Repeat after me…
The perfect link-profile is the imperfect link-profile
Any link-builder will tell you that the perfect link is one from domain x, appearing in the body there, with this anchor text, and the page title, heading and x, y and z this, this and this. But a whole link-profile that replicates this would be hugely unnatural and as a result you might be overly optimising – missing out on some real superstar wins.
- Quality link-building is less about being correct and more about measured mistakes.
- Boolean search engine algorithms are old school; topic semantics and naturalist styles are the way forward.
The temptations in link-building…
Nepotism, link-buying and using your own portfolio of sites to build links provides a big temptation to those that partake in this activity to drop links onto those sites using highly optimised short-tail terms.
If, indeed you do have control of over the anchor text, the link title and location of the link…why not mix things up? Throw in some ultra long-tail, some URLs, some domain name links, short-tail, some random tail, etc, etc…it’s for the greater SEO good, trust me!
Are patterns natural?
I carried out a site review recently, and approximately 45% of the site’s link-profile was made up of 4 very close variations on a very short-tail term, across 1,000’s of links. This is not natural, and flagged excessive keyword targeting in the link-building activity in a a huge industry, when really they should be optimising for a broader range of terms.
More often than not, you will see the domain name or the URL as the link for the site, not an overly imposing handful of short-tail terms. In this instance, those links also sat on unrelated pages and sites with blogrolls including ‘Replica Rolex watches’ and ‘Cialis’ links, et al…not exactly the ideal online neighbourhood to be associated with.
All it would take is for a search engine to flag this irregularity, have a human moderator review that link-profile and devalue those links – causing a massive shift in the site’s visibility. This is quite obviously not good SEO service.
Empirical Methodological Naturalism
Methodological naturalism, or the testing of causes and events in our surroundings to support or reject our hypothesis, is a great way of developing our understanding in SEO. I for one follow the mantra that it is possible to over-optimise. A contradiction of terms? Well no, I don’t think so.
Experience and some understanding of search engine algorithms tells me that as much as search engines want to provide the exact match, the best and most relevant result, it has to resolve two things…it must satisfy queries with unspecified searcher intent and in doing this, it must filter search engine spam.
A generic search for “DVD”, could have the intent to make a purchase, rent a DVD, informational research, get news, view latest trailers, get an image, etc, etc…It therefore must piece together the most relevant result using a variety of metrics, looking at things like historic searches, possibly behavioural metrics (e.g. frequency or % of returning visitors to a website), etc…As a result you need to optimise for intent as much as you do a keyword.
Optimising for “DVD” might therefore be very unhelpful but optimising for “DVD rental” or “DVD shop” communicates to the search engines that you are online with a commercial intent and therefore the search engine can look to provide the most relevant visitors at the least effort. For this reason, although it’s important to specify your intention, it’s good to mix things up. For this reason you need a healthy list of modifying terms at your disposal.
Variety is the spice of life!
Nofollow, stop words, miscellaneous words, various lengths of anchor text, semantic variations, modifiers, typos, synonyms, IP… these all make the naturalness of the links that much more natural. A site can obviously take quite a number of these ‘perfect links’ but I wouldn’t want to ever suggest that you
The search engines have more data than is possible to imagine – so be mindful of that next time you want to buy a sack full of links and dump them on your link-profile; how natural is that going to look over time?!! Any link profile can of course absorb quite a number of perfect links in a natural way but be mindful of how this occurs and at what rate. A search engines link-graph consists of masses of data so anomalies can stand-out a mile (check-out Majestic SEO for some insights on previous link-profile activity).
OK, so maybe ‘sabotaging your link-profile’ is a slight exaggeration but it’s massively important for longevity of results in my opinion. If it’s a topic that’s new to you, make sure you do a load more reading…
There’s loads of stuff out there, but a couple of my favourites that inspired this post will provide you with plenty of reading, include Marie-Claire Jenkins post on Huomah and Shaun Anderson’s over at Hobo << really cool stuff.
What are your thoughts?
Does anchor text density play a major part in your link-building activity?
About Guest Poster, Ben McKay
Ben’s a huge fan of some of the geekiest SEO blogs around, and has a number of favourite SEO blogs, and hates writing in the third person! He’s a sociable chap so make sure you say hello to Ben on Twitter.