What’s The Perfect Anchor Text Ratio? I Analyze 5 Big Search Terms and Share My Findings

It’s no secret that in order to rank higher in Google you need links.

More links, better rankings.

Right?

Well, not exactly.

I spend a lot of time analysing various websites and link profiles across a wide range of industries, and what I’ve found is that things are definitely changing.

This really shouldn’t come as any surprise as Google is constantly updating and tweaking their algorithm.

Infact, they usually make changes daily – sometimes a few times a day. Some changes have more impact than others, whilst the majority probably go completely unnoticed.

However some of the more noticeable changes I’m seeing lately include –

  • Google is ranking pages with fewer links, or no links at all
  • Anchor text is becoming a lot more complex and sensitive

Of course trying to find a pattern in all of this and make sense of it is the hard part. But with a little bit of research we can find “trends” that can assist us in our understanding of whats going on, which in turn allows us to make better decisions.

Once we’re in that position, we can work with more precision and get better results.

Secret handshakes and SEO jargon

Before I get into this, I want to define a few terms so you know what the hell I’m actually talking about. I don’t want to get all technical on you and leave you confused.

Here’s a few key terms you need to understand so the rest of this article makes sense.

Backlinks

A link, or “backlink” is simply a link from another website that points to yours. Google uses this as a key signal in determining the value or usefulness of the page being linked to. Sites with more, higher quality links tend to perform better in Google

Anchor text

Moz defines anchor text as follows …

“Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined, such as this link to the moz homepage

In other words, it’s the wording included in the link. In the example above the anchor text is “moz homepage”.

Keyword rich anchor text

Keyword rich anchor text links are the same as standard anchor text links as explained above, except they’re purposely stuffed with what’s referred to as “money terms”. Money terms are the target search phrases you’re interested in ranking for within Google.

As an example, in the past if you were wanting to rank a page for “red widgets in Sydney” you would create links using those very keywords – “red widgets in Sydney”

Link profile

A link profile is the total collection of all links pointing at your site. Google favors links from a variety of sites as well as high-authority sites.

Why it all matters

It’s important you understand that all of these factors work together and directly affect the performance of your site in search.

Link building, anchor text ratios and Google updates

Years ago, improving your rankings on desired terms was actually very easy. It was just a matter of smashing the target page with keyword rich anchor text links.

Let’s say you’re wanting to rank for “special blue widgets”. You would firstly create a page that looked something like this

  • domain.com.au/special-blue-widgets

You would then optimise the shit out of that page for special blue widgets, then link back to it using keyword rich anchor text “special blue widgets” literally over and over again.

This then meant you had –

  • A page optimised for special blue widgets
  • A large number of links pointing to that page using special blue widgets as the anchor text

Google would pick up on these signals as “total relevance” for special blue widgets and up you’d go in the search results.

Honestly, it was so easy, it was ridiculous.

However that all came to an end when Google rolled out the Penguin update back in April 2012.

Googles Penguin update and unnatural link profiles

I don’t want this blog post to be about Google’s Penguin update because that’s been covered to death, but in simple terms, Google rolled out an update to flush out over optimised link profiles. They did this by identifying sites that were intentionally building links in an effort to manipulate the search results.

They essentially looked at the percentage of keyword rich anchor text links pointing to a page and adjusted the search results accordingly.

In other words if a large percentage of links pointing to a page were built with obvious intent to cheat, then Google would flush it out.

Here’s a visual representation of what I mean. One site with a natural link profile, the other with an unnatural, over optimised link profile. Keyword rich anchor text links shown in blue.

As you can see, the site on the right has a shit load of links using keyword rich anchor text, whilst the site on the left has a much more balanced, and diversified link profile.

Sites pushing keyword rich anchor text above a certain threshold were hit hard – some penalised and removed from Google’s index completely whilst others lost huge amounts of traffic.

Creating unnatural links that look natural

This might sound ridiculous, but in order for us to get the desired results we want, we need to create unnatural links that look natural.

We also need to be careful because if we get the balance wrong – even slightly, it could see our site falling back in the search results.

So it’s important that we have a set plan of approach before we start, but also, that we have a comprehensive understanding of the different types of anchor text and how to implement them to get the best results.

Here’s a breakdown of what I consider to be the most important types of anchor text.

To illustrate my point, I’m going to use my SEO training page as an example.

URL

URLs, or “naked links” as they’re sometime referred to, are backlinks that are made up of the actual URL. For this example, the hyperlink would simply look like this

As you can see, we’re simply linking to the page using the URL. These versions would also be considered “naked links” too –

Brand

Brand links are links made up of the actual brand name of the business. For example, a brand link to my seo training page would look like this –

Keyword rich or Money terms

These links are of course made up of the actual keywords we’re trying to rank for. These are probably the most powerful, but they can also be the most dangerous. If you get the balance wrong, you run the risk of being penalised or seeing your site tank hard.

Long tail

Long tail anchors are made up of a collection of words that may be directly or indirectly related. They’re called long tail because they’re links that are typically made up of several keywords. Here’s a few examples –

There may also be instances of long tail random anchors too. For example –

You might find long tail random anchors being posted in public forums.

LSI anchor text

LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing and in simple terms means words that are “related”. Take a look at the examples below –

As you can see, even though I never mentioned “SEO training” I still referenced highly “related words”

No text

No text links are made up of either images or other elements where there is a clickable link but it’s not text based. A good example of this might be a banner ad. Such as the one below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generic

Generic anchors are exactly that. They don’t really mean anything. Here’s some examples –

Partial match

Partial match anchors mean that only part of the actual link contains the target phrase. For example –

Seeing anchors in action

Now that we’ve covered the different types of anchor text, let’s now take a look at them in action. I wanted to dig deep here and go for some big terms, such as credit cards and home loans to see how each of them balance out.

I’ve taken the following search terms and analysed the very first site or page ranked in Google.

Take a look below, the results are really interesting.

Home loans

First spot for “home loans” goes to Aussie Home Loans. These guys have probably invested heavily into SEO and for good reason. The search “home loans” pulls 18,100 searches per month with the value per acquired customer probably being in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. There’s no doubt they would be absolutely raking it in on this one.

Basic Overview

  • Ranked page https://www.aussie.com.au/home-loans.html
  • Backlinks -158
  • Referring domains – 59

Anchor text analysis

The first thing that I noticed here was the percentage of exact match anchors. As you can see its quite high at 36.1%

I would usually always recommend exact match anchors to be kept in the single digit percentages, usually around 1-3%, so this is certainly interesting.

I did however notice a trend across almost all of the sites I reviewed, which could explain this. I’ll share that with you towards the end of this article.

Overall though, it looks to be relatively balanced with a good mixture of anchor text. It’s interesting to note that it only took 158 backlinks to rank for this page. Infact, it’s probably closer to 59 if you take into consideration that most of the links are coming from the same domains and are probably links placed in the footer, sidebars etc

Car insurance

First spot for this term goes to iSelect. Much like Aussie these guys would’ve thrown a shit load of money at SEO. Car insurance is no doubt a super competitive term. Infact the search phrase ‘car insurance’ gets a whopping 74,000 searches per month. I can only imagine just how much these guys are making being first for this term.

Basic Overview

  • Ranked page http://www.iselect.com.au/car/
  • Backlinks -545
  • Referring domains – 150

Anchor text analysis

This one is definitely interesting because to look at it, you would immediately think it’s “unnatural”.

I mean, obviously it is – but what the hell is going on?

As you can see there’s very little diversity, apart from exact match anchors, brand and URL. Google loves brands and that makes sense, but certainly you would expect to see a greater range of anchors for such a competitive term.

Infact it was this one here that really caught my eye, and led me to start digging a bit deeper to see what was going on.

Again, I found a trend that seems to be working very well in some hugely competitive spaces, which I’ll share with you in a moment.

Business loans

First spot for this one goes to the Commonwealth Bank. Business loans gets 6,600 searches per month, and I’m sure there’s a shit load of money in it. It’s funny how Google always pushes the “no favouritsm for big brands” bullshit in search, but its obvious that first spot usually always goes to those with the deepest pockets.

Anyway, check out the metrics on this one below.

Basic Overview

  • Ranked page https://www.commbank.com.au/business/business-loans.html
  • Backlinks – 803
  • Referring domains – 13

Anchor text analysis

Wow. Look at that. Over 800 links from only 13 domains. For a search term like this, that’s crazy. This means that links pointing to this page are almost all sitewide.

That’s crazy.

Typically, you want to aim for 1 link per domain. So 13 links from 13 domains for example.

Not sure what’s going on here, but this is really surprising.

You can see the anchor text for this term is a little more balanced than the previous example, with an emphasis on long tail anchors.

Actually, some of the long tail anchors pointing at this page are almost snippets of page text. Here’s an example –

“find the right business loan for your needs -… about our business loan</b> products. betterbusiness loan; market rate loan; bill facility; business overdraft; business line of credit; commsec margin loan; bank … https://www.commbank.com.au”

Yes, that’s the actual hyperlink.

Interesting.

Health insurance

Bupa currently holds first spot for “health insurance”, which gets approximately 33,100 searches per month. Again, another massive term that surely brings Bupa an incredible income.

Basic Overview

  • Ranked page https://www.bupa.com.au/health-insurance
  • Backlinks – 927
  • Referring domains – 85

Anchor text analysis

This looks like a well balanced link profile with a diverse range of anchor text.

There’s a good mix of exact match anchors (although somewhat high), brand exact partial match and url.

It’s again interesting to note the emphasis on brand anchors.

Infact, almost all of the sites I reverse engineered pushed brand heavy anchors, which is typical in todays SEO climate. I always tell site owners to build brands, and avoid chasing silly exact match domains etc.

Google loves brands.

Credit cards

First spot in Google for “credit cards” is owned by a company called Credit Card Compare, who really could be anyone. It’s probably one of the big companies pushing a throw away domain and hitting it hard with SEO.

This is a strategy that a lot of companies implement as part of a super agressive SEO campaign. They’ll slam domains hard with SEO and it won’t matter if they burn the domain, they’ll just get in – get the cash – burn the domain and repeat the process.

Anyway, who knows, they could be a legitimate company, but Ive never heard of them.

Lets take a look at how the metrics stack up.

Basic Overview

  • Ranked page http://www.creditcardcompare.com.au/
  • Backlinks – 2,500
  • Referring domains – 580

Anchor text analysis

Its obvious that on this one they’ve gone heavy with naked urls and brand anchors, which is typical of what’s working in the SEO space at the moment. You can also see how cautious they’ve been with exact match anchors.

It’s interesting to note that the sites above are pushing 20-30% exact match anchor text whilst this one is first spot and only has 3%.

So how are the sites above pushing such high exact match anchors without being penalised?

What the hell is going on?

This is an interesting observation I found when performing this exercise and it came as quite a surprise.

Wanna know what it is?

Title tag anchors are killing it

It seems that title tags anchor text links are an extremely effective way of getting results in Google.

Huh, what the hell are title tag anchors?

Here, let me show you.

See the search results below. You can see I’ve published a blog post titled “How to Get High Quality Backlinks With 2 Step Guest Posting”

A title tag link would look like this –

As you can see I’ve simply linked to the page using the actual title tag.

So why do it, and what makes it so effective?

Let’s revisit some of the sites I analysed previously and see what they’ve done.

Aussie Home Loans

Aussie home loans have created their page and used the following title tag –

  • Home loans | Home loan – Aussie

Then of course they’ve linked back to the page using keywords IN the title tag

Here’s how it looks –

  • exact – home loan
  • exact – home loans
  • brand – aussie home loans
  • brand exact – home loan | aussie home loans
  • brand exact – home loans | home loan – aussie
  • brand – aussie home loan

You can see how they’re leveraging variations of the title tag.

iSelect Car Insurance

iSelect have done exactly the same thing. Here’s the title tag of the page that ranks first in Google –

  • Car Insurance | Compare Car Insurance Quotes | iSelect

Now look at the anchors they’re linking back with. Infact it’s even more noticeable here.

  • exact – car insurance
  • brand exact – car insurance | compare car insurance quotes | iselect
  • brand exact – iselect – car insurance | compare car insurance quotes
  • brand exact – iselect – car insurance | compare car …
  • brand – iselect
  • brand exact – iselect – car insurance | compare car insurance quotes
  • brand exact – car insurance – compare car insurance quotes | iselect
  • brand exact – car insurance | compare car insurance …

Bupa Health Insurance

And lastly, Bupa. Again pushing anchor text using title tag variations.

Here’s their title tag for the page ranked first for ‘health insurance’.

  • Health Insurance – Private Health Insurance Australia – Bupa

And the anchors that they’ve pushing.

  • exact – health insurance
  • brand exact – health insurance – private health insurance australia – bupa
  • brand – bupa
  • brand exact – bupa health insurance
  • partial match – health insurance – private health insurance – bupa
  • brand partial – bupa health insurance australia
  • brand partial – health insurance – private health insurance australia – bupa

Conclusion

If you’re still reading this, hopefully by now one of two things should have happened –

  • A light bulb has gone off in your head
  • You’re totally confused and want to punch me in the face

I’m hopeful that it’s not the later, because in terms of link building, this stuff really matters.

So what does all of this really mean?

Here’s my thoughts –

  • Building out pages using target keywords AND your brand in the title tag is best
  • Link back to the target page, using the actual title tags, or very close variations of them
  • Always diversify your anchor text by using naked urls, long tail, non related, no text, and brand
  • Do not overdo exact match anchors. Infact I would go as far as saying, don’t add them unless you know you really need them
  • Slow and steady wins the race, Don’t build dozens of links at once. Build one or two, then assess and move forward
  • Aim for fewer, more high quality links as opposed to lots of shitty ones.

Remember, link building has become a fine art. Get it right and you’ll do really well. Get it wrong and there will be tears.

Anyway, that’s it for this post, if you have a question or would like to post up a comment below then please do.

I’d love to hear what you’ve got to say, especially from those who intend to try this, or have tried it – show me your results.

4 comments on “What’s The Perfect Anchor Text Ratio? I Analyze 5 Big Search Terms and Share My Findings

  1. James on

    First of all, very interesting post. I’m going to start experimenting with this immediately. I’ll favourite this page and get back to you with results.

    I’ve been away from seo since 2011, and since i’ve returned 3 months ago I’ve been experimenting with multiple techniqes to see what works and what doesn’t, and here’s a trend that keeps repeating itself.

    If I build a page and start linking to it straight away, that page never ranks for anything. Literally ever!

    But if I wait a week or two until it starts to show search terms in search console, and then start linking to it, I can be extremely aggressive with backlinks and the page responds really well.

    Have you ever noticed this trend?

    Reply
    • John Romaine on

      Hi James,
      I can’t say I’ve seen that, no.

      What I have noticed, (right across a number of client sites) are pages that seemingly improve without any backlinking at all.

      I’ve seen pages hit with decent links go backwards, yet other “neglected” pages go up.

      I think when it comes to manual link building, you’ve got to be cautious and implement links progressively. You should always aim for fewer links – not more.

      Ive found the best strategy is to push 1, maybe 2 links at a page at any given time, then wait.

      Ill often wait 2-3 weeks before I make a decision from there.

      That decision of course is how the page responded.

      Again, link building has changed a lot – especially since the release of Penguin.

      Long gone are the days of just being able to slam a page with a shit load of links and it ranks.

      Personally I think that’s a good thing.

      Thanks for commenting mate, appreciate it.

      Reply
      • James on

        Thanks for your reply John.

        I’ll tell you what i’m noticing as well, which may correlate with what you’ve noticed.

        When I’m directly linking to pages, they don’t necessarily respond well immediately. It can take a month or two for google to give the page the benefit of those links.

        But the pages that the linked to page, link out to on the same site, seem to get an immediate boost. It’s almost as if google sandboxes the effect of the links on the directly linked to page, but the juice flows from it without a problem or delay.

        I’m trying to quickly rank an amazon affiliate page right now, which is reasonably low comp, and bearing what I’ve just said in mind, rather than linking directly to the page to get it to rank, I’m going to post a few related pages that link to the money page, and link to those instead, hopefully siloing the link juice without the sandbox effect.

        I’ll let you know how it goes.

        Reply
        • John Romaine on

          James,
          I cant say that I’ve noticed that, although I don’t really follow the impact of links close enough to know for certain. Sure I build links for paying clients and monitor results, but I certainly don’t spend a LOT of time on it. For clients we do a lot of content, and outreach. Its purely white hat stuff.

          I’ll give you some advice – be careful about how much time you spend on “technical SEO”. Its important that you’re thinking about your readers, and PEOPLE.

          Sure, links are important, but they come naturally as a result of doing all the right things.

          Its funny. People often find me through my content and they’ll ask “John, what can I do to get more traffic and increase my rankings”

          I always answer “Just do what I’m doing. Create great content, and promote it”.

          But that sounds like hard work, and they continue on chasing short cuts.

          I see a lot of people waste years mucking about with technical SEO and neglecting what really matters – PEOPLE. Its people that link to you. Its people that share your content on social. Its people that become subscribers and customers.

          I know this response might contradict the article above, but Im seeing so many people wasting so much time worrying about links, disavows, indexation rates, Google penalties etc and they haven’t published a piece of content in 2 years.

          Reply

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