Earlier this year we saw Google announce their Penguin update, a major change from the search giant to reduce webspam (those spammy sites we all hate) and promote websites with quality content in their results.

A lot of the algorithm looks at your backlink profile – links from external sites pointing to yours, and particularly focuses on the anchor text (the visible part of the link which labels your site), and assesses whether your site is fit for display in their indices (search results).

If their algorithm determines that your backlinks are untrustworthy and unnatural looking, you might be looking at an over optimisation penalty – and your site will never see the light of day.

What are considered unnatural and untrustworthy links?

In the case of the Penguin update an unnatural backlink profile would contain a high disproportionate amount of links with exact match anchor text pointing to your site.

For instance, if you were after the keyword phrase ‘red widgets’ and around 75% of your links had exactly that same phrase, you could be under some scrutiny by Google’s algorithm. This coupled with links from disreputable sites containing the same anchor text and you have real cause for concern.

Untrustworthy or low quality links have many factors, these can be links from:

  • Sites unrelated to your niche
  • Low quality articles/blog posts
  • Comment spam on blogs

If you have exact match anchor text over-and-over again on the above you can expect to suffer.

So what links should I look out for?

Quality comes with links from authority sites in your niche, whether commenting on their blog, posting on a forum, a guest post or a directory listing.

Build quality content that people want to link to – natural links are gold dust. Make sure you optimise these resources so that they are contextually relevant to the page you wish to rank well.

And what anchor text should I choose?

If you have the opportunity to choose your own text – it’s simple – just mix it up.
Look at different variations of constructing the keyword phrases that you are aiming for. For example:

  • Use singular and plural variances
  • Make it actionable
  • Include your brand name every so often. Branding is becoming more and more important in solidifying trustworthiness.
  • If you are allowed to have a link within a description, then insert it contextually as part of a sentence.

It is also important, if possible, to link to your most important inside pages with the relevant label.

Read more about improving your backlink profile.

What if you have been penalised?

The solution to this is to locate and amend offending links through either updating the anchor text or removing the links altogether whilst at the same time building fresh quality links.


The key phrase to watch out for when building links is ‘over optimisation‘. Having natural looking links is key to the success of your SEO campaign. Variance in your anchor text is all well and good, but other factors such as what page you are linking to and the quality of the site you are linking from are equally as important.

Any questions? Drop me a comment below, or catch me on Twitter.