can figure out which keywords were hit and which were not.

Then use Link Classifier to analyze both sets of keywords (penalized and non penalized) and compare the anchor text profiles of each. With enough data points, you will be able to figure out an approximate exact match % that is triggering the Google Penguin penalty for keywords on your site.

Recovering from The Over-Optimization Penalty

With the data that you have collected from Link Classifier, you will now have a clearer idea of what a natural anchor text distribution looks like. One thing to notice is that anchor text can be broken down into categories.

Exact Match – The anchor text for a link matches the exact keyword that you are targeted.

Phrase Match – The anchor text for the link contains not only the keyword you are targeting, but other keywords as well.

Branded – The anchor text contains the name of your blog or it’s url.

Generic – The anchor text consists of keywords like ‘Click here’, ‘visit this page’, and ‘read this post’.

Other – With any popular page, you will also find anchor text links that are completely unrelated to the page.

If a keyword has been penalized, then you have too many exact match anchor text links with that keyword pointing back to your site.

I won’t give an exhaustive list of link building tips here, but guest posting, article & web 2.0 marketing, blog commenting are still viable methods that anyone can do. When you use these methods, keep your anchor text profile in mind and dilute it by using Branded, Phrase and Generic anchor text links.

From my own testing, branded links need to make up the majority of your anchor text profile.

Final Thoughts

To recover from any Google Penguin over-optimization penalties to your keywords, you first need to identify the anchor text profile of the pages on your site. And the free Link Classifier is the perfect tool to help you do that.

While I could tell you what I think the optimal anchor text mix should be, you will have better results if you figure out this out for yourself, in your own niche. So install a copy of Link Classifier on your web server, and come up with a plan to stay away from that angry Google Penguin.

Google Penguin image source

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