TheMadScientist - 10:10 pm on Jan 10, 2013 (gmt 0)
Yeah, I remember that crobb305, but if we look at the Spam Detection Patent [appft1.uspto.gov] and especially the notes made by Tedster in the 950 Penalty Summary [webmasterworld.com]
" ...grammatical or format markers, for example by being in boldface, or underline, or as anchor text in a hyperlink, or in quotation marks."
" ...whether the occurrence is a title, bold, a heading, in a URL, in the body, in a sidebar, in a footer, in an advertisement, capitalized, or in some other type of HTML markup." Note that measurements are suggested here for position on the page.
I think we need to remember there's no 'one size fits all' any more, first and foremost, plus...
I think what we would probably find is many of the sites being hit went 'too far' in a number of ways, and yes, there may be sites with less 'keyword dense' links ranking better, but it appears Google's looking at 'the overall picture' or emphasis for a page and when that emphasis is 'enough to look manipulative, rather than natural and visitor oriented' it's being flagged as spam.
But, some of the 'way too conservative to be a natural way of doing things' advice for do's and do not's can easily be as 'bad' and 'unnatural' as 'overdoing' everything, because 'natural' or 'normal' is what they're looking for ... The linking here at WebmasterWorld is very 'natural' and 'normal' for a forum (it's actually some of the best linking structure I've seen), and it's well rewarded as such, which is very easy to determine if you do a search for Google SEO News and check the number 1 result.
Having someone worrying about whether they can mention their site in the text of a page about their site and link to it with the domain/site name rather than 'home' is miles from natural or normal though ... No one except someone trying to manipulate their results would even think about it, because it's 'natural' and 'normal' to just do it.
One of the biggest problems I see for people in rankings is how far they constantly move to extremes ... That's not SEO in my opinion, that's definitely an attempt to be manipulative and 5 or 10 years ago, the extremes were rewarded, so it worked and was touted as 'optimization' but it seems like people are stuck trying to optimize for Google circa 2002 or 2005 or 2007, but SEO is becoming (has become) a very subtle and nuanced game, not making you anchor text keyword stuffed, all caps, bold, strong, emphasized, italic, h1's resized to appear like text to try and 'get more points' for it than your competitors do...