Link Building Post-Penguin: Importance of a Natural-Looking Inbound Link Profile

The year of 2012 has been quite a journey for many SEO’s and online marketers.  On April 24th, Google released another update to their search algorithm called Penguin, which targets spamdexing, or better known as web spam.  After the Penguin update was put into play, there were many people who saw a significant decrease in their site’s search engine rankings.  Websites that had been at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) for years, were now nowhere to be found.

So how did this happen?  Why did so many websites get hit by the Penguin update, and as a webmaster, what can you do to recover your site’s rankings?  Well, it’s all about your link building strategy and if all you’re doing is using exact match keyword-rich anchor text, I highly recommend you stop now.

The graph below portrays I’m talking about.  Sites that used keyword rich anchor text less than 50% of the time were almost guaranteed to not be affected by the Penguin update.

Source: Search Engine Watch

 The central mode by which Google Penguin functions is by analyzing your site’s inbound link profile metrics to find what it believes to be “unnatural” activity, and the main indication of unnatural activity happens to be focused on anchor text.  If your website’s search engine rankings have fell through the roof then it’s more or less because of an over-optimized inbound link profile.  An over-optimized inbound link profile is detected by the anchor text ratio within your inbound link profile.

Here’s an example of an over-optimized inbound link profile anchor text distribution:


Do you see what’s going on here?  In this example, the targeted keyword “St. Louis SEO” is used for almost half of the inbound links anchor text.  This inbound link profile would have certainly been effective before the Penguin update, but that is no longer the case.  Google deems this type of link profile as “spammy”.  If you’re still using exact match keyword anchor text then, again, I would think about diversifying a little bit.


Here’s an example of a healthy (Penguin-friendly) inbound link profile anchor text distribution:


Do you see the difference between the over-optimized inbound link profile and the natural-looking, healthy inbound link profile above?  The healthy link profile seen above is more balanced.  It uses branded anchor text (company name), as well as universal/junk anchor text (click here).  These are the type of anchor text that most Internet copywriters use, making them more natural (Penguin-friendly).

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying to completely stop using keyword rich anchor text, but diversify a little bit.  Balance out your inbound link profile.  Google is getting smarter everyday.  Some experts, including Rand Fishkin, predict that Google will eventually scrap anchor text as a ranking signal.  He explains that there are currently many websites that are ranking for specific keywords in which they aren’t even targeting.  He says that these websites aren’t even using keyword-rich anchor text in their backlinks, but because these websites brand/company names are mentioned around these specific keywords, they are getting quality rankings for them.  Here’s his thoughts:

“This, in my opinion, is one of the kind of future looking elements of how we’re going to do SEO, brand association, having people write about us and do PR about our brands, associating those terms together so that very frequently when you see an authoritative, high quality source mention a keyword phrase, talk about a keyword phrase, they’re mentioning your brand. They’re linking to your site. They don’t even necessarily have to link to exactly your page. This type of SEO is something that’s not very practiced today, but it certainly should be on a lot of people’s minds for the future.”

That’s all I’ve got for your today, but I want you to think about these things next time your engaging in off-page optimization.  Thanks for reading!

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