Long ago and far away, I wrote a post about the Problems with Anchor Text as a Ranking Signal (well OK, it was about a year ago). In that post I wrote:
The weighting of anchor text is one of the biggest factors that drives the paid links business. When you pay somebody for a link, you naturally expect that you will be able to control the anchor text. So here the search engines truly hurt their own cause. Want to put a dent in the paid links industry? Reduce the importance of anchor text.
In recent weeks it seems that Google has done just that. Emphasis has appeard to shift towards the content of the page providing the link. If so, this is a major improvement in the algorithm. Links on irrelvant pages just should not count for as much, regardless of the anchor text. And, since link buying is largely about manipulating anchor text, this should reduce the impact of such link buying.
It’s also interested to see that there appear to have been multiple PageRank updates. I have seen sites dropped one level, and then a few weeks later get dropped yet another level in toolbar PageRank score. This may be the result of changes in link filtering of some sort. For example, perhaps reciprocal links have been subject to further discounting, particularly if they appear to be barter.
One thing that is clear, is that there is some serious work being done on the link algorithms by Google. This is likely to continue.
That noted, don’t expect the overall importance of links to decline anytime soon. They still are a huge factor, both in terms of calculating a link score (PageRank) and for their anchor text benefits (less than before, but still a factor).
Bottom line here is that the need to focus on natural link building is greater than ever. This depends on building a superior resource that people want to link to, and letting them know about it. It’s a function not dissimilar to PR, except it has the twist of being focused on getting a link.
The link builder of the future will be a master of masterminding content plans and link campaigns in an integrated fashion. If you have already been doing that, you are just beginning to reap some of the rewards of your efforts.