It feels like it doesn't take much these days to find yourself hit with a Google penalty. You might be ranking well today only for tomorrow's algorithm update to land and you find yourself languishing in the backwaters of page two and beyond. It might not even be a bona-fide penalty that has afflicted you, but just certain links that appear unnatural and so lose their value.
One of the biggest issues that sites bring on themselves is using unnatural or repetitive anchor text. This is a definite way for a site to put a big red flag over their head and say, "Look at us, we're essentially spamming."
You don't need us to tell you such an approach isn't going to end well. How can you revisit your link building activities and ensure your anchor text isn't proving counterproductive?
View Your Link Profile
Before doing anything else, look at your existing link profile, either using Google Webmaster Tools or a service such as Majestic SEO. All you're looking for is any phrases or words that stand out above all others because you've been trying to rank highly for them.
If you find that 70% of your links are from one particular piece of anchor text, it's time to bin that one for the foreseeable future.
Have a Brainstorming Session
Think about the service that you offer and pick the one keyword or phrase that best describes what you do. Sit down with yourself or your team, and come up with some similar variations. Even better, use a keyword research tool to look for similar terms that are relevant where you might be able to compete.
When you have your list, these are your new anchor text variations. Don't be scared to use your business name or website as anchor text. Think about if someone linked to you naturally; they would be more likely to use these. The more natural your link profile and variety of anchor text, the more organic your links will appear to Google.
Change Up Author Profiles
If you're using the same author profile at the end of every guest article you write and only changing the anchor text, eventually Google will notice, and they're not likely to look upon it too kindly, as it is obvious what you're doing.
Play around with your author profiles, have a range of perhaps 10 or even 20 you can use, or just write them as you submit guest posts so they appear natural and varied.
Target In-Body Links
Many bloggers that accept guest posts don't like links in the body. However, at some stage Google are likely to do something about the fact that author profiles featuring links are about as unnatural as you can get, regardless of the anchor text you use.
Start to get ahead of the game by focussing on guest posting opportunities that allow for links in the body of articles. This will help you with your natural looking anchor text, as well as be beneficial to a blogger or website that wants to rank for fresh and original content without looking like all they're doing is posting guest submissions.
Expect anchor text to be a link building â€˜hot potato' over the coming months, especially if we see a Google Penguin update, as has been rumoured, at some stage in 2013.
Review your strategy now, and ensure that any algorithm changes will only benefit your traffic and search visibility.
Robert is an online marketing expert who is interested in agencies such as Bright Local, a UK based business offering a range of the best SEO tools to other agencies and local businesses who want to improve their performance in their local area or niche market.