The benefits of natural anchor text: why Bush is no longer a “miserable failure”

Once upon a time, you could type the words “Miserable Failure” into Google and the first hit would be George W. Bush. As if evidence were needed of the power of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), a web-site that did not contain a single instance of the words “miserable” or “failure” became number one for those words after a dedicated link building campaign.

Google results showing George W. Bush top for "Miserable Failure"

Google have been through a number of algorithm changes since this “Google Bomb” back in 2003 and have made it much more difficult to artificially manipulate the rankings in this way.  While SEO is still important (probably more so), each algorithm change has meant subtle changes in strategy. It has now been over a month since Google’s recent Penguin update, and with the ripples subsiding, it has been much easier to see what the most recent changes have been. One of these is the need to have natural anchor text.

The anchor text for a link is the bit you click. Pre-Penguin, it was standard practice to put keywords in the anchor text. If I was selling umbrellas I would use the word “umbrellas” in links to my site and encourage other people linking to me to do the same. This is exactly what happened to George Bush is 2003. People decided it would be fun to get him to number one for “miserable failure” and used that phrase as anchor text in order to create that effect.


Since then, the importance of having keyword-rich anchor text has gradually been toned down, with the Penguin update making it a definite disadvantage. Having lots of keywords in your anchor text is bad because it looks unnatural. Links usually form when people like a site and link to it from their own. As these people are all individuals and don’t know the owner of the site, it is very unlikely that they will use exactly the same anchor text. While a few might use keywords, others will put innocuous phrases like “click here” or “read more”. Some might use a name, the title of the website or the URL. Many will use seemingly random phrases which only make sense in the context of the link itself; “made me laugh” “about this” “more” “LOL”, that sort of thing. Having hundreds of links that all say “umbrellas” is no longer a good idea. Instead, it’s essential to build a natural link profile with a wide variety of phrases in the anchor text.

If you already have hundreds of links that all contain keywords, you probably have a problem. While it is relatively easy to change links you’ve made yourself, this can be time consuming and most of the links are likely to be out of your control. In some cases, you might be able to email the owner of the site and ask them to change the link. They might ignore you, but it’s worth a try. For some people, though, it may be enough to change the way you build links in the future.

This is further evidence that the best link is a natural link, i.e. you haven’t bought it, asked it to be put up or created it yourself – someone on the internet has made the decision to link to your site on their own. The best way to do this is to improve the quality of the site itself. Most people will also want to use blogs, social media and other opportunities to generate links. In this case, the much maligned “click here”, might be your best bet.

At KPI, we have a dedicated writing team to ensure our customers have top quality content, and can give advice on link building and other SEO strategies. To get in touch, click here!

About Russell Welch

Copywriter and digital marketing person. Russell used to be a History teacher, and likes gardening, martial arts and all things Japanese. Google+
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