One of the most common link building footprints SEO’s create when building links is unnatural anchor text distribution. This isn’t the first time we’ve blogged about avoiding patterns in SEO.
Most of the time, it is not the ‘type’ of links SEO’s or webmasters are acquiring or building that get them penalised, or even the websites they are getting links from, it’s the unnatural keyword anchor text that is the common culprit that can cause penalties.
Why Keyword Anchor Texts Can Be Dangerous
The easiest way for Google to detect algorithm manipulation is through anchor text distribution. You see, back in the day, if you sold ‘red cars’, all you had to do was get enough links pointing at your web page with your keywords as anchor texts like ‘red cars’ and you’d rank. Not anymore.
Today, if you build all of your links with exact match keyword anchor texts like ‘red cars’ you’re far more likely to get penalised. In fact, it’s still one of the most common link building footprints we see today.
In this guide we are going to focus on the different types of anchor text including some examples, how often to use them and we’ll show you some analysis on Amazon’s and Wikipedia’s website so that you understand how to build an evergreen natural anchor text link profile for your website or your clients.
What is a Natural Anchor Text?
We usually class an anchor text as ‘natural’ if it isn’t a commercial keyword phrase. So for example we would class these as natural anchor text examples:
- ‘click here’
- ‘click here for more info’
- ‘more info’
- ‘visit this website’
- ‘see more’
- ‘this page has more information’
As you can see the possibilities are endless from these examples.
If we split anchor texts into only 2 categories, natural and unnatural, then you can consider brand anchor texts as a natural anchor text for link building. Check out these examples below:
- ‘visit brandname.com’
- ‘visit brandname’
What are Exact Match Keyword Anchor Texts?
Exact match keyword anchor texts should really only make up a very small percentage of your entire anchor text distribution profile. If it’s anything more than 10-20% you should be very wary.
Here are some examples of exact match keyword anchor text:
- ‘red cars’
- ‘buy red cars’
- ‘cheap red cars’
- ‘red cars sale’
- ‘red cars discount’
- ‘red cars new york’
Why Exact Match Keyword Anchor Texts Can Be Risky
Here’s the problem with some exact match keyword anchors.
Exact match keyword anchors are an easy target for link building as usually they are typically identified at the keyword research stage; this is where you find out what keywords users type into a search engine that generate traffic.
If you find out that the keyword ‘red cars new york’ develops a large amount of search traffic this doesn’t mean you should be doing link building like it’s 1999 and building out links with the anchor text ‘red cars new york’.
There are a few problems with this.
- ‘red cars new york’ doesn’t make sense within the flow of content. The first thing to fix would be to add the word ‘in’ e.g ‘red cars in new york’.
- You need to capitalise some words such as city names – ‘red cars in New York’.
- If you were getting links naturally (which is what you should imitate) then how does the website you’re getting a link from know to link to you using your keywords? They don’t… Therefore think about the words they might use to link to you.
It’s important to note that the most powerful and high-ranking websites in the world don’t have high exact match keyword anchor text distribution in their link profile. In fact, it makes up less than 10%.
How to Rank Without Using Exact Match Keyword Anchor Text
There’s 3 ways around this.
#1 Onsite Optimisation
Search engines are far more intelligent at understanding what your web page is about, so instead of including your exact match keyword anchors in your link profile, you should instead ensure they are included naturally within the content flow on your web page.
The best way to structure this is:
- Assign keyword themes to each page (consider having a page about red cars, or blue cars for example)
- Ensure each page contains the main keyword within your URL structure (website.com/red-cars)
- Make sure each page mentions the keyword it is targeting naturally within the flow of content a number of times
- Take advantage of internal linking by linking to your ‘red cars’ page from other pages within your site
#2 Partial Keyword Anchor Texts
A partial keyword anchor text is is all about getting your keywords within natural looking linked phrases or sentences. This means that a keyword signal is still being sent but a filter is not tripped because of over using that keyword anchor text.
Here are some examples of keyword linked phrases
- if you want to learn more about [red cars], then click here
- learn more about [red cars] here
- what is the best [red car] on the planet?
As the examples above show, you would link the entire phrase above but within that phrase include your keyword. This way you can create a new natural variation each time but still include the keyword to give it a familiar link signal to search engines.
It’s still important to note, don’t overuse this strategy as the keywords are still contained within the phrase.
#3 Co-Citation Keywords
Co-Citations are all about ensuring your keyword or keywords are near the anchor text link that points to your website but not part of the linked phrase. This provides a safe way of sending keyword signals without polluting your anchor text profile.
If you are unfamiliar with Co-Citations, here is a great definition of what they are.
Here are some co-citation examples:
- If you’re looking for [red cars] then you should take a look at Amazon’s website.
- I found that this website offers the best [red cars] on the market
- There is some great advice on which [red cars] to buy on Amazon.com
As you can see in these examples above, as search engines crawl this content from the sites you are getting a link from, we are teasing them with what the linked page might be about by including the keywords close to the anchor text for the link but importantly not within the linked text.
Be More Like Amazon (Anchor Text Distribution Analysis)
Here’s a snapshot of the top anchor texts for Amazon – the world’s largest e-commerce website. When you’re shopping for something, you’ll usually see this website ranking in Google. They must be doing something right.
The top anchor texts are mostly URL and brand and variations. Take a look for yourself on OSE. If you want to stay ‘safe’ with your anchor text, it’s always best to mimic the biggest brands and websites that rank well online.
Take a look at Wikipedia, the world’s largest content site. When you’re searching for information on almost any topic, Wikipedia is bound to show up on the first page of Google.
The same happens in competitive verticals like travel, with giants like ‘Travel Supermarket’ who rank for monster keywords like ‘holidays’. Notice ‘holidays’ isn’t one of their top keywords.
Bear in mind, to rank for something, you don’t necessarily need your anchor text to mention that keyword or phrase.
Their anchor text distribution is mostly URL and brand.
We understand some industries may be more cut throat and require more of an aggressive approach. Be cautious, what’s working for competitors today may be their downfall tomorrow. Most markets don’t need a keyword bias with anchor text profiles, and can be dominated whilst remaining natural and almost immune to penalties.
- Brand & URL anchor text should make up 80% of your anchor text profile
- Linked sentences allow you to include keywords within the link but a little more naturally
- Co-citations look a lot more natural but still keep your keyword close to the linked text
- Learn from the biggest brands in your sector by studying their anchor text profiles
- Focus your keywords within your onsite SEO and internal linking strategies