Google changes the way it handles anchor text

Each month Google has been releasing an update about the things they’ve done over the last month. The March update details have just been released and something has been slipped in there that could be massive for SEOs. They’ve changed the way they handle anchor text.

What is anchor text?

Anchor text is the text selected for a link back to another website, if you’re pointing back to a website about printer ink for example you might choose the words Printer Toner Cartridges as your anchor text, this in theory would help the website rank for the term printer toner cartridge and along with some other factors such as how relevant the referral page and destination page is to that anchor text this is one of the fundemental principles of seo over the last ten years.

The thing about anchor text is it’s really easy to spam – it’s just a case of sticking the word in there and you’re off. I’ve been saying for a while now that Google are going to do something about this because it seems like a bit of an antiquated way to rank websites – especially when you think the new ranking signals are all plus one and like buttons.

How are Google handling Anchor Text

Google specify two changes to the way they are handling anchor text as follows (view the original article):

  1. Tweaks to handling of anchor text. [launch codename “PC”] This month we turned off a classifier related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links). Our experimental data suggested that other methods of anchor processing had greater success, so turning off this component made our scoring cleaner and more robust.
  2. Better interpretation and use of anchor text. We’ve improved systems we use to interpret and use anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and website.

So I take this to mean anchor text may have some relevance in some circumstances but won’t be valuable in all circumstances.

If you’ve not been using partial anchor text in your link building processes for the last year or so I think it’s about time you do.

What does this mean for SEO?

The classic method of building a rank has been lost, no longer can you just add a link to a page using a certain type of anchor text and expect it to benefit the destination of that link, like the printer toner cartridges link about will have only a limited effect on the seo of the website it’s linked to because GrowTraffic is about SEO and that’s about printer ink! I suppose that’s the way it should be really. It is certainly in line with everything that Google is talking about in terms of getting great content out there and getting real, relevant and qualifying links back to your websites.

I don’t think there will be a massive shift in the rankings, Google will protect the sites out there due to its historical bias – I think they got their fingers burnt a bit with the big Panda update in early 2011 and they’re not going to go back to doing something so huge again. This will be about new links and will be slowly retrofitted to the way Google views old links.

Fun times in SEO – yet again!

6 Comments

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  • My interpretation of their 2 changes last month are:

    1. They cleaned up the way they read anchor text.

    2. They further cleaned up the understanding of anchor text and the way it relates to the landing page. It looks to me like they are improving the way they prevent “Google Bombing.” Although I’ve not seen a real Google Bomb in a while there are cases, for example, when you cold use link text of “sterling silver” but you are landing on a page that only talks about “white gold.” To me that type of linking is misleading, and it’s good that they are cleaning it up.

    This change will further force correct linking, something that the White Hat guys won’t even have to worry themselves with.

  • Jason says:

    I’ve been trying to understand what they mean when they say “turned off a classifier” in regards to anchor text. Seems that nobody really knows what this means. Hate it when google is all cryptic. SEO is frustrating!

  • simon says:

    Yeah it would definitely make life easier if they were a bit clearer about these things. There again it’s probably why they are so cryptic.

  • simon says:

    Google have been advising us all this time to make the link anchor text descriptive and then they tell us that they are changing the way they use anchor text. Worse still it looks as though they are handing out penalties for those websites that have used the same anchor text too much – which I wouldn’t say is some kind of black hat technique rather following Google’s own guidelines a bit too closely.

  • melvin williams says:

    That was a great bit of info. I’m new at this but I will be starting all over because I see I really did not fully understand what off page seo(backlinks)is. Before I knew it I was reading about anchor text. It’s all coming together for me the more I read. It’s just good marketing!

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