Linkbuilding for your website is a lot like making cultured pearls. Natural pearls are created when a bit of sand or grit gets into an oyster and irritates it so that the oyster covers it with layers of nacre, resulting in a luminous pearl.
Cultured pearls are grown by introducing that bit of sand into an oyster, and then letting the process go ahead naturally.
Just so, natural links are links given to your website by people who think that your site would be useful to their visitors. I link at this blog to sites that I find useful. Nobody asked me to put those links in and I don’t get anything in return. I just think that the people who read this blog and visit my site might find those sites helpful, that’s all.
Ideally, your site would have lots of natural links of this kind, just because it’s so great. In real life, that process takes longer than most of us want to wait — just like natural pearls. There’s nothing wrong with cultured pearls, any more than there’s anything wrong with links your site gains by linkbuilding. They’re not fake, they’re not trying to trick anyone, they’re still beautiful. You just have more control over them.
And that’s what brings us to anchor text.
We have a teacher resource website that we use as a laboratory. One of the ways it’s being useful to us is by letting us take SEO steps gradually and watch the results, instead of doing a lot at once, as we do for clients. We did some linkbuilding after the site had been live for a couple of weeks, placing links at the sites we had found to provide the highest value for this type of site. A couple of months later, we added the site to some high value blog directories. Today, I checked on the backlinks for the site.
We have the links we placed, and we also have some natural links. Most of the links we’ve done — the cultured links– say “FreshPlans.” That is, we’re using the phrase “FreshPlans” for our anchor text.
The natural links are another story entirely. One school says “My Fresh Plans.” A compendium of educational links has a deep link (that is, a link to a particular page, not to our domain) called “Wild Animal Lesson Plans.” A company has linked to us with the words “21st century skills.” There’s one from the Department of Education in Western Australia that we can’t even look at because you have to be authorized to sign in. Natural links are like that.
This is why it’s a good idea to vary the anchor links you use when you’re linkbuilding. 500 links gathered up in a couple of weeks and all having the title of your site will not look natural.
I do this by not giving any guidance when I request links. I say things like, “Please have a look and if you think it would be valuable to your readers, we’d appreciate a link.” People who give links then choose the anchor text they think makes sense, and it looks quite natural.
People who prefer to have more control over this (and I’ve had several clients in this group and gotten good results with this approach for them) will provide a snippet of code, but make a point of using variations on the anchor text. Or, if you’re placing links yourself, you can do this, too. For FreshPlans, we could use “Fresh Plans” and “My Fresh Plans” and “education site.” At the beginning of this post, I used “teacher resource website” — I happen to know that “teacher resource” is a good keyword for this site.
Think about this when you’re linkbuilding, and end up with cultured pearls, not plastic beads.