3 SEO Tactics We're Easing Up On in 2013


 SEO Tactics 2013

Whoa there buddy

The changing SEO landscape was one of the most pervasive and controversial topics in Internet marketing last year. While some high-profile marketers maintained that good, legitimate, white-hat SEO has always been clear-cut, and claims to the contrary are just snake oil peddling, we believe that SEO is full of gray zones and judgment calls.

Although we’re primarily a PPC company, we’ve always believed in the power of SEO as a marketing channel, and in fact our business is highly dependent on organic search traffic, so we take this stuff seriously. Due to Google’s evolving algorithm and continuing battle against search spam, we’ve reconsidered some of the tactics that have seemingly worked for us in the past, for two reasons:

  • Recent evidence suggests these tactics might no longer be effective in increasing rankings/traffic (and therefore not a good use of our time)
  • Recent evidence suggests these tactics might be actively targeted and penalized by Google (meaning they could hurt our site rather than simply having no effect)

Read on to learn the SEO strategies that we’re easing up on and why.

Over-Optimized Anchor Text

Anchor text used to be considered a strong and valid signal about the content of a link destination. Optimizing your anchor text to tell Google where a link was pointing was considered SEO best practice whether you were linking internally or externally. For example, if you were linking to a page about hedge trimmers, you should use the words “hedge trimmers” as the anchor text for the hyperlink, rather than generic language like “click here.” This told Google – and your readers, as a bonus! – that the link would take them to a page about hedge trimmers.

The problem? Overzealous SEOs have taken advantage of this (perfectly valid, user-friendly) SEO tactic, and now Google appears to have earmarked it as a sign of over-optimization or manipulation. For example, if a certain page has 500 links to it with the exact same anchor text (like “mesothelioma lawyer”) that’s a sign that the links may be paid for or otherwise unnatural. But what is the tip-off point where “good SEO” turns into “too much” or “bad SEO”? Nobody knows.

Back in November of 2012, Rand Fishkin predicted that “anchor text may be a fading factor (still powerful, just on the downswing) while co-occurrence … is becoming stronger.” This is how he explains co-occurrence (emphases mine):

Google is getting a lot smarter about this. A ton of articles that mention backlink analysis, how to look at backlinks, talk about Open Site Explorer. Some of them link to it. Some of them don't. But because Open Site Explorer is very commonly cited in addition to the keyword phrase "backlink analysis," you're seeing OSE do really well for that query term.

This, in my opinion, is one of the kind of future looking elements of how we're going to do SEO, brand association, having people write about us and do PR about our brands, associating those terms together so that very frequently when you see an authoritative, high quality source mention a keyword phrase, talk about a keyword phrase, they're mentioning your brand. They're linking to your site. They don't even necessarily have to link to exactly your page. This type of SEO is something that's not very practiced today, but it certainly should be on a lot of people's minds for the future.

 You can watch the whole video here:

Anchor Text for Infographic links

In the past, infographics have been one of our strongest link building strategies. Like anyone else who does infographics, we have always used an embedding widget so that people can easily repost the infographics on their own site, and the widget automatically includes a link back to our site so that:

  1. We get the credit for the content, and
  2. We get an inbound link, with optimized anchor text

But if we get 500 links in a short amount of time with the exact same anchor text, is that actually optimal, or is that sending a manipulation signal to Google?

One way to reduce the number of links with the exact same anchor text is to code the widget to automatically vary the anchor text. Last week Mike King wrote about the tactic. But is randomizing your anchor text too shady? Justin Briggs argued with King on Twitter that this practice wouldn’t serve users; “The natural state of an embed link is a pattern. Destroying that pattern is the manipulation,” he said. King argued back that this practice isn’t any more manipulative “than link building itself.”

Over-optimized anchor text

Matt Cutts and friends might say that active link building is, in fact, a manipulation – links should be earned, not asked for. But can businesses hope to succeed without doing any link building? Is it really enough just to “create great content” without finding smart ways to promote it and spread it around as well? Sometimes a link is earned but you still have to ask for it – even if you’re the perfect candidate for a job, you can’t get hired until you apply. Websites, especially smaller, younger sites, may need to work harder at self-promotion in order to increase their visibility. Once you're established and that machine is in place, you're more likely to get away with simply creating great content and letting it promote itself.

Personally, I doubt that it’s possible to market a business in 2013 without ever crossing the line into something that could be considered “manipulation.” Nonetheless, we’re taking a closer look at the anchor text on our backlinks and looking for patterns that could be problematic. (You can check out your own backlinks using Open Site Explorer.) But note that over-optimized anchor text isn’t a problem you can solve programmatically. If all your links were generated by randomizing widgets, you’d end up with a link profile that looked less fake, but still fake. (Instead of 500 links with the exact same anchor text, you’d have 100 links with one set of anchor text, 100 with another set, and so on, basically over-optimization distributed evenly over a larger number of variations.) Co-occurrence as Rand describes it above is something that should happen naturally if your content and PR strategies are in place.

New strategy: Don’t be a control freak about anchor text for all links, internal or external, to a page. A natural link profile would have some “optimized” anchor text and plenty of random variation. Welcome the random. 

Guest Posting

Guest posts are another tactic that we see as offering diminishing returns. Here are some of the problems with this tactic:

  • Most guest posting isn’t scalable. In order to keep your referral traffic up, you have to keep writing more posts. It doesn’t scale.
  • It dilutes your brand value. AJ Kohn has talked about this in the past; when you create great content and let someone else have it, it builds their brand, not yours.
  • You have less control over the content and its response. It’s harder to keep up with a conversation that isn’t happening on your own site. Plus, the site/blog could die and then your content disappears.
  • Links from guest posting may raise a red flag at Google. Matt Cutts and the rest of the spam team at Google recognize that guest posting is a favorite tactic of SEOs, and that means – like any SEO tactic! – it can be overused and misused. Guest post links, similar to those obtained through infographics, may eventually be devalued.

We have gotten real value from guest posting in the past. Not only did it help us form important relationships with other marketers in the search space, but it helped build out our link profile in the early years, raising awareness for our business and brand. However, these days we spend less of our time trying to write and place guest posts. Rather than a couple of links, we look for ways to drive significant referral traffic, which almost always leads to links on the side. Here are a couple of the ways we’ve accomplished that:

  • If you’re going to guest-blog, aim high – Really high. We’ve gotten an amazing response from content that we’ve placed at  SEOmoz, for a few reasons: 1) SEOmoz has very high standards for guests posts, so you can’t get away with phoning it in. 2) SEOmoz has a great community of very smart, engaged readers. If you write good stuff, it actually gets read! 3) SEOmoz’s huge reach leads to a trickle-down effect – one guest post can lead to many additional links. Basically, I want our blog to be this awesome and powerful! But until it is, we want to engage with that audience as much as we can.
  • Citations, not guest posts – In the past year especially, Larry Kim’s thought leadership on topics like the shifting balance between SEO and PPC and the industries that get the most leverage from PPC has allowed us to become an expert source on Internet marketing, so we can get mentions and links on high-profile sites like Inc. and CNN without having to pitch and write guest posts. Obviously, this is an enviable position and not one you can get into over night.

New strategy: Spend more time creating “awesome” content that lives on our own site. Go for guest posts when the site is significantly more powerful than our own – and make it count. Become a go-to source for the media on search marketing.

Press Releases

Press releases are one of the easiest ways to get backlinks with the anchor text of your choosing. Right? Wrong, it would appear. Matt Cutts was recently quoted as saying that links in press releases won’t help your rankings. They’re essentially no-follow links.

However, if your press release gets picked up by a legitimate news source, any links that source retains do have value. So press releases can still be great for exposure, but you can’t look at them as a link building strategy alone.

New strategy: Don’t bother with press releases unless the content really is news-worthy, then proceed as usual.

What About You?

Are there SEO tactics that you’ve eased up on or abandoned in response to recent changes in the search landscape?

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Rank Watch
Jan 07, 2013

I liked your interpretation about Anchor text. With the new Google updates, and their comand over site indexing, there is a great demand for better Anchor text optimization.

Internet Marketing NZ
Jan 07, 2013

Great summary and I would agree on most points except you should always take anything Matt Cutts says with a grain of salt. The obvious aim in 2013 is to make your SEO strategy as natural as possibe. Varying your anchor text is one way as well as using a variety of methods to obtain backlinks. Don't give up on press releases as they are still a great source of referral traffic which should always be the main focus.

Elisa Gabbert
Jan 08, 2013

We are easing up on press releases that were written primarily with the objective of securing anchor-text links. We'll keep on keeping on with legitmately news-worthy press releases.

Blog Tips dan Trik
May 06, 2014

i still new in seo, i wish after i read this article, my knowledge about SEO can be improved, and i can practice to become master seo..

Tips Kesehatan
Dec 30, 2013

With anchor text that is nice and not too over-optimization is one way to raise a blog or an article in a search engine such as Google

Ryan Watson
May 03, 2014

It's been more than an year and it's amazing to see old Moz video. I am amazed that still the the anchor texts work but you need to take care a lot while making it.

Dec 10, 2013

Excellent advice, and many people probably know, but I wonder how many put it into practice? Of course, the SEO work is hard work and not many people like, but if you have persistence and patience will achieve lasting results over time!

Apr 19, 2014

AWESOME POST: Google updates has been affecting SEO years. This post opens the eyes and minds of online marketers to different things that might cause the downfall of keywords. Over optimization is also not good.

Program Acara Jepang
Mar 24, 2014

How will naked anchor will effected my seo result. any though?

Max Manroe
Mar 22, 2014

Based on my experience, the best strategi for SEO is internal linking. My site stay strong at the SERP every time Google Upadates their algo.And ofcourse linking from another site is also important. 

Mar 06, 2014

Instaed of providing link to anchot text , we can provide link to "click here for more info" like keyword. Eenthough it is a old fasioned SEO, google likes it now 

Mar 05, 2014

Thanks for these suggestions.This is pretty good advice IMO.

Tas Murah
Feb 27, 2014

SEO is something of mystery. no one knows for sure how it's seo. after the event over the optimization on the blog, I tried to find out the error there. and the result is a backlink from the shoutbox to be the cause of it all. 

Feb 06, 2014

Someone didn't read this post :) http://www.garethjames.net/uk-bank-halifax-receives-google-penalty/

Feb 06, 2014

Thanks for an interesting article.  As mentioned, if anchor text is on the decline as an indicator to Google, and instead more emphasis is to be placed on branding association; then it means a  lot of work would have to go into creating all this off site content, which a small business may not be able to afford, in terms of manpower or outsourcing the work and paying a third party. If ones business was not some globally recognised brand, then you'd be fighting against all the other small businesses in a specific area using this same strategy. Using social media, guest blogging and other ways of creating all this off site brand associated content is all well and good for a particular niche product, or a service which people would actually feel like talking about and sharing on other websites. Build great websites with great content worth sharing and the visitors will come. Although I don't see how Joe the plumber, operating in a small local region, would be an exciting topic that others would share. Joe would need to have all this content created which would cost a lot of time and money which may not end up being a good ROI; all this content created by a third party seems manipulative, if not originating with an actual real user/customer sharing Joe's content, but rather, by an SEO team artificially seeding this associative branding. Interesting aticle, nonetheless. Thank you.  

Nov 30, 2013

thank you your article helped me

Reyan Loeffler
Oct 09, 2013

thnaks for showing such professionalism. surely i like suggest this post  to number of friend to read. What you would like to suggest for health and fitness website, if pages are totally consist on images in regard of onsite SEO..?

Pakar SEO
Oct 12, 2013

For internal links, you can always change the anchor text.For external links, the best strategy is to vary the links you have control of going forward. For example, when guest posting, don't always use the same links/same anchor text in your bio. But just as before, when you couldn't 100% control the anchor text for inbound links, there's only so much you can do. The WORST practice here would be buying a bunch of links with a certain anchor text.50% seems high for naked anchors. I personally don't like the look of naked anchors, and while I might drop one in a blog comment, I wouldn't do it in a post or on a more professional web page.  

Cara Riset Keyword
Oct 28, 2013

very useful post. Thank you so much because I've now learned a lot about SEO from you. I am waiting for other useful posts. and of course I am studying science will soon be in practice.

Oct 30, 2013

Just found this artilce and found it really interesting. The point around over optimisation of anchor text seems to have become more relevant and impactive since this atricle was written.I found the point about PR and looking for links back from PR sites interesting and useful as highlighted that some still need to look at updating their approach and progress their link building strategies.

Nov 12, 2013

Great post! Thanks for shearing such a informative post.Definitely waiting for your next post.

yaseen khan
Nov 22, 2013

How much words is enough for while writing guest post. i usually write 300 to 400 words, it is enough for seo or i have to write more words for seo purpose. can you pls help me out.

belajar seo
Nov 27, 2013

I am very glad to read this article. I got some very important points regarding SEO.

1strank Seo
Jul 04, 2014

It is Very helpful post about SEO strategies, i have also found it and useful this add. i am sharing you 1strankseo site as like good seo strategy.

May 19, 2014

Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and in depth information you offer. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material.

Dec 03, 2013

For example, when
guest posting, don't always use the
same links/same anchor text in your
bio. But just as before, when you
couldn't 100% control the anchor
text for inbound links, there's only
so much you can do. The WORST

Jul 09, 2013

Above tactics work good only when they are done with quality. That is if we are doing guest posting then one thing is need to make sure that post should be of high quality. 

Ozweb Internet Marketing
Aug 06, 2013

Google sits on a knife edge here, because if they give weight to a certain event, like a backlink that is created from a guest post, or one from a link from a sidebar link, or a blog comment, or an infographic, each one of those things can genuinely have been made with the full intention of creating valuable information on a specific topic.It's when, what Google interprets as "Unnatural", that penalities come into play.  But what if, genuinely, the content, link, article piece was so good, that it did craete it's own buzz and hpye, or was grabbed by a big player in that sphere and shared it, and it went bunta online.  This also, in the eyes of Google, look unnatural or they are being gamed.  So, genuine hype around content could also be interpreted as false and might trigger the penalty algorithm.Google has to be careful in that respect.Either way Elisa, I enjoyed reading that article.  I'll be coming back for more.

Aug 14, 2013

Some great tips here for me. We are new to SEO and this is really helpful, we have heard some horror stories of sites being deindexed over night. 

Pakar Seo
Aug 15, 2013

I am very glad to read this article. I got some very important points regarding SEO. And the articles that you included helped me more. I think ‘Steady and Slow ‘ is the most important factor in rank building. Thank you again. Keep sharing your simple but powerful knowledge.

Josh Boram
Aug 23, 2013

I read your whole article and SEO is sure changing. I recently started a blog that is a 3.7 yr old domain. I'm really wanting to get the blog ranking higher in google, however because you can't even "apply for a job" in google for being listed now what can one really do when starting a fresh blog? Seems like there is no real way.

Also another question. I have a iPhone 5 fan page that has over 21,000 LIKES, and active followers. I share my tech posts from my blog daily on it, I get about 400 visits a day, is this a positive impact on SEO? Also other aspects like stumbleUpon visits, t.co, Pinterest and other social signals / visits. Is this positive for SEO?

My VaultFeed blog is something I want to promote for the long run, not short run.

Any quick advice?

Aug 23, 2013

Also, how do you fix a site that is being penalized? Other then disavow or reconsideration.

A guy was advising me to do guest posts, but after this post maybe that's not a great idea either.

So what is a "great idea" / plan of attack for fixing a site that has a over optimized anchor text link profile that was ruined by an expensive SEO company unwilling to fix it? Lol


David D.
Jun 05, 2013

Well as of June, 2013, these things are holding true.  Over-optimized anchor text is getting hit, and press releases do not have the same "power" as the used to when it comes to SEO.  But they still do; you just have to use press releases wisely and make sure that your press release is really worthy of being a press release.

professional copywriting
Jan 13, 2013

That is a fairly accurate summary of the evolution of SEO in 2012. The question of the value of guest posts and whether they constitute a manipulation by the webmaster are sure to continue. As you point out, there can be genuine value there for both sides. Press releases and directory listings have also diminished in value for SEO and links from sites like Squidoo are probably next to get the cold shoulder from Google.

James spencer
Jan 13, 2013

I do agree with it. I did see a good response from the guest post articles. There is a lot of momentum in the SERPS for organic search.

Internet Marketing Company Toronto
Jan 14, 2013

 Any optimization method that looks natural is going to rule the SEO arena in 2013. Not sure whether Google will clutch its first by include GA to rank pages based on bounce rate, etc so that the relevance factor gains importance.

Abhishek Bhan
Jan 14, 2013

The main problem is the unnatural looking Seo strategy and it is very important to make it look natural. I completely agree on all the points you mentioned in this post. I never knew that press releases are still a source of referral traffic. Nice information dear!

Jan 14, 2013

I can't fathom Google anymore.They dropped one of our sites because we over optimised when using anchor text (and quite rightly too, we didn't realise until welooked at it closely, however foreign websites (we are in the UK) with 1000's of crappy and unreadable articles on article sites using contextual keywords are still flying high. I know Google may get around to it but it doesn't help those guys like us who are trying to do it properly and by the book.

Darnell Jackson
Jan 17, 2013

Wow,Excellent point.However guest posting is still good to build your credability as a blogger. People are impressed when they see you writing for other notable blogs. Very interesting I have to take your advice seriously seeing your blog is in the top 5000, very impressive job guys.

Gee Joy Briones
Jan 18, 2013

EXCELLENT POST: Google updates has been affecting SEO years. This post opens the eyes and minds of online marketers to different things that might cause the downfall of keywords. Over optimization is also not good.

Business Catalyst Developers NSW
Jan 21, 2013

Excellent post Elisa! I find your article very informative and useful. I totally agree with your points about guest blogging. Thanks for the suggestions!!!

Specialist SEO
Jan 21, 2013

I wrote a post on what links Google wants to see, which includes the webmaster help video where Matt Cutts talks about what links they want to avoid - widget links is one of these, but an interesting watch all the same.Andy

Perry Belcher
Jan 23, 2013

Thanks for sharing Elisa In the ever changing world of social media, snapshots like this are a breath of fresh air.

Jan 28, 2013

Wicked article on anchor text . Allow I must confess we still apply anchor text in at least 50% of our link building efforts 

Jan 29, 2013

Indeed true. This year 2013 has brought a revolution in SEO industry as being search engine is changing its techniques of working. The updation in algorithm of Google is proof of this context. The set of comments present on this blog post will agree on my set of views.

Jan 30, 2013

Really great article on anchor texts, it's always been an issue to try get relevant information to create links to a website, especially as google are forever changing their laws and regulations. Really great points on guest posting too.

Donna Burdett
Feb 07, 2013

This post is worth reading. It's really nice to hear or know other's opinions about something that is trending because through this we will be able to hear both sides - negative or positive.

Dan Kaufenberg
Feb 10, 2013

 I haven't read through all the other comments for this post, so I'm just going to give my two cents on your theories.Anchor TextUsing anchor text in wise quantities is still helpful, it is however not recommended to over use one singe text and to vary the different texts that you use. I do not use anchor text at all in link building campaigns because I simply ensure I am building links from relevant websites. This all being said, just make sure you rotate any anchor text that you use.Anchor text on your own website is still very essential to letting search engines know which pages are the most important on your website. Using internal anchor text for on page optimization is a good thing.Guest PostingThere are not many other white hat methods for building back links, unless your website starts off truly awesome and has an epic local marketing campaign to drive traffic to your website. Then you just need to hope that the content on your website deems a share. Guest posting on relevant websites should never be penalized and if you keep your SEO strategies relevant you shouldn’t be penalized.What the search algorithm updates have done is go a long way in determining which, guest posts, guest comments and content are spammy and irrelevant. Sticking to the same white hat SEO methods that have always worked are your best bet when implementing your SEO strategy.Press ReleasesPress releases still do two things. One, they can drive traffic from the press release site itself and they give a back link. Two, I am testing this theory, but back links from PR sites that have a quality piece of content written with them can still be effective back links.Dan Kaufenberg is an internet marketer, local SEO and freelance writer, you can find him on Google +.

Web design company
Feb 21, 2013

Great Post thanks for sharing.

Steve @ GeekBlogSetup.com
Feb 23, 2013

Great share Elisa! You raise an interesting point about the possibility that Google will devalue guest posting links. Its ironic that Google promotes unique content but then does everything in their power to make it nearly impossible to market it. Thanks again, I have a few new things to consider.


Leave a comment