This is a tactic better undertaken when you launch - retrofitting keywords into the "Home" links at a later date has been known to cause penalties.
And then there's the usability factor. I helped launch two websites that used keyword links to Home. In one case all seems fine. In the other, the complaints came rolling in from the user-base that they couldn't find the "Home" page link.
To me, adding keywords to the "Home" links in order to improve rankings feels something like a "Hail Mary" pass in American football. If the keyword for your website's main theme is somehow a weak signal for Google, then there are other issues to look at: in your semantic page construction, the site's link structure. and even your backlink profile.
Let's be clear about this - it is essentially NOT adding value for your user, but instead it is designed in the hope of manipulating rankings. Even when it "works" I'd say Google doesn't want it to work - and it may not work for very long. It's far from a future-proof method.
I think this is a myth - I don't believe Google pays any attention to the link text internally used to a site's root. What's better for the web, a load of difficult to understand websites that say "buy cheap widgets online home" or websites with sensible links to home? It's pretty easy for Google to filter out which links point back to the home page and ignore any text used.
I don't believe Google pays any attention to the link text internally used to a site's root
I think they do notice and that this can be part of an over-optimisation-penalty. A few years ago I relaunched a site and added a footer link on the key phrase to the home page sitewide. Home page rankings dropped 30 places. Removed the keyword link, rankings went back to where they were.
As Tedster said, I think the key is whether it's a new site or an existing site that you do this to.
That's interesting to hear FranticFish and makes a lot of sense - I guess if I was a search engine looking to flag over-optimised pages, finding links like "free online widgets home" would be an excellent way as it's something that would only ever be a result of deliberate SEO efforts.
Exactly. However if that footer is in your site from the start Google seems to think it's just 'in with the bricks' - at least it used to. I think this relates to the 'over-tweaking' penalty that was also discussed here extensively a few years ago where people reported that things like changing title tags too much caused ranking demotions.
You mention 'flags' - what I took from this and other cases of 'overdoing' it is that there are actions that raise flags. One flag by itself might not be enough to cause a problem, but if more flags are raised... and maybe some 'offences' are deemed worse than others and raise bigger flags. Once you cross a certain line then you get hit. I'd imagine that the threshold varies from niche to niche and even term to term too.
And finally, it all seems to be related to trust, so what might kill one site could actually help another depending on the quality of their links.
What's the consensus then? If it's a pre-launched site then do as you please? If so can someone place a numerical positive value (1-10) on changing the home link to the main KW?
Also you can always have an additional "home" link somewhere and no-follow it. Would that be okay to have the original home link text changed to a KW, and then adding a no-follow "home" link in a side NAV menu?
I've never had problems adding a keyword link to home in the footer for a new site.
I don't do this now if working on an existing site, but I've never had problems with adding a variation of the home page title tag to the 'alt' tag of the sitewide logo link back to home, as this is often the first link on the page.
Worth doing IMO, but I couldn't place a value on it and don't think it makes a great deal of difference.
I agree that it is important to let Google know what your website is about - of course you must! However, my experience is that Google now picks up the main theme of a website quite well these days - even without Home Page links that use keyword anchor text.
"Home" is the most widespread anchor choice across the web - by far - and I'm sure that this practice jumps out on any link graph that Google creates as an oddity.
Although this practice was very helpful not too long ago, I don't see it as all that useful today. I have heard from a few websmasters in recent months who ran into ranking trouble right after trying to convert to this approach. It was even worse for those who used different anchor text on different pages but in the same spot in the template.
To use the words of Google's Maile Ohye, "The Google search algorithm is a very nuanced thing."
From those who did this in a footer link, I haven't heard of any problems. The problem reports came from those who made a change in their principle navigation area.
I'd reccomend linking to your pages with the text that best describes the content of the page.
Forget all the "oh it happened 1 time out of a zillion so we can never do that" FUD. Help your visitors and help the search engines. If a page is about Red Widgets, then link to it with that text, not some other bit of unnatural nonsense created to avoid nonexistent problems.
"even without Home Page links that use keyword anchor text."
So what? It's foolish to make something that is easy be harder for no reason. This isn't 1999 when people used all kinds of bad practices. Use of "Home" as link text sends no helpful message at all. If you are stuck in 1999, fine, use it. But it has no value and there are better ways to do it.
While nervous nellies and those trying to pretend their spammy website is actually a quality one will disagree, it is never too late to construct your good website even better.
@steveb, we may be in more agreement than it seems on the surface. I would boil down my caution to one simple case - if the site is already getting Google traffic, then modifying your main navigation to include a keyword link to the home page can run a risk.
A keyword link the body copy of a strong internal page is a good idea. A footer navigation link might also work well. And WHAT keyword you're trying to rank for may be a much bigger factor than any of those I mentioned so far.
The reports I've seen of trouble were a lot more that 1 time in a zillion. Although they did not happen on my sites, I also never tried to retrofit a keyword link into the main navigation.
To offer a balanced view of this situation, I felt it was only right to pass on some cautionary information. Some people reading this thread may well go overboard without that word of caution.
And if we still disagree? well, that's diversity of opinion and experience for you. I've got no problem being on the other side of this issue because I have sites where it works well - even in the main menu.
@ Steveb - Just clarifying - whilst acknowledging Tedster's caution would you be so bold as to have a different home page link on every internal page then ( provided it was what the site was about ) . Would you go so far as to have 1000 different Home Links reading :
"Widget Red " "Widget Blue" "Widget Green "
etc etc to obtain some ranking benefit ?
Would that be strengthened in your opinion if the Home page was the strongest page of the site ?
steveb I don't understand why you think usage of "home" is bad. I asked you before and you didn't give an answer.
It seems like you think "Home" is some bizarrely obfuscated term that no one would understand, but to be quite frank I think that is completely untrue. In my experience "Home" is the text that visitors expect on a link back to the, um, home page, and using anything else than "Home" or "something + home" is likely to cause confusion.
If you can cite some usability studies that suggest otherwise I'd be interested to read them though.
Whitey, even if keyphrases in links to home do pass benefit (which has not been proven to anything like my satisfaction), for SEO results you would almost certainly be better off spending the time it would take to do that producing additional content or linkbuilding.
Tedster, I see websites that have ‘Home’ on the main menu linking back to the home page and also another home page link, ‘blue widgets’ near the bottom of the page with other internal links. Is this of any value or is this viewed as over doing it? The additional link seems to be on every page but anchor text varies, red widgets, green widgets, widgets for sale ...
So in other words, the extra link in the footer, certainly in terms of the text used in it is worth nothing, and the same is true for any link which is repeated more than once on a page. Remember I am talking about relevancy, not authority.
[edited by: tedster at 4:16 pm (utc) on May 7, 2010]
I don't know if you can draw any conclusions from this, but I added a number of homepage links (using varied anchor text based on my keyphrases) to one site in february from in-text on other pages - one a page - and in March the site dived to the 400's and is still there. I had made some other changes around the same time, but minor and not designed for SEO.
zehrila, Google can *see* this sort of link as with any HTML code, they just don't pay any attention to it in terms of what would be beneficial effects of passing relevancy. As with any other on page content, if it is part of something that could be classed as a spam/black hat tactic it may be penalised. Google is constantly finding new ways to detect content that is not produced with human visitors in mind.
If you add content to your page intended purely at search engines, there is a good chance you will get a penalty now or at some point in the future. This is simple common sense.
There are *a lot* of people out there who simply don't understand the fundamental principles of search engines and concepts like how they try to improve the quality of their search results. Yes we don't know exactly how they work in many cases, but that does not mean that common sense can be suspended and ludicrous theories raised as equally likely to be true as something that actually make sense.
You wanted to know how to best use internal links to the home page... I still find hovering over them with the pointer and then clicking them is by far the best way for me to use them. It usually works the same for me whether they're internal links to the home page, outbound links, or even links on another site.
I was being a smart ass and answered literally. lol :)