What is the Right Ratio of Exact Match Anchor Text in Link Building?

by | February 25, 2022

Anchor text is important in building links, as it tells Google that what you are linking to is relevant to the topic being linked.

“Anchor text” is the term given to the phrase that contains the link on the page. And when it comes to anchor text, there are many different possible variations as to how “exact” that text should be in relation to the link’s destination; and there has also been some debate over years as to the ratio of anchor text that should be “exact” or otherwise in your backlinks.

What is Anchor Text? 

Anchor text is the clickable, visible text in a hyperlink within digital content. It plays a crucial role in SEO and user navigation, serving as a clear indicator of the content linked to. This text is often highlighted in a different color and underlined to differentiate it from the rest of the text, guiding users to related pages or resources.

In SEO, anchor text is essential because it provides search engines with contextual information about the linked page. For instance, if a website links to a gardening guide using the anchor text “best gardening tips,” search engines infer that the linked page is likely about gardening tips. This inference helps search engines understand the content’s relevance and topic, potentially impacting the linked page’s search rankings for related queries.

Anchor texts come in various forms, including exact match, where the text includes the precise keyword or phrase that the linked page targets; partial match, which contains a variation of the keyword; branded, using the brand’s name; naked URLs, where the URL is used as the anchor text; and generic, using non-specific terms like “click here” or “read more.” Each type serves different purposes in content strategy and SEO, contributing to the overall user experience and search engine optimization efforts.

Understanding Anchor Text Ratio in SEO

Anchor text ratio plays a pivotal role in SEO strategies, acting as a signal for search engines to understand the relevance and context of links. This ratio refers to the distribution of different types of anchor text (exact match, partial match, branded, naked URL, random or generic, and image alt text) used across your website’s backlink profile. Striking the right balance is crucial, as it signals to Google the naturalness and diversity of your site’s link landscape.

In SEO, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect anchor text ratio. However, leaning towards a diversified approach rather than relying heavily on exact match anchor texts is a wise strategy. Overuse of exact match anchors can raise red flags with Google, potentially being perceived as manipulative or unnatural, which could adversely affect your site’s ranking.

We advocate for a balanced mix, where the majority of your anchor texts are branded, partial matches, or natural phrases, with exact match anchors kept under the 5-10% threshold. This not only aligns with Google’s guidelines but also enhances the robustness of your SEO efforts, ensuring they are future-proof against algorithm updates.

The Importance of Mixing Your Anchor Text

Mixing your anchor text is fundamental to a successful SEO strategy, serving as a linchpin for establishing a natural and versatile backlink profile. This diversity is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Avoiding Penalties: Search engines, particularly Google, have evolved to recognize over-optimization and spammy tactics. A backlink profile dominated by exact match anchor texts can trigger alarms, potentially leading to penalties or a drop in rankings. By mixing anchor texts, we ensure your backlink profile appears organic and in line with Google’s best practices.
  2. Enhancing Relevance: A variety of anchor texts provides context and relevance to your links, helping search engines better understand your content’s theme and subject matter. This contextual relevance is key in improving your website’s authority and ranking for a broader spectrum of keywords, including long-tail variations.
  3. User Experience: Diverse anchor texts contribute to a better user experience. Links with descriptive, varied anchor texts are more informative and engaging for readers, encouraging clicks and interaction. This positive user behavior signals to search engines the quality and relevance of your content.
  4. Risk Mitigation: Relying heavily on a single type of anchor text, especially exact match, can leave your SEO strategy vulnerable to algorithm updates. A mixed anchor text strategy spreads this risk, ensuring your backlink profile remains resilient against changes in search engine algorithms.
  5. Competitive Edge: By diversifying your anchor text, you can target a wider range of keywords, including niche and long-tail phrases that competitors might overlook. This broadened focus can capture additional traffic and improve your site’s visibility across various search queries.

At our core, we understand the intricacies of anchor text diversity and its impact on SEO. We work diligently to craft a link-building strategy that balances anchor text variety, aligning with search engine guidelines and your unique SEO goals. Get in touch with us to learn how we can enhance your link profile with the right mix of anchor texts, driving both relevance and rankings.

What is Exact Match?

Anchor text is considered “exact match” if it includes the exact keyword or phrase that you are trying to get the page to rank for. For example, if you are linking to a page about fly fishing on a site of the same name, you would use the phrase “fly fishing” as the anchor text.

However, the strategic use of exact match anchor text requires skill. While it can be a powerful method to improve your page’s relevance for specific queries, it’s essential to employ it judiciously. Over-reliance on exact match anchor texts can appear manipulative to search engines, leading to adverse effects on your website’s search performance.

Exploring Non-Exact Match Anchor Texts

Non-exact match anchor texts are a crucial component of a nuanced SEO strategy, offering a way to link to content without relying solely on precise keyword phrases. This approach includes a variety of anchor text types that do not directly match target keywords but are still relevant and useful for both users and search engines.

Types of Non-Exact Match Anchor Texts:

  • Partial Match: These anchor texts contain a variation of the target keyword or phrase, offering flexibility while maintaining relevance. For example, if the target keyword is “organic gardening tips,” a partial match anchor could be “tips for gardening organically.”
  • Branded: Utilizing the brand name as the anchor text, this type adds credibility and recognition to your links, fostering brand awareness and trust.
  • Naked URLs: Sometimes, the simplest approach is to use the webpage’s URL as the anchor text. Naked URLs are straightforward and can enhance the natural feel of your backlink profile.
  • Random or Generic: Phrases like “click here,” “learn more,” or “this website” fall into this category. Although less informative about the content they link to, generic anchors contribute to a diversified anchor text strategy.
  • LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) Keywords: These are synonyms or related terms that help search engines understand the content’s context without overusing exact match keywords.
  • Long-Tail Keywords: These could be seen as a form of partial match if they include the target keyword within a longer phrase, so generally non-exact match.
  • Brand + Keyword: This could be a mix. If the target keyword is included along with the brand name, it might be seen as partial match, hence non-exact.
  • Call-to-Action (CTA): Non-exact match since these usually focus on the action rather than the keyword.

The Importance of Non-Exact Match Anchor Texts:

  • Natural Link Profile: A varied anchor text profile is more natural and less likely to be flagged by search engines as manipulative. This diversity helps in building a robust link profile that withstands algorithm updates.
  • Contextual Relevance: Non-exact match anchor texts provide additional context to links, helping search engines to better understand the content’s theme and how it relates to user queries.
  • User Engagement: Varied anchor texts can make content more engaging and clickable, improving user experience and potentially increasing dwell time on your site.
  • Keyword Ranking: By using a mix of related terms and phrases, you can rank for a broader set of keywords, including long-tail searches that may have lower competition but high conversion potential.

Incorporating non-exact match anchor texts is a strategy we prioritize to ensure your backlink profile is diversified, natural, and aligned with search engine best practices. Partner with us to leverage the full spectrum of anchor text possibilities, enhancing your site’s SEO performance and resilience in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

What is the Right Ratio of Exact Match vs Non-Exact Match?

So the question then becomes, what is the “correct” ratio of exact match anchor text, according to best practices?

It might be tempting to look at the definitions above and think “ok, well let’s build a bunch of links using exact match anchor text, to give us the best chance of ranking for that keyword.”

But the truth is, while this strategy may have worked a few years ago — especially in the early days of SEO — a few Google updates later, you will likely find that it has the opposite effect.

Sometimes too many exact match links can begin to look suspicious to Google’s algorithm. And in fact, best practice these days is to keep exact match links down to less than 5-10%. What’s more important than the anchor text being exact match is that the content is relevant.

That’s why we work with our partners to make sure that every page that links back to our clients’ sites is relevant, and contains a variety of keywords, including long-tail variations. This helps us to withstand past Google updates and fortifies our links against potential future updates.

Optimizing Anchor Text for SEO Success

In the ever-evolving world of SEO, mastering the art of anchor text optimization is crucial. Our approach ensures that our backlinks are not just links but powerful conduits of traffic and authority. Here’s how we ace our anchor text strategy:

Embrace Diversity in Your Anchor Texts

We understand the importance of a varied anchor text profile. By blending exact match with partial match, branded, and naked URLs, we avoid the pitfalls of over-optimization, ensuring our backlink profile looks natural and diverse.

We ensure our anchor texts fit naturally within the context of the content, enhancing both user experience and search engine relevance.

Prioritize Relevance and Quality

Our anchor texts are highly relevant to the content they point towards, signaling to search engines the quality and usefulness of our linked content. Our focus remains on crafting anchor texts that are intuitive and beneficial for users, enhancing usability and engagement.

Adaptability and Continuous Improvement

SEO is not static, and neither is our strategy. We continuously monitor our anchor text approach, adapting to new insights and search engine updates.

Leverage Your Brand

Branded anchor texts are a staple in our strategy, reinforcing our brand while contributing to a safer backlink profile.

Avoid Over-Optimization Traps

We’re cautious with exact match anchor texts, ensuring our strategy remains balanced and penalty-free. Incorporating partial match and LSI keywords, we target a wider array of relevant terms, enriching our anchor text profile while maintaining its natural feel.

By adhering to these principles, we not only align our anchor text strategy with our overarching SEO goals but also enhance our website’s visibility and user experience. This meticulous approach to anchor text optimization is a cornerstone of our commitment to building high-quality digital marketing products, empowering marketers to focus on broader strategic objectives.

Contact our team to find out how we can take your SEO to the next level through building high-quality links that will last long term.




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