Since the release of Penguin 2.0, many sites have taken a dive in the SERPs. One of the causes of poor SERP performance is an excess of anchor text containing specific keywords.
Back in the old days, one of the main goals of link building was to cultivate as many incoming links as possible with anchor text that included keywords and key phrases relevant to a site’s SEO strategy. In recent years, Google has started paying a great deal of attention to the features of a naturally accrued link graph and penalizing sites with backlink profiles that show signs of being engineered by SEOs.
High quality sites tend to gather links with a diverse range of anchor text. Most linkers aren’t interested in contributing towards a site’s SEO strategy and won’t choose to include keywords in anchor text, instead using site, brand, or author names, topics, and a collection of generic nouns (“article”), verbs (“said”), adverbs (“here”), and so on.
If 80% of a site’s incoming links include keyword-rich anchor text, especially if the keywords are identical, Google’s algorithms are going to consider the site to have been heavily optimized and thus decide that the link graph doesn’t accurately reflect the quality of the site, leading to a discounting of those links and a drop in SERP position.
Given that this was historically such a common and effective SEO strategy and is still used by less skillful SEOs, it’s more than likely that a site is going to see a downward push in the SERPs relative to their less “optimized” competitors. So, what can be done to mitigate the effects?
Ask Webmasters To Remove Keyword Anchor Text
The first step in removing links should always be to reach out to the site in question and ask them to take the offending link down. You could try asking webmasters to change the anchor text, but, generally, they aren’t going to want to spend a lot of time carrying out tasks that don’t have any benefit for their site, so asking them to delete it altogether is more likely to be successful.
Disavow The Links
Asking to have links removed is the optimal solution unless either the webmaster in question is unwilling or unable to comply, or there are so many keyword anchor text links from many different domains that it’s not possible to have them removed in a reasonable timeframe.
Google provides a tool for disavowing links that will stop the search engine algorithms from taking them into account at all. While Google will take use of this tool as a strong suggestion that links should not be taken into account, it reserves the right to ignore that suggestion, so making a concerted effort to have offending links removed altogether is by far the best option.
Going forward, SEOs and site owners will need to exercise more caution about how they distribute anchor text in their link building efforts.