Search engine optimization — or SEO — has become so much a part of the World Wide Web that it has evolved into its own science. All the while, more and more people are learning about it — so much that it has become an absolute essential for anyone who wishes to dabble in the Web for profit. But like any science, SEO is not a stagnant study. It has its own share of fads and evolution, as well.
Lately, one of the fads that have risen up is the predominance of the “generic link”. This can be seen everywhere, from blurbs to social media posts — for example the ominous “click here” that seeks to catch your attention. However, it does not do a very good job of doing so, simply because it is too bland — as if it totally tries to avoid using keywords that is at the heart of SEOs. Despite lacking context and being officially a bad idea — Google’s 2010 SEO Starter Guide even warned against it — generic “click here” links are the most easily seen.
Why do they exist?
Back in 2012, Google rolled out the Penguin update. This penalized sites that are “over-optimized” — those that are peppered with too much anchor texts that provide an exact match. It was around that time that research rolled out, saying that successful SEO profiles also include a healthy serving of partial matches and URL links.
In order to get out of Penguin’s radar, the SEOs tried “balancing” the link profiles with generic anchors. This worked — but only a little, and for some. The error most SEOs make is that a significant percentage of their sites and traffic are contained within these generic links, creating obvious patterns that are obvious to search engines. As a result, thousands of links have to be built with the effect of ranking for only a few days.
Then what is the alternative?
Aside from the fact that customers will not be able to properly use an inorganically generated site (filled with generic links and exact keywords, for the most part), Google and SEO authorities advise to use more descriptive words when one links. This is because such links will pass “relevancy signals” to the target page. When a page is linked with the phrase “click here”, for example, the SEOs do not find it relevant to anything. However, when that is changed to “information about generic links”, then the search engines immediately recognize what the site leads to. This lets the link rank higher in the list of search results.
There are in fact different patent filings and anecdotal data that prove how links using off-topic or generic anchors rank lower and have less value than descriptive links. Also, the technique of using generic links, has never been proven to be able to increase a site’s SEO.
In shorter words, the best types of links to go for are those that can be useful for both the readers and the search engines. These are also the ones where the anchor texts do not have to be controlled — but in case you really need to, then variety should be a main consideration.
Co-occurrence Links and Related Text. Instead of needing to match the anchor exactly just to rank in the results page, Google has created different methods for relating the value through the anchor text without having to require an exact keyword match. One of the methods is the idea of co-occurrence. Simply defines, the search engines can judge the relevance not just through the anchor phrase but also on the phrases that can be found on both documents. This means that Google will check not only the page but all the pages it links to, to see if any relevant phrases “co-occur” between them. This gives a better ranking relevance.
Using synonyms. Ever noticed how Google always returns synonyms in its searches? For example, searching “funny pictures” will also give you “funny photos”. Try using synonyms in your links both to give them more variety as well as to rank higher for relevance.
Partial matches and natural anchor texts. Google users may usually search for something like this: “best dentist arlington texas”. In response, some content makers would strive to create an article that has the exact same phrase. This is a step worse than “click here” links because it strives for an exact match that is both spammy and unnatural. Instead, try for a more natural-sounding partial match such as “the best dentist this side of Arlington” — this can get you better up the search results.
The world of SEO is continuously evolving, and the people using it are also better able to tell apart useful articles from bogus ones. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to make sure that web content is made according to the standards mentioned here — this helps make the Internet a better place.
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