Brand Anchor Text Fails! Google Lift The Veil!

Many of you will remember the article I released on brand anchor text and how I thought it was playing a role in rankings, plus I insinuated that over optimised link profiles were been filtered to give a more natural look to the SERPs?

Well it seems I was wrong and anchor text is still the king after all, this shows the difference between correlation and causation perfectly and I am sure there are going to be many of you out there that are shouting ‘told you so’.

I apologise for misleading any one but as you will see Google have been playing tricks and I think they have a few more to play.

The up date that changed my mind on anchor text was played out in the UK around Halloween, Google’s idea of ‘trick or treat’.

But I Still Wasn’t Wrong

The research I performed was correct, the sites at the top of the SERP’s definitely had a better brand anchor text ratio and the sites struggling definitely had an over focused anchor text profile, however what I got wrong was the fact it wasn’t the ‘clean brand’ effect causing them to rank.

What Was Causing Them To Rank Then??

This is my theory, not to be academically scrutinised (to all you SEO scientists out there), it is based on what I have seen happening in the SERPs and I have a couple of examples to back it up.

Just to clarify, these are examples and in no way are meant to act as an outing!! I am just trying to prove a point and am not trying to get anyone penalised. If I don’t include them I will just get called out as having no evidence, so it’s a lose lose.

Anyway this is what I think has happened……….

A couple of months ago the sites at the top were home pages or top level domains, they were ranking with little or no anchor text and not even that many links compared to their heavily optimised competitors.

However those under optimised links had nothing to do with where they ranked, that brand focused anchor text was not Google giving them a pat on the back, there was something going on under the hood.

Behind the scenes these websites had internal pages optimised for keywords like ‘car insurcance’ , ‘no win no fee’ , ‘perfume’ , ‘loans’ amd many more. These internal pages were loaded with anchor text links, thousands of them (most paid) and when I say anchor text I meant the exact anchor text.

For whatever reason Google decided the home pages of these sites were more relevant to show in the SERP’s, but gave the home pages the ‘anchor power’ of the deeper page. Build highly optimised links to the deep page and watch the home page rank???

Now Google have switched to show deeper pages and the true ranking factor is there for all to see – massive amounts of anchor text from paid links.

Want Some Examples?

OK here we go……

Example 1

In the no win no fee industry the National Accident Helpline were ranking with their home page for the keyword ‘no win no fee’. It looked like they had no links and zero anchor text, however when Google lifted the veil and showed their highly optimised internal page, exact match anchor heavy and clearly paid, we began to see that they were ranking their based on a strong anchor optimised internal page.

Example 2

Now we have go compare, ranking at the top of Google for ‘car insurance’ a couple of months ago with what seemed to be a very under optimised brand focused home page, however again they had a deep page loaded with paid links and masses of exact anchor text pointing to a deep ‘car insurance’ page.

Again Google lifted the veil and we see the true reason why they were ranking so highly in the first place!! Mental..

Put Down Your Anchor Text!

Before you go rushing off building a gazillion anchor text links into that optimised internal page you have, first ask yourself why Google have done this?

Why have they begun to rank internal pages that have masses of exact match anchor text from clearly paid links?? I feel an up date coming???

I just can’t imagine Google letting link profiles like this stay at the top very long.

May Be I Am Wrong, Again

Of course I could be completely wrong and Google have simply decided to show the page that is most relevant rather than giving overall power to the home page. Maybe we should all start targeting specific internal pages for the keywords we want to rank for, maybe not.

This is your decision as a webmaster/SEO/online marketer, what are you going to do??

Does anchor text continue to dominate?


Does Google have a Christmas present for link buyers everywhere???

Any comments, discussions or answers would be appreciated :)

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

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.

A New Trend In Anchor Text

Just a quick post before the weekend to impart some trends I have noticed across multiple websites over the last month.

I work with a number of clients who are sitting in 8th 9th position on Google, they are desperate to move up and the frustrating part is they have a better link profile than the sites in the top 3.

So what is causing this lull? Why are they not seeing top rankings?

As an SEO’s all we can do is compare on page factors and link profiles, we could go into social mentions but it would be a waste of time as the clients I have been dealing with are large commercial companies who struggle to get social mentions.

After looking through 5 or 6 websites 1 thing kept cropping up;

The websites with better anchor text variation were ranking higher; let me explain.

The sites that were struggling to get in the top 5 had 50-60% of their links targeted at the keyword they wanted to rank for…..

The top ranking sites were around the 25% mark.

Plus on top of this the higher ranking sites had an average of 36 anchor variations pointing to the page, the sites struggling only had an average of 23.

What Does This Show Us?

Well it’s simple, just don’t overdo it with the anchor text, as I have stated many times before use 7-10 variations of the main keyword and make sure you build at least 30% of your links using the domain name.

Progress up the SERPS may be slower using this method, however it protects you against anchor text filters and penalties, because trust me when I say they exist even for the biggest of businesses.

You have always had to be careful when it came to anchor text, but I think now is the time to get a little more natural.