Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

Does Exact Anchor Text Really Matter?

Those of you who read SEOwizz will know I am a huge fan of anchor text and use anchor text linking throughout all my SEO campaigns. There are, however, constant challenges to the exact impact anchor text has on rankings and some even suggesting it has completely lost it’s weight due to manipulation.

First let me clear something up…..

If you have a site named www.promoteyoursiteonline.com and you practice in search engine optimisation, it is not anchor text manipulation to acquire a load of links with the anchor text “search engine optimisation”.

Anchor text must be descriptive yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the name of your site or top level domain (TLD). If you practice “search engine optimisation” and you have links anchored with that keyword, what exactly is the problem? It’s relevant and people will know doubt find what they want if you rank well.

Sorry, just had to clear that up.

Anyway to find out the exact effect anchor text has I carried out a test. I have looked at the top 5 sites across 35 different keywords ranging from “used cars” to “seo” to “online bingo”, all competitive, high traffic keywords.

The aim is to see how many use the exact anchor text and how the use of it impacts rankings. A nice small test but one that gave some interesting results and highlighted some peripheral issues.

The Test

So the test was pretty simple, look at the links of the top 5 sites over 35 different keywords and then work out some average percentages;
anchor text

So as you can see the top 5 sites use between 15 – 22 percent exact anchor texts in their links, but the highest percentage does not necessarily win.

Whilst conducting this test I came across some very interesting points, some that have already been spoken of and others that haven’t really been touched upon much.

Anchor Variations

Even though the sites did not have particularly high exact text percentages, they all used thousands of different variations that included their targeted keywords. Not only this but 90% of the sites tested had anchor text that did not include the target keywords but instead used other relevant keywords.

<b>For example “internet marketing” & “search engine optimisation” – different keywords but relevant.</b>

Google has the capability now to recognise word patterns and even if your keywords are not exact or even a broad variation, Google can still establish which ones should be tied together.

Internal Links

One thing that was evident in just about every site was that they were using their internal links efficiently. Not only were they anchoring their internal links with their target keyword but these internal links were also carrying a good amount of link juice.

Internal links anchored correctly hold more weight than you might think, don’t waste an easy opportunity to create relevance.

Brands

There were clear signs of brands being able to rank highly despite not having relevant anchor text. Some brands were simply ranking highly because their names are so closely associated with the keyword.

For example, autotrader ranked 3rd for the keyword “used cars” despite it never been used in the anchor text.

SEO First

A few interesting examples came to light when searching the keywords used cars and online bingo. Some of the websites in the top 5 have recently started their TV campaigns, however some of their links are over 3 years old.

These sites have clearly used SEO techniques to launch their business, becoming popular online has given them the opportunity and capital to launch their TV campaigns.

This is a clear demonstration of the marketing power of SEO.

Themes

There were a lot of sites ranking in the top five with a deep page from their sites with very few links and some of these sites weren’t what you would call “well known brands”.

The early conclusion I am coming to is that a “sites theme” really does matter.

A quick example……

If you have a website comparing different online casino’s and you decide to create a page for, roulette techniques, you may find the page ranks well with very few links based on the overall theme of your site and how relevant it is to your newly launched page.

Domain trust also plays a part here, if your theme is relevant and your domain is trusted you can rank new pages very quickly, even for competitive terms.

I hope this has provided you with some further insights into SEO and how Google is currently rankings pages. If you have any questions or points to add please leave a comment.

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Author: Tim (254 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 6 comments }

PotatoChef August 14, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Interesting article Tim…

I have a question about internal anchor text. If the name of the post is “Big Rock”, should you be anchoring “Big Rock” to the post url or to the homepage url?

Tim August 15, 2009 at 2:16 am

Hi Pchef,

Ye you should be anchoring the link to the post as ‘big rock’, whatever keyword you are targeting on a particular page, you should attempt to create internal links around your site pointing at that page using the target anchor text.

Michael November 4, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Dear Tim,
could you extend the article for one example with anchor variations of a site you investigated, please? It is not clear for me, if e.g. when the site’s name is http://www.seo.xx if links with the anchor “click here” are useful as well, if the targeted term is “seo”. I heard there are anchor text filters depolyed by Google, that punish a too overoptimised anchor text distribution. I would be curious in what the rest of the 15-22% of anchor texts were. Maybe you want to give an example?
Thank you
Michael

Tim November 4, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Hi Michael,

I am actually in the middle of publishing some data on anchor text optimisation, so watch this space I guess :)

Usually anchor text to an established site compromise thousands of variations, however it is the exact anchor text that seems to hold more weight, SEO’s have spoken before about tight alignment leading to penalties however any site ranking for a given keyword always has around 40% of it’s anchor texts exact or a variation of the exact keyword. ‘click here’ links will pass link juice but will not provide any keyword relevance other than click here, and who searches click here?

Darren August 31, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Hey, thanks for the article. I came across it when looking through google. I was interested in knowing how easy it would be to rank for a keyword with no actual on page seo but just text links.

for example, say we have a page about blue cars but we sent 1000 links its way with the anchor text “Green Cans” do you think we can rank for it?

Will take a look around the rest of your site,

Thanks,

Darren.

Tim September 1, 2010 at 2:25 am

Generally without a little on page optimisation is is going to be hard to rank a site, however this site ranks for SEO techniques and we don’t really target it in terms of on page, however we have a few strong links with that as the anchor text.

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