How To Avoid Anchor Text Overuse Penalties, But Still Get Targeted Links

How can you avoid an anchor text overuse penalty? Let me first start by caveating this article title by saying that to the best of my knowledge I have never encountered a penalty from Google for building too many links using the exact same anchor text.  Having said that, many SEOs believe that going overboard with anchor text links that are all the same WILL trigger a Google penalty, or is at least playing a risky game.

Most SEOs face something of a dilemma then. On the one hand it is clear that very specific anchor text linking  does work and when you analyse the back link profiles of sites ranking for certain key terms, it is often the case that a large proportion of their links use those exact terms in the anchor. On the other hand there is trepidation as it is somewhat unclear what the ramifications of anchor text overuse might be. This is likely a similar risk/reward relationship that both encourages and discourages the buying of backlinks to improve rankings

Even if search engines do not currently pay attention (in a negative way) to the number of links containing a specific anchor text, it is my opinion that they could easily begin to do so in an effort to better distinguish between organic and inorganic links. We all know that people very rarely use EXACTLY the same anchor text links when linking to a site they have no affiliation with, so it would make sense that if a website had 90% of their backlinks all with the same anchor, a good proportion of those are likely to be inorganic. I realize that there is a huge spectrum between totally “organic” and completely “inorganic” links, but that is argument for another day.

Avoid anchor text overuse penalty

When you take part in a link building campaign, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to go back and change the links you have won. So if you’re a cautious SEO like me, how to do still get rankings, but reduce your chances of ever picking up an anchor text overuse penalty?

The answer is probably simpler than you think. Rather than try to vary the words in the anchor text, just vary the way they appear. For example, some people might be inclined to vary their target term ‘car insurance’ with ‘car insurances quotes’ or ‘get car insurance’ etc. However, this dilutes the anchor text focus and reduces the power of that link for improving your target term ranking. However if you instead used variations in upper and lower case such as:

Car insurance
Car Insurance
car Insurance

You are already making the links look more “organic”, but still keeping the link focus. You can also use hyphens in the links as these are treated the same as spaces by search engines. For example, ‘car-insurance’ is treated the same (at least in the SERPS) as ‘car insurance’

car insurance search results

Some of you might be thinking, “that’s great, but the links are still the same”. And you’d be right, they are the same. But crucially they are moving further away from resembling the link profiles of people who have used some of the more black-hat, automated link building methods that Google hates the most – Bots that build hundreds of thousands of links whilst you sleep, outsourced companies who buy huge amount of links that are all the same, or submit to thousands of free directories using the same terms.

These methods often result in little variation, as variation stems from human input. The more varied the links, the greater the suggested human involvement in building them, and the more likely they are to be accepted by search engines. This technique is one of those more “better safe than sorry” tricks that takes very little extra effort to do. It may not help you rankings in the short term, but may very well save you one day.

Duncan is an SEO engineer at Fresh Egg SEO-company. He is an avid digital marketing experimenter and also a big fitness fanatic. if you are a SEO expert, you too can submit guest posts and share your SEO tips.

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About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.