Changing Anchor Text May Raise A Red Flag

Jul 29, 2013 • 8:38 am | comments (21) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

red flagA WebmasterWorld thread has a webmaster asking if changing the anchor text he has been using for links to his site to something "more natural" would lead to a confirmation that he has been up to some bad link building.

In short, does Google have algorithms to detect anchor text changes and if so, do those algorithms detect these sorts of changes and raise a red flag on sites doing it.

For example, that old old big blue pineapple chair topic and you decide that you want to link to the domain name as PineChair, as opposed to the anchor text you've been using for years of [big blue pineapple chair].


big blue pineapple chair


Now, you go through as many of the old back links as possible and update them from the old to the new anchor text.

Will that action set you deeper into a link penalty or help improve things? Or are we looking to deeply into the topic?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Peter Watson

07/29/2013 12:51 pm

Cleaning up your 'anchor text' would have the same positive effect as cleaning up your link profile.


07/29/2013 01:14 pm

How Peter?

Greg Fowler

07/29/2013 01:25 pm

It would be similar to changing over-optimized title tags which is a good signal to Google. The only bad part is could be telling Google you are in control of the links. However, with outreach to clean up the link with naked URL would be better then keeping the anchor text. Another option would be to just nofollow the link. Personally that is what I would do.

Attila Szabo

07/29/2013 01:48 pm

Isn't it interesting that it's mostly people (bloggers, webmasters) with VERY few actual articles that overobsess with these insignificant details, and not those who have a LARGE amount of useful data in their posts ?


07/29/2013 04:03 pm

I dunno, I think if you're changing your anchor text than you must have done something wrong. And if that's the case then I imagine those links will be low value, unnatural and you're better off removing them completely.

Jarrett Byrom

07/29/2013 04:11 pm

"Now, you go through as many of the old back links as possible and update them from the old to the new anchor text." This step is what will catch you up with Google. If you just do a few of your backlinks you should see a positive change but going back through all of them will be a sign of an unatural link profile. teh convential wisdom seems to say anything more than 25% of backinks to a page with a specific keyword will be a red flag. Maturally most of your keywords will be to your url. On a product page or blog post, you may be able to get a way with a higher percent but I would start slow.


07/29/2013 06:33 pm

if the links were changed to different anchor text and not all the same can work but if they have already been tagged by G as unnatural the best thing to do is nofollow as they are already marked as questionable and changing the text is not going to help - disavow, get taken off or have nofollowed are the real options to penalized links

Arpit Agarwal

07/30/2013 04:50 am

We can not change the all anchor text to the new one at a time. As it will consider as spam. we can change 1/4th of total back links and rest further accordingly.

Jawad Latif

07/30/2013 07:23 am

Wondering who will have this much time

Link Juice

07/30/2013 11:20 am

Many moons ago there were some who believed that Google ignores anchor text changes. I never quite understood the logic behind it and never tested it, but it was an opinion held by several experts. Anyone else remember this tale?

Terry Van Horne

07/30/2013 12:59 pm

why is that spam? Show me in the guidelines where it says anything about changing anchor text

Terry Van Horne

07/30/2013 01:04 pm

there are no hard numbers! if it is 2% in that query space then that is the threshold! Look at your competitors do not use numbers from self proclaimed experts if you are going to push to the limit best you know what that limit is and your competitors are the best barometer simply because they will be affected equally so it's a wash if have done your competitor homework

Terry Van Horne

07/30/2013 01:13 pm

I assume that you believe once these pages are flagged by Penguin, they are never removed from the penalty box. Which judging by my experience this has some merit. One thing we have noticed is that the easy way to remove these penalties is re-name the page (fix it or it gets hit again) of course if you 301 there is some indications some of the toxicity is passed so it is best if you can get the inbound links changed so no 301 is needed

Oleg Korneitchouk

07/30/2013 02:30 pm

Here is a case that a client had. Was ranking well for many terms in his niche then suddenly dropped out of rankings. More importantly, it was just the homepage that tanked. When I started digging into what happened, someone changed the alt text of the logo to a long and keyword stuffed sentence. I changed the text back to their brand name and rankings bounced back within a couple days. So overoptimization is the real deal. You will get penalized for stuffing/linking to your pages with stuffed anchors. However, it looks like the effects are easily reversible.


07/30/2013 03:02 pm

Why is that unusual? It's no different with anything: - those with no money worry about it, those with more money than god could care less. - those without a job worry about it, those with a nice job bitch and moan. - those with no spouse or partner obsess on there being something wrong with them, those with a partner take them for granted. Seems self evident why this occurs.


07/30/2013 05:12 pm

it lead to penalty, 3 days ago i changed anchor text, and google reaction was almost immediate. Site tanked. Not completely, but deeply. Unnatural google penalties show must go on! Very soon our sites will be banned for usage of "welcome" word.


07/30/2013 05:15 pm

because google penalties ltd think so ;)


07/30/2013 05:16 pm

i changed only one link anchor, and effect was almost immediate. Well doing site lost lot of positions.

Eric Enge

07/31/2013 01:14 am

I think the issue is that changing the anchor text shows CONTROL. Google does not want the person receiving the link to be able to change the anchor text. That by definition shows that the link is not editorial. Having said that, I don't know that there is a practical detection algorithm for that since some level of changes in anchor text to happen on the "real" web.

Peter Watson

08/01/2013 07:59 am

my comment was self explanatory anonymous 'Dan'........ ;-)

Spook SEO

12/08/2013 06:18 am

Hi Barry! I absolutely like this topic. As far as I know, we can not change the all anchor text to the new one at a time because this will really lead to penalty. They will actually consider this as spam.

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