Today, I thought I’d cover a topic that almost all SEOs know more than a little bit about, anchor text. Before we get into the meat of this post, let’s quickly cover what anchor text is and why it is important (for those who don’t know).
First, anchor text are the words that you use to link to another page on the internet. This can either be external pages (pages not on your website) or internal pages (other pages found on your website.
Second, anchor text is an important signal for the search engines and helps them understand what the page is about that they are going to visit when they come to the link on your page. For example, if I linked to my ppc page, I would want to use the word ppc as my anchor text. This tells the search engines that the page you are going to is about ppc and not about link building or SEO training.
Before we talk about the different types of anchor text, we probably need to preface the discussion noting that until April of this year (2012), the search engines looked at anchor text as one of the strongest ranking factors in the SEO game. Because of this, SEOs were able to easily manipulate search engine rankings, that is until the Penguin update in April. With the Penguin update, Google, not Bing, reduced the amount of weight that anchor text plays and flat out penalized some sites that had too much exact match anchor text (talk about exact match in a minute). That is why I am writing this post today, to help you understand the different types and how to use them. Let’s get started.
Exact Match Anchor Text
The first type of anchor text we will discuss is exact match anchor text. This type of anchor text is when the keywords found in the link are the exact keyword you are trying to generate more visibility for in the search engines. Just like in the ppc example above, exact match anchor text would be linking with the just word ppc.
Partial Match Anchor Text
The second type of anchor text is partial match anchor text. This type of anchor text is when you have a link that includes the keyword you are trying to generate more visibility for, in addition to other words. So instead of just linking with the word ppc, I might link with the words, to learn more about ppc here.
Zero Match Anchor Text
The third type of anchor text we will discuss is zero match anchor text. This type of anchor text is when you have a link that doesn’t include any mention of the keyword you are trying to generate more visibility for. Instead of linking like the two examples above, I would link with the word click here, or learn more.
Branded Anchor Text
The last type of anchor text we will discuss is branded anchor text. As you can probably tell by the name, this is when you link to a web page with the brand name or URL of a website, such as Stryde.com.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about using anchor text. As I briefly discussed earlier in the post, many SEOs were able to manipulate search engine rankings by blasting 99-100% exact match anchor text at their web pages. This no longer works and can get your site penalized in a hurry. After the Penguin update, some industry experts and ex-googlers began recommending that you build no more than 10% of exact match anchor text to any given page on your site, the rest should be branded, zero, and partial match. Personally, I don’t agree.
Yes, you need to be cautious when using exact match anchor text, but saying 10% is a hard and fast rule is just ludicrous. As an SEO, I rely on gap analysis to determine how much exact match anchor text I need to use in my link building to compete. Each vertical or industry will be different as will every set of results displayed for a given keyword. So, let’s talk about what you need to do.
First, determine who your top ten competitors are for each of your keywords and run them through a link analysis tool such as Ahrefs. Some people like to use Open Site Explorer, but I’m becoming less and less of a fan of Moz as of late. Here, you can start to get a feel for what your competitors are doing with their anchor text and put together a strategy to compete. In the example below, you can see that 30% of their anchor text is exact match for paintball guns. 10% really guys? Again, that’s just ludicrous!
In closing, I hope that this has helped you to understand the different types of anchor text, the dangers you can come across by using to much of one kind of anchor text, and also how to analyze and put together an anchor text strategy to help you compete with the big boys. If you have any questions or would like to add to the discussion, please feel free to comment below.