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.