Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

Anchor Text Has Lost Its Edge – Time To Build A Healthy Strong Domain, Old Techniques Are Not Going to Cut it

Anchor Text Ends

Last year I published a link correlation article showing the most important link building metrics to consider when putting together a campaign.

If you missed it check it out here.

It was republished and linked to widely including from SEOmoz as it was data from their tools that helped me put the report together.

I wanted to follow up on that report as since Caffeine has gone live a number of sites and clients have been noticing major switches in rankings and once high ranking websites are now struggling to make the first page. I personally believe there a couple of reasons for the fluctuations, however let’s start with a new bit of research.

I don’t have the time or patience to carry out such intense research like I did for the previous article, however I picked 50 competitive keywords and checked rankings against metrics.

So I compared where the sites actually rank, to where each individual metric proposed they should rank, I called them ‘true rank’ and ‘metric rank’.

True Rank = The Actual Ranking

Metric Rank = Where they would rank if that metric was the sole factor

I am not going to publish 50 graphs, instead I want to focus in on what these results clearly highlighted compared to last year and how we can use it to improve our own positions.

Last year’s results showed anchor text as the king, he who has more anchor text links wins!! It was by far the most correlative factor pertaining to rankings, not anymore thought!

Check out the below table, according to these results anchor text has turned completely on its head and no longer plays the bigger role, of course it is still a ranking factor so don’t ignore it, just don’t put it to the top of your priority list.

Correlation Table

The research clearly shows, in terms of ranking, building a strong domain is far more important than anchor text.

Link to domain

Anchor Text Links

Links To Domain

One of the main factors now is getting more links to your domain as a whole, not just the homepage, you need to show Google that you have a whole range of pages that are worth visiting, a domain filled with worthwhile material that is liked and referenced by as many people as possible.

But don’t forget, there is no point getting all those links from the same website, in order to benefit you need to get links from as many different unique domains as possible, number 2 in terms of importance.

Other Things

You may or may not have noticed but since the May update and caffeine some major websites with monster link profiles have been losing rankings left right and centre. They’re doing all of the above, getting links from thousands of different domains and generally targeting a good amount of pages on the website, however they still can’t seem to rank for their main terms.

After doing a little research into a few sites I can clearly see some trends;

- Over optimisation of anchor text
- Lack of brand links
- Large amount of site wide links

Over Optimisation of Anchor Text

Anchor text filters have always existed, however I think Google may have tightened up even more. I believe you have to be particularly careful now when choosing anchor text and/or creating your back link profile. Continue to vary your anchor text with relevant keywords, however I would recommend mixing it up a bit more than usual and don’t saturate it with an exact anchor text match.

Lack of Brand Links

This is something that I think changed back in May with Google putting more and more weight on Brand recognition. So how do they recognise a brand? Well in my opinion it’s not as invisible as most SEO’s think, Google aren’t going to take note of TV ads or sift through, the only way Google can effectively measure how big an online brand is, is through online mentions.

- How many brand anchors do you have?
- How often is your brand mentioned online?
- Which websites are mentioning your website?

I believe these factors are all weighing heavily on rankings and those websites that have been built on ‘pure’ SEO, targeting every single link with an anchor text and have few editorial mentions are really going to feel it in their rankings now.

Large Amount of Site Wide Links

I can’t help smiling about this particular change in the SERPS, if you’re constantly checking the SERPS you will have noticed a few websites that used to dominate for particular terms that aren’t even on the first page anymore. Having looked into a number of these websites it is clear what parts of their link profile Google is refusing to acknowledge.

- Do you have a large amount of footer site wide links?
- Have you bought lots of sidebar links?
- Have you been using clients to get site wide links in the footer?
- Are you addicted to text links ads?

If this describes your SEO efforts for the last couple of years you are no doubt feeling the pinch, from what I have seen Google have devalued a huge proportion of these types of links (including my own). That’s right Google are getting better at recognising these type of links and if you profile was largely made of these links, ouch!! Time to switch it up. Don’t think buying a shed load of links will solve the problem, they’ll be devalued within weeks, it’s time to start thinking outside the box.

Why Trust Me?

I have the privilege of working with some of the biggest brands and best in house teams in the UK, that provides insight into multiple industries and the above trend is being played out in multiple markets, carry on doing the same thing you have been doing for years but trust me you’ll end up back at square one.

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Author: Tim (296 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.


{ 117 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Jonhansen November 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I have been seeing a lot of website in the real estate field using the same tactics that everyone, including you, have said not to do anymore. But it stills works for them???


Tim November 21, 2011 at 1:32 am

Hi Nancy,

Unfortunately spam tactics can still provide short term gains, also when doing some competitor analysis you may be seeing exact anchor text that has been around years, these links may still be counting but that doesn’t mean new ones will. It’s still my advice to build a variation of anchor text which includes around 30 – 40% brand, this will help safe guard your site from being hit by filters.


M. Nicklaus December 20, 2011 at 4:41 am

Tim, do you feel like this information on anchor text is still as true today as it was a year ago before the Google Panda update?


Tim January 3, 2012 at 1:57 am

We find the best way to future proof a link building strategy is by building variation and brand signals into your anchor text. Google Panda isn’t a link based algorithm as far as we know but this technique prevents filters being applied and helps pages rank highly for more variations.


Kelly January 7, 2012 at 9:14 am

I see exactly the same thing. I see so many websites using the same anchor text on all there comments. I use a program called SEO Spyglass, which shows all the backlinks. The strategy still works for these sites for some reason, so I am baffled as to what to do going forward. One would think that variation would the right way, but I see so much to the contrary.


Tim January 9, 2012 at 2:10 am

Hi Kelly,

As always there are sites that will be winning with an exact anchor only strategy, however I find in bigger niches that if you have anywhere over 40% exact match it tends to hurt your site. I think there will be some big changes in how anchor text is valued in 2012.


JT February 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

This is a very informative article and particularly useful to me. I’m fairly new to this but have been reading for a while, since before the Panda updates, so my knowledge is a bit outdated. Do you think too many of the now devalued link types would actually not only be less valuable but count against?


Tim February 7, 2012 at 1:41 am

I guess it depends what kind of links they are, generally we see link devaluation, very rarely do you see outright penalties.


Elaine October 30, 2012 at 3:20 am

Your article may be written TWO years ago but with the recent Panda #20 and Penguin #3 updates still shaking up the SERPs it’s still very relevant today.


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