Well it seems like my last article caused a bit of a scare and sent shivers down the spines of link buyers everywhere 🙂
No, but seriously it had over 10,000 hits last week and was reported in all the right places, however there was the odd murmur labelling the article unreliable and structured poorly. They may have had a point but I think I made it clear at the beginning of the post that it wasn’t scientific in anyway.
There was one particular point that seemed to hit a nerve and that was the point about branding or more specifically how a more natural, brand targeted anchor text profile could be getting more ranking weight than usual. This point of view was based on experience rather than in depth research, however I thought I’d look into it a little closer.
Please note: This is personal research performed over a limited number of search results and keywords. The research shows correlation between a sample of link profiles and their rankings for a given keyword, it does not establish a guaranteed ranking factor
Ok now I’ve got that out of the way let’s jump right into what I did.
I chose 10 keywords that I monitor closely for personal and business reasons;
2- search engine optimisation
3- internet marketing
5- car insurance
6- injury lawyers
7- search engine marketing
9- car finance
10- property for sale
The top ten results for each of these keywords were then examined and their link profiles broken down. Only links from unique domains were looked at and the relevant anchor text, the two types of anchor text in question were the exact match keyword and any brand related terms.
Exact Match – Only keywords that match the search query exactly
Brand terms – All terms relating to brand e.g. http://www.brand.com, brand, www.brand.com, brand.com
Once the links were collected the percentage was calculated compared to the total number of unique links.
The aim was to see how brand heavy link profiles compare to heavily optimised anchor text.
The results I found confirmed some of the ideas I’ve had about anchor text and how a more natural profile is now receiving higher rankings. Either that or some of the obviously manipulated profiles are getting filtered out.
Anyway take a look at the results, 10 different keywords, 100 different websites and here is how the link profiles turned out;
As you can see from the trend lines, the sites with more brand or URL links within their profile, generally rank higher, at least across this set of keywords.
In some industries the websites at the top had far less linking domains, far less exact anchor text and yet still out ranked the some really strong websites, for instance take a look at the perfume keyword;
The trend lines becomes even more aggressive, it’s almost a barrier to top 5 positions to have over optimised link profiles.
Ultimately this may have nothing to do with emphasis on brands, instead it might be a simple filter on over optimised websites, all I can do is fall back on what I said in my previous post.
Around April/May there were some huge ranking swings across the board, there were various updates to top ten positions, from my experience and the little bit of research I have done it is due to the above. As SEO’s and webmasters we need to start giving more attention to a natural link profile, yes we still need a portion of optimised links, however in my opinion that portion is nowhere near as important as it once was.
For a long time now optimised Anchor text has been the SEO’s ultimate weapon, in some niches it was enough to dominate the top 5 positions, for me the latest swing in rankings makes it clear that Google is going to be more on the ball when it comes to discovering over optimised profiles and more willing to filter out websites that on the face of it look strong but underneath the hood highlights 99% manipulation. Try and discover ways for your site to earn natural links and then compliment that with some old school SEO.
To those who claimed my last article was “the reason the SEO industry has a bad name”, how was this one? Your feedback is always appreciated 😉
As always thoughts are welcome….
You should also check out this awesome break down by Nichola about over engineering the link graph – Really great read!
p.s. Thanks for all the emails about the malware attack, it is now clean and the hosting issue has been solved, it was cleaned up within an hour of infection.