In the wake of Penguin 1.0 and 1.1 relying on keyword rich anchor text has become an almost impossible way to rank for phrases in Google. A website can rank for a whole heap of keywords with 100% non-targeted anchor text which seems to take control away from the webmaster completely. An article posted in June this year explains that websites with incoming anchor text which have no relation to the brand/URL, or generic phrases such as “this site” or “click here”, were (and still are) likely to be in the firing line. Another post about over-optimisation analysed the anchor text distribution of top ranking websites and came to a similar conclusion. Although the posts do not reference one another they both show that backlinks with natural anchor text from trusted sources are needed to rank well in the Google SERPs (amongst other things). To see what your incoming anchor text looks like use a tool such as Open Site Explorer to download a spreadsheet of backlinks and use a pie chart to see the targeted and non-targeted anchor text distribution.
If we have no control over anchor text then how can we rank for certain keywords? To give Google a better understanding of what your website is about you will need to organise pages into categories which can then be broken down into further sub categories. Together they should form a theme which is essentially what your website is about. Your site architecture should reflect the category structure:
The most basic way to optimise a web page for a keyword is to use it in the URL (i.e. domain.com/keyword), title tag and H1 tag. However this should be done in a way that actually makes sense to the user and is topical to the content and website as a whole. Use the Google ad groups keyword tool to find synonyms and partial match phrases to use in the content and avoid keyword stuffing. With the testing of tabbed sitelinks in Google SERPs and improvements in the semantic understanding of synonyms Google has made some big advancements in being able to categorise pages, which is why websites need to be consistent in their theme. Assigning keywords to individual pages is the most effective way of targeting traffic to a website, this is called keyword mapping.
Power Mapper is a useful piece of software for people with existing websites who would like to see what their current site structure looks like. Start with broader keywords at the top and target long tail keywords further down the website hierarchy, depending on how deep the website is. Google is a relevance machine so organising your website in an easy to understand way will help to increase rankings and improve the user experience.