Anchor Text is a main part of link building. So main in fact, that under optimizing will see you appear nowhere in the SERPs, while over optimizing will result in the complete and utter failure of your SEO campaign. Read on to find out what a I believe to be a good anchor text ratio to dominate the SERPs.
What is anchor text and why does it matter?
Prior to Google’s release of Penguin in 2012, anchor text was one of the main ways Google used to determine a websites relevancy in regards to rankings. It is still used as a key part to this day, but Google has opted to change how they handle anchor text, often attributing penalties to websites who over optimize. The reason it still matters to us is due to the fact that Google still uses it to determine your websites’ relevancy. That never changed. I plan on (hopefully) showing you below a way to.. use a good anchor text ratio effectively in 2016-2017.
How does Google determine what a good anchor text ratio is?
Easy. Let’s think of it this way: You have a fitness website. On said website, you wish to target the keyword “Top fitness workouts 2016”. What used to work prior to Google’s Penguin update in 2012? 100% exact match anchor text. You could throw 100 links at it targeting “Top fitness workouts 2016” and you’d rank for it easy. No real website would have an anchor text profile looking anything like that though. A real website might not even have a single link targeting “Top fitness workouts 2016”, but that’s beside the point.
Natural anchor text profile
In order to stay ahead of any penalties, it is up to you to establish a “natural anchor text profile”. It’s similar to your back link profile (which should consist of natural, high quality links) except instead of keeping track of how good a links quality is, or how many links you’re building, you’re instead keeping track of how many of those links target the correct keyword, in an attempt to appease the almighty Google God.
What does a natural anchor text profile consist of?
Many, many kinds of links.
- BRANDED ANCHORS
First up is branded anchors. Possibly the most important kind of back link, these are anchors that target the brand of your website, such as: Mark Jukov. Simple, right? Simply target variations of your brand to establish a decent percentage of brand anchors. (Mark Jukov, Mark, MarkJukov, MarkJ, etc.) If you’re not using a brand, and instead using an exact match domain, then you may end up having trouble later down the line.
Here are a few examples of brand anchors in action:
- NAKED URLs
- GENERIC ANCHORS
Generic anchors are the most common form of anchor text. They often consist of call-to-actions, such as “Go here”, “Link”, “Click here”, etc., and are one of the anchor text most used by normal users that are linking out to websites online.
Another good alternative to anchor text is to not use any anchor text at all, nor include any naked URLs. It is simply to link an image instead.
Something I just learned about recently is that a lot of larger companies opt to not use any anchor text of any kind. No images, no keywords, no URLs. Just a simple link with nothing attributed to it. It’s literally one of the best ways of diversifying your anchor text profile: Not using any anchor text at all.
- LSI ANCHORS
LSI anchors are general variations of your actual anchor text. “top fitness workouts”, “fitness workouts”, “working out” etc.
- LONGTAIL ANCHORS
Longtail anchors consist of longer variations of your keyword, such as “What are the top fitness workouts of 2016”, “Top fitness workouts 2016 that everybody is trying”, “I found the top fitness workouts of 2016 to be difficult”.
- EXACT MATCH ANCHORS
Literally the be all and end all of anchor text, these are the anchors you want to be using to rank for the exact keyword you’re targeting. They are the main driving force behind your website ranking in the SERPs, but also the main reason so many people end up penalized. Exact match anchor text is as follows:
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Now that you understand the different forms of anchor text available to you, why don’t we jump right into what percentages you should be using to avoid a penalty and absolutely DECIMATE the SERPs?
Percentages that work for me:
Brand: 20-30% (Doesn’t have to be specific)
Keep it simple. You should be aiming for anywhere between 20-30% exact brand anchors (if your website is ThriftShop.com then that would mean 20-30% at Thrift Shop). Why? If you look above at the large, professional websites, you’ll see that they all use anywhere in between 20-30% brand anchor. That’s a solid amount of links back to your site from real users using your brand name, without a keyword. Very natural looking.
People tend to link to naked URLs all the time on the internet, so having a large percentage of naked URL anchors is preferred.
Brand + Longtail: 10-15%
What these are, as you can see in the authority websites listed above, are anchor text with longtail + brand (example: I read more about the top social bookmarking sites over at MarkJukov)
People may argue that this is a little high, but from what I’ve seen and tested, having 5, 10, even 15 variations of your keyword that all generate searches and traffic are fantastic at targeting as less obvious LSI anchors.
Around 10% is a good percentage to keep generic anchor text at. Plenty of people use keywords such as “here” or “this link”, but not as many as there are that simply use your brand as an anchor.
Linking through images or no anchors at all for that matter should take up the lower part of your ratio. It’s not all that common, but it is done on occasion.
Exact Match: 1%
Having LSI all the way up at 10-15% means that you’re already ranking for a ton of other keywords (hopefully longtail, and variations of your main keyword), so targeting a single percentage with your main exact match anchor is a good practice.
With regards to percentages however, it is all relative. Even though I, and other SEO list percentages, they are to give you an idea. It is not set in stone, and should never be taken as such. Use your own judgement, and your own brain, when deciding what kind of anchor text your website should have and what a good anchor text ratio is for your website.