The Impending Penguin Updates And What They Mean For Branded Anchor Text Links

Ever since Google has unrolled its so-called “Penguin” update to the PageRank search algorithm in February of 2012, numerous changes have been felt to how websites get ranked across the web. Because of this, numerous once common SEO tactics have also dramatically changed in some ways. Humorously, these changes, instead of taking SEO into some new directions, have actually brought it back towards a fundamental set of basics that have always been considered as “good” tactics.

With Penguin -and its predecessor Panda, Google had in mind the aim of eliminating what they and many others consider to be search and SEO spam ranking tactics; instead, Google is now looking to improve its listings even further so that the websites that rank highly are those whose position is most honestly due to genuine content quality and relevance.

penguin update

Branded anchor text is text within backlinks to your own website that has the name of your brand within it. After covering an overview of Penguin in general and how it affects anchor text specifically, we will also give you an overview and some pointers on branded anchor text.

How Penguin Works: An Overview

In essence, Penguin was an anti-SEO spam measure and its continuing updates are following the same path. The Penguin algorithm change was designed to stop manipulating search ranking through tricky “black hat” optimization tactics like link farming, link buying, spammy linking practices, keyword stuffing content and creating sparse page content. It is also aimed at other, more esoteric black hat SEO tricks, but below are its primary points of focus.

google penguin

Penguin’s Reaction to Content

One of the main avenues of attack was against websites whose content was sparse, nonexistent or stuffed with too many keywords and phrases in an effort to lure search bots more than human reader interest. The Penguin algorithm change de-ranked numerous sites that were creating content like this instead of focusing on natural sounding quality information that would help readers.

Penguin on Black Hat SEO

Google wants websites to build links and rank by getting them noticed in social networks and other websites with solid reputations and relevance to the original site’s niche. This means that a site should be working at getting noticed so that others organically share links to its content. What Google did not like, and addressed with Penguin, was websites that bought links back to themselves across a listing of numerous low quality, link farm sites with little valuable content and niche relevance. Penguin also punished pages that created links on giant content mills whose content and value were also considered less than stellar. These things led to de-ranking.

penguin and spammy links

Furthermore, Google used Penguin to punish websites whose entire list of links back to themselves was based on the chief keyword they were trying to rank for, often the same keyword, used over and over, that was in the websites’ URLs. This is called exact match anchor text. How to avoid being punished for this error while working with your brand name in links is what we’ll focus on now.

Penguin and Anchor Text

To clarify further, spammy anchor text is basically hyperlinked text inside backlinks to your website that consists of one or two specific “money” keywords or phrases that define your site and for which you are trying to rank highly. Typically, branded anchor text will use the same single word or couple of words regardless of the subject being discussed or the specific page to which the backlink is going. Furthermore, it’s quite common for this word to also be found within your websites URL.

Websites that use exact match backlinks would also often post them across the web in comment threads, link farms, content mills where they had articles posted and in keyword saturated articles published outside their website.

Creating backlinks that came from such websites was part of the problem that Penguin had with anchor text, but it was secondary to the bigger problem of the exact same selection of text being used in every single backlink or at least a large majority of backlinks (75%+) from other websites. This is something that Penguin considers spammy, and it led to de-rankings for many websites.

Branded Anchor Text and Penguin

Generally speaking, your backlink text should be nicely and broadly diversified as a general policy. This means that you should include links with no keyword matching anchor text, a few exact keyword matching anchor text links and links with your website URL or brand name. This will provide you with the most general security. However, what if your brand name is your keyword? If your main keyword or phrase happens to be the exact same as your URL or company brand name, then you have to work sensibly and carefully to avoid using it too much. Especially if you also already have some exact match keyword links up.

If you have a non-keyword brand name, you shouldn’t have trouble with pegging a large part of your backlink anchor text to your URL, but with a keyword based brand, it’s better to err on the side of careful and follow a general strategy of diversified text anchoring.

Part of the problem is that Google itself is very secretive about how it analyses all aspects of SEO. Thus, no one is completely sure if the company has a method of knowing when anchor text is based on the actual brand or just an attempt to create exact matching keyword text. Many SEO experts suppose that Penguin can somehow make the distinction, but it’s still educated guesswork and carries a possible risk of de-ranking.

Final Thoughts on Branded Anchor Text Strategy

The bottom line is that your link building strategy should be kept secure through two different methods: First, make sure that as many as possible of your incoming links whose placement you can control come from subject relevant websites and pages with a quality profile of their own.

Second, just to be safe, diversify your anchor text link strategy widely. Use a mix of your website brand name, URL as anchor text and non-exact keywords or phrases that somehow relate to your website content. Apply this strategy with particular discipline if your brand is the same as a top priority keyword that you’re trying to rank for.

Steven Chalmers has written for the tech industry for many years and has developed a wealth of knowledge over that time. When he’s not writing, you can find him covering companies working on his forthcoming novel.