Anchor Text Guide for 2018

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What is anchor text and how do you use it?

Don’t worry! This guide will show you how to use anchor text so that you can maximize your SEO results.

Let’s jump right in:

Table of Contents

  1. What is Anchor Text?
  2. Anchor Text Before Penguin
  3. 10 Different Types of Anchor Text
  4. Co-Occurrence: Build Relevancy Without Exact Match Anchors
  5. Anchor Text Percentages
  6. Anchor Text Cycling
  7. Anchor Text Placement
  8. Anchor Text Distribution for EMDs & PMDs
  9. How to Fix Over-Optimized Anchor Text

What is Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link.

Here’s how anchor text looks in HTML:

Why Does It Matter?

It will always “matter” as long as backlinks matter. Prior to the Penguin update in 2012, anchor text was one of the easiest ways for Google to understand the relevancy of any given website.

Now, it is one of the best ways for Google to penalize spam and over-optimization.

Does this mean anchor text is becoming meaningless? Not in the slightest.

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it’s even stronger than it was before… (when it’s used the way I’m going to show you).

Anchor Text Before Penguin

Before the first Penguin update, you could go absolutely buck wild with your anchor text.

You could use 100% exact match anchors for all of your backlinks and you would rank.

It was like stealing candy from a baby, and that’s why Google had to make a change.

That change was the Penguin update.

Anchor Text After Penguin

The first Penguin update in 2012 changed the link building game forever.

Penguin targeted any website that was blatantly doing low-quality, artificial, or spammy link building in an effort to “game” the search engine.

How did they determine if a website is building artificial backlinks or using spam to rank?

Simple.

ANCHOR TEXT.

Why, might you ask?

Because a normal website should not have 100% of its backlinks with the anchor text “Payday Loans”.

You need to understand how Penguin analyzes anchor text and how it determines whether a site should be penalized or not.

I promise you, it’s not complicated, but it is CRITICAL that you understand so your site doesn’t get penalized.

Here’s exactly how Penguin works:

  1. You build a backlink
  2. Google indexes the backlink
  3. Google places this new backlink into its database for your specific website, also known as your “link profile”
  4. Steps 1-3 are repeated over and over, and now you have a “link profile” that the algorithm can analyze

Now, this is where the real magic happens:
The algorithm analyzes your link profile and compares it to your on-site keyword optimization.

If your on-page content is optimized for “Payday Loans” and 100% of your anchors are “Payday Loans”, then you will get a penalty.

That’s because it’s very easy for Google’s algorithm to see that you are:
A) trying to rank for “Payday Loans”
B) you are building links artificially

Exact match anchor text + keyword-rich optimization = Penguin penalty

So, how do you avoid getting penalized?

You need to understand HOW and WHEN to use your keyword-rich anchors.

You will be learning about this in the following sections.

10 Different Types of Anchor Text

In order to create a “natural” anchor text profile, you need to understand all the different types of anchors.

Branded Anchors

“Branded” anchors are any anchor that uses your brand name in it. Here are some examples:

branded anchor text

Sentence sample: “Over at GOTCH SEO you can learn search engine optimization.”

Branded anchors are the safest type of anchor text if you have a branded domain. If you have an exact match domain, they aren’t too safe. I will explain this more in a later section.

To see the power of “branded” anchors, simply look at any big brand’s link profile.

Here are some examples for you:

1. Nordstrom

2. Best Buy

3. WebMD

These screenshots are from Ahrefs. Here’s how you can optimize your anchor text using Ahrefs:

Generic Anchors

“Generic” anchors are typically calls-to-action (CTAs) like:

generic anchor text

In a sentence: “Go here if you are looking for SEO information.” – “Go here” is the generic anchor text.

Naked Link Anchors

Any anchor that use a raw URL is considered a “naked” link. Here are some examples:

naked link anchor text

No Anchor Trick

This is a tricky little strategy I see big brands doing.

Whether purposefully or not, it’s a good idea. Here’s what it looks like:

What’s a better way to diversify your anchor profile, then not having ANY words at all?

The easiest way to build “noText” anchors is through images, or you can simply “forget” to include an anchor within an article, which will have a similar effect.

Image Anchors

Throw in some image links with your campaigns because it’s a great way to diversify your profile.

Google uses the “ALT” tag as the anchor text in an image.

If you leave this blank, you will get a “noText” anchor like I mentioned above.

Brand + Keyword Anchor

This is another great way to stay “safe” and to build a diverse, natural anchor profile.

I’ll use “Gotch SEO” as the brand and my target keyword as “link building”.

The anchor text would look like this:

You are simply combining your target keyword with your brand.

LSI Anchors

“LSI” is the acronym for “Latent Semantic Indexing”.

It really just means variations of your main keyword.

So, if I’m targeting “backlinks”, then some LSI keywords would be:

Finding LSI keywords is super easy.

Just enter your keyword into, scroll to the bottom, and you’ll see the ideas:

Partial-Match Anchors

Partial matches are very similar to LSIs. The big difference is that you are creating the anchor text variation instead of using a tool.

Here are some examples for target keyword “anchor text”:

I use partial-match anchors often because it’s a very natural way of linking to another website.

Exact Match Anchors

Exact match anchors are the king of all anchor text.

They have the power to increase your rankings, but also have the power to land you a penalty.

An exact match anchor is the exact match of whatever your target keyword is for the target page.

Example: if “buy backlinks” is my target keyword, then my exact match anchor would be “buy backlinks“.

Co-Occurrence: Build Relevancy Without Exact Match Anchors

Before I jump into percentages, you need to have a firm understanding of co-occurrence.

Don’t feel intimidated by this nerdy terminology. It’s actually really simple.

Since you won’t be using a ton of keyword-rich anchor text, you will need a way to create relevancy for your links.

Remember:

Relevancy is king in link building.

To get the “co-occurrence” effect, you are going to place your target keyword somewhere around your anchor text.

It’s best to place your target keyword as close to the anchor as possible.

It doesn’t HAVE to be, but it is ideal.

Always value doing what’s natural over doing what could be deemed as “spammy” or “manipulative”.

Sample #1: Generic Anchor

Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “go here”

“If you are looking for more information about anchor text go here right away.”

Sample #2: Branded Anchor

Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “Gotch SEO”

“Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link. For more in-depth information you should read this article from Gotch SEO.”

Sample #3: Naked Link

Target Keyword: “anchor text”
Anchor Text: “https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/”

“For more in-depth information about anchor text I highly recommend this article: https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/.”

Place Your Anchor Text in Super Relevant Content

Below, I’ve given you a few different examples of the types of content I would use for link building purposes. The better the relevancy of your article to your target keyword, the higher you will rank.

Keyword: “anchor text”

Instead of writing a broader article about link building, you would actually write articles specifically about anchor text. The tighter the relevancy of the linking article, the stronger your link.

Keyword: “New York personal injury lawyer”

You would write an article like “How to Find a Reputable Personal Injury Lawyer in New York” instead of a generic article about personal injury.

Keyword: “garcinia cambogia”

Instead of writing an article about health or weight loss, you would write an article like “10 Garcinia Cambogia Scams to Watch Out For”.

Last Word on Co-Occurrence

Surround your links with highly relevant content to increase their power.

Google is fully capable of understanding the relevancy of a link without you needing to shove hundreds of exact match anchors in its face.

Now it’s time to learn the exact anchor text percentages you need to use to drive results and keep your site safe from penalties.

Anchor Text Percentages

Now that you have a firm understanding of all the different anchor text you can use, I’m going to show you the anchor text percentages that will keep your websites safe through every Penguin update.

Keep in mind:

These percentages are what work for me.

Always test your own techniques and play with the percentages.

Branded Anchor Text: 70%

Google wants you to create a brand.

Not a fly-by-night operation.

One of the easiest ways for them to differentiate between a “brand” and a spam website is to look at the amount of branded anchors hitting the site.

In the next section, I’m going to show you the best platforms for getting quality branded links.

Naked Links: 20%

As I mentioned above, naked links are a very safe and a very natural anchor text. The bulk of your backlinks should be using naked links.

Generic Anchors: 5%

Generic anchors keep your link profile looking “natural” and are a necessity. Try not to use “click here” for every single one. You can pretty much use any word in the English language that isn’t related to your keyword, and it will be considered generic.

LSI, Partial Match Anchors: 1-5%

Okay, so after branded, naked, and generic anchors, you are left with around 5% leeway for keyword-rich anchors.

The majority of the last 5% anchors should be variations of your main keyword.

Exact Match Anchors Text: Less Than 1%

I use exact match anchor text as a LAST resort, not a first option.

Keep one important fact in mind:

The less exact match anchor text you use, the more powerful it becomes.

Also remember that assigning a distribution percentage to exact match anchor text is a very, very, VERY dangerous idea!

I want you to think about this for a second:

Let’s say we take the 5% exact match anchor text ratio that some SEOs recommend and do a little math:

Website A: 100 backlinks = 5 exact match anchors
This is definitely possible and generally would not put your site at risk.

Website B: 1,000 backlinks = 50 exact match anchors
The possibility of 50 different websites linking to your page with the same exact anchor text is pretty unlikely.

Website C: 10,000 backlinks = 500 exact match anchors
Obviously this isn’t possible and your page or website would get drilled by Penguin.

Now do you see why assigning a percentage to exact match anchors is a bad idea?

There is some good news for you:

The technique I’m about to show you is WAY more effective then drilling your site with exact match anchors.

Let me introduce you to anchor text cycling.

Anchor Text Cycling: More Rankings With Fewer Backlinks

Anchor text cycling works like this:

Step 1: Hit your target page with an exact match anchor

Step 2: Hit your site with unoptimized anchor text variations

Step 3: Track your rankings and watch the progress

Step 4: Hit your site with another exact match anchor (if necessary)

Here’s a visual example:

anchor text cycling

If you follow this process correctly and your content is strong, then you likely won’t need many exact match anchors.

The point of anchor text cycling is to spread your exact match anchors out over the course of months.

This is much more natural.

Here’s a scenario:

Let’s say you have a brand new website with a fresh link profile (fresh = no backlinks built).

The first thing you would do is hit the target page with a strong, relevant link with an exact match anchor.

You might be wondering: “Isn’t it dangerous to hit a brand new website with an exact match anchor?”

Negative.

No one in history has ever been penalized for one link. You can quote me on that.

Sites get penalized for their overall link profiles, not one or two links.

It’s like saying eating McDonalds one time is the reason why someone is overweight.

We know that it’s the combined effect of a bad diet over a period of time that leads to obesity.

The same goes for your link profile!

Repeatedly building over-optimized, spammy backlinks over time will lead to a penalty.

Now that I got the weird analogy out of the way…

Why do I use an exact match anchor for my first backlink?

A) I want to see how the site reacts

B) I want to establish what my site or the target page is about right away

Don’t forget!:

It doesn’t take a ton of backlinks to rank for most keywords.

Always focus on quality over quantity when it comes to link acquisition.

The smarter you are with anchor text, the fewer links you will need to rank.

After I hit the site with an exact match anchor, then I begin the process of cycling.

In the excel file, there will be a few examples of how I would cycle through anchors with a branded site, an EMD, and partial match website.

The entire point of using anchor cycling is to build a diverse and natural link profile.

Do you want to know the secret to a having a “natural” anchor profile?

The answer:

Be completely random and avoid patterns.

Take a look at these two examples:

Site #1 is the typical link profile you will see when someone is using automated link building tools. Or when someone has no idea what they’re doing.

Google’s algorithm can easily conclude that this site is building links artificially. A manual reviewer wouldn’t even be necessary.

Site #2 has a natural and diverse anchor profile.

It will outrank Site #1 with fewer backlinks and less keyword-rich anchor text.

This of course assumes that Site #2 has relevant, high-quality links.

It doesn’t matter whether you are doing black, grey, or white hat SEO, this concept still applies to you.

Now that you understand how to cycle your anchors, let me show you WHERE to place your anchors.

Laser-Targeted Anchor Text Placement

If you understand what I’m about to show you, you will be 99.9% safe from any Google updates.

Understanding WHERE to place your anchor text is absolutely critical to the success of your link building campaign.

Many SEOs immediately stop using a link building platform once it’s been devalued by Google.

This is the wrong approach.

The only reason why certain platforms such as article directories, web directories, and press releases have been “devalued” is because of people using commercial anchor text trying to “game” the search engine.

Many of these “devalued” properties are still very good sources for sending authority and trust to your website as long as you use the right anchor text.

Below, I’m going to show you every type of backlink along with what anchor text you should use.

“Power” Backlinks

“Power” links are any links that can have a big impact on your keyword rankings. These are the link types where you should concentrate your keyword-rich anchor text.

Editorial Links

An editorial backlink is a link placed in content “naturally” on a relevant website. These links take lots of time to acquire and sometimes require investment. Do not put your time and money to waste by using an unoptimized anchor! Editorial links are your opportunity to use an exact match or partial match anchor.

Niche Relevant Guest Posts

Sites that allow guest posts will typically let you leave a backlink in the author bio box. You should use unoptimized anchors for author bios because Google has cracked down on guest posts. If the site allows you to link within the body of the content, then make sure you drop a keyword-rich anchor.

Resource Pages

Quality resource pages will either allow branded anchors or the title of the resource. If you are linking to a content resource on your site, you should use the title of the page.

For example, if this article you are reading was placed on an “SEO resources” page, I would use “Official Anchor Text Guide (With Proven & Tested Strategies)” as the anchor text.

This is considered a partial match anchor.

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

I don’t mess around with PBNs too much anymore, but you should use exact and partial match anchors. You invested money to buy the expired domain, so you should try to get the most out of it.

301 Redirects

If you are a beginner, then I do not recommend messing with 301s quite yet. As you may or may not know, 301 redirects are basically like stealing rankings in Google. In a flash, your site can transform from a weak new website, to an authoritative one overnight.

If you didn’t know, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect of a website. With a 301, a large majority (not all) of the authority is transferred to the new domain.

So, why am I telling you this? Because one thing that many people do not take into account, is that the 301 will also transfer the anchor text from the redirected domain.

This means, if the redirected domain has a spammy anchor profile, it WILL transfer to your new website. It also means, if the redirected domain was penalized for over-optimized anchor text, there is a good chance that it will transfer to the new website.

There are some ways to avoid this.

Option #1: Make sure the new website has a good amount of unoptimized anchor text BEFORE you hit the site with the 301 redirect.

Option #2: Build unoptimized anchors to the domain that will be redirected if the anchors are too aggressive.

I recommend combining both options to make sure your new site stays safe.

Foundational Links

“Foundational” links are backlinks designed to “dilute” your anchor text profile and increase your site’s trust.

That means you should not use ANY keyword-rich anchors for the following link types:

  • Paid Directories
  • Traditional Directories
  • Business Citations
  • Press Releases
  • Niche Relevant Blog Comments
  • Branded Web 2.0s
  • Forum Signatures
  • Sidebar/Footer Links
  • Profile Links
  • Social Bookmarks
  • Donations/Sponsorships

The only anchor text that should ever be used on foundational links are naked, branded, and generic anchor text.

Tier Two and Three Anchor Text

Figuring out anchor text on tier one is hard enough, but what about tier two and three?

Fortunately, the percentages aren’t as strict.

Before I explain, you need to know what “tiered” links are:

  • Tier One = The backlinks directly hitting your website
  • Tier Two = The backlinks directly hitting your tier one
  • Tier Three = The backlinks directly hitting your tier two

Tier Three -> Tier Two -> Tier One -> Your Website

Since these links aren’t hitting your site directly, you can be a little more aggressive, but don’t go too crazy.

Here’s how your tier two anchor ratios should typically look:

  • Naked links: 40%
  • Generic: 30%
  • LSI, Partial-Match: 25%
  • Exact Match: 5%

To see what backlinks are best for tier two read this guide.

Just like your tier one, you are using your keyword-based anchors only with your most powerful links and saving the foundational links for diversity.

I typically don’t build a tier three, but if you decide to, you can go pretty crazy with anchor text.

When I do use tier three, here’s how I do it:

  • Naked links: 10%
  • Generic: 10%
  • LSI, Partial-Match: 50%
  • Exact Match: 30%

EMDs, PMDs: Avoid Like the Plague (If You Are a Beginner)

First, let’s make sure we understand what “EMD” and “PMD” actually mean.

Exact Match Domain (EMD): a domain that is an exact match of your target keyword.

Example: if my target keyword is “anchor text”, then my exact match domain would be “anchortext.com”, “anchortext.net”, etc.

Partial Match Domain (PMD): a domain with part of the keyword or a domain with the keyword, but also with filler words.

Example: if my target keyword is “anchor text”, then two different PMDs could be “anchortextbible.com” or “theanchorbible.com”.

Why should you avoid these types of domains if you are an SEO / link building beginner?

Answer: EMDs are very susceptible to over-optimization penalties.

PMDs aren’t as dangerous, but in inexperienced hands, could trigger a penalty.

Now the real question:

Are EMDs or PMDs even worth it?

Most SEOs who follow the Google propaganda would say they are “dead”. This is mainly because of the EMD update in September 2012.

Those SEOs are partially right.

LOW-QUALITY exact match domains with thin content, low-quality links, and over-optimized anchor text are definitely dead.

All the percentages I’ve shown earlier in this guide, are suited for branded domains.

For EMDs the percentages will be slightly different.

Ratios for Exact Match Domains:

  • Naked Links: 70%
  • Generic: 20%
  • LSI: 5%
  • Partial Match: 1-5%
  • Branded / Exact Match Anchors: 1-5%

How to Fix Over-Optimized Anchor Text

If you have been hit by an algorithmic penalty, then it IS possible to get your rankings back if anchor text is the problem.

In my experience, over-optimized anchor text mixed with over-optimized on-page SEO is the perfect formula for getting your website hit by Penguin.

There is a lot of evidence that both Google Panda and Penguin work together when analyzing a website.

Both algorithms analyze different factors, collect and pool data, recognize spammy patterns, and then penalize a site.

Example:

The good news is that both of these problems are pretty easy to fix.

Although this guide is dedicated to anchor text, I will explain some quick on-site SEO tips that will help you recover from a penalty.

On-Page Changes for Penalty Recovery

Keyword Density

Typically the biggest issue stems from keyword density.

YES, keyword density DOES matter.

Stuffing a page with the same keyword over and over will set you up for a penalty.

Go back to the section “How Penguin Works” to understand why this happens.

Obviously, the first plan of action is for you to fix your keyword density.

If you want to rank a particular page, you don’t need to go crazy with stuffing keywords.

Place your target keyword in these critical spots on your page:

  • Title
  • First sentence
  • ALT tag of first image
  • First H1 or H2 tag (you can use a variation of the keyword here)
  • Last sentence

Assuming your article is longer than 600 words, your density will probably be 1% or less.

This is ideal.

You can go as high as 3%, but I don’t recommend higher if you are looking for long-term rankings.

If you are having trouble keeping your percentages low, then you need to use variations of the main keyword.

Not only will this keep you safe, but it will actually help your page rank for variations of your keyword.

Keyword Dilution

Many people don’t take this one into account, but it can really hurt your rankings.

Keyword “dilution” is when you are trying to rank more than one page for the same or very closely related keywords.

For example, if my homepage was targeting “Los Angeles Personal Injury Law Firm”, and I had a subpage targeting “LA Personal Injury Law Lawyer”, Google would then choose which page it thinks is most relevant to the searchers.

At the same time, whatever page it chooses will decrease in value because it’s a spammy on-page tactic whether it’s on purpose or not.

Keyword dilution confuses Google because it won’t know what page to prioritize.

A confused Google = no search engine visibility

This problem can be solved very easily:

  1. Target only ONE page for your keywords: after the Hummingbird update, Google is very good at ranking pages for many variations of the same keyword. If you are targeting “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer” and you use the anchor text strategies in this book, your page will rank for all variations of that keyword such as “LA personal injury attorney”, “personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles”, etc.
  2. If you decide to keep an inner page for targeting your keyword, then change the META information on the duplicate page to avoid keyword dilution. If you are going to use the homepage to target your main keyword, then 301 redirect the other landing page to the homepage.

Backlink Strategies for Penalty Recovery

There are a few different link building techniques you can use to recover from a penalty.

Depending on the severity of the penalty, these tricks will work on the majority of penalized domains.

Keep in mind, my personal approach to penalties is to just start over with a fresh domain.

But if you are in love with your current site, the strategies below will help.

Should You Disavow?

I wanted to clear the air before I explain the strategies:

Disavowing is an absolute LAST resort, not the first.

The only time when you really need to use this tool is if your website was hit with negative SEO or it’s impossible to remove some of the links that you previously built.

You can recover from ALL algorithmic penalties without ever needing to use this tool. If you have a manual penalty, then it may be necessary (I’ll be addressing manual penalties after this section).

Remove Links With Commercial Anchor Text (From Spammy Sites)

As I discussed in the section about anchor text placement, you should only use commercial / keyword-rich anchor text on “power” link sources.

Please read How to Build Backlinks to see what types of links should be directly hitting your website.

If you made the unfortunate mistake of building backlinks on low-quality sources with keyword-rich anchors, then you have two options:

  1. Go back and delete the links.
  2. If you can’t delete the links, then disavow.

After you’ve done all you can do to remove keyword-rich anchors from spammy sources, then it’s time to jump into anchor text dilution.

Please notice that I said “spammy” sources.

Don’t go on a link-deleting spree because you will end up deleting links that are actually helping you.

Anchor Text Diluting

This is the most common technique and it does work in many cases.

All you are going to do is build unoptimized backlinks to your website with nothing but branded, generic, and naked link anchors.

Absolutely no keyword-rich anchors!

Use the “foundational” links I explained in the previous section to dilute your anchor text profile.

Before Penguin 3.0, you could counter over-optimized anchors by using the dilution technique.

Diluting still works, but there are some added factors now.

We have noticed, like the Micro Site Masters, that one important element of the penalties is a lack of GOOD links.

If you combine a low-quality link profile with lots of keyword-rich anchor text, then you are asking to be hit.

These are the links you should use to create a better anchor profile (in order of priority):

1.) Strong, Relevant Backlinks

These are the most costly, but are also the best for improving your overall link profile. Get as many as you can. Relevancy is king with or without a penalty. If you don’t want to put in the effort to get these links, then I recommend our new blogger outreach service.

2.) Business Directories / Local Citations

Take the time to create business listings because it’s a perfect way to send quality link unoptimized anchors to your site. This is an extremely time-consuming process, so I recommend you use our service to avoid wasting your precious time.

3.) LEGIT Social Profiles

Go out and build REAL social profiles for your website. Populate the profiles with your information, content, etc.

Only use the best sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Tumblr, etc.

These sites will give you a nice mix of NoFollow and DoFollow unoptimized anchors and will build trust for your website.

4.) High-Quality Press Release Distribution

Create a quality press release and distribute it through a quality channel. Press releases are great for quickly getting unoptimized anchors from many different IPs. You will also build diversity in your link profile because of the NoFollow / DoFollow mix.

301 Penalty Recovery Trick

Remember in an earlier section when I said that anchor text travels through a 301 to the new website?

You are going to use this to your advantage to recover from an algorithmic penalty.

There are two variations of the 301 penalty recovery trick.

Variation #1
Expired Domain -> Penalized Domain

For the first variation, you will need to find a quality expired domain through a service like Freshdrop. Make sure the anchor profile is clean and has very little keyword-rich anchors.

Look for a domain with branded, generic, and naked link anchors or what some people may refer to as a “natural” anchor profile.

Although you are not necessary using this expired domain for ranking purposes, it’s not a bad idea to find one with solid metrics.

Preferably PA 30 +, DA 20 +, PR 2 +, and a Trust Flow of 10 +.

Also, if you can find a domain that is relevant to yours, it will work even better.

All that you are going to do now is 301 redirect the expired domain to your penalized site and track the results.

Variation #2
Links -> Penalized Site -> New Website

For variation two, you are going to start fresh with a new website, but you are going to piggyback off the authority of your penalized domain (hopefully it has some).

Step 1: Buy a new BRANDED website (avoid EMD, PMD)

Step 2: Build high-quality branded backlinks to your new website
Use business directories, quality paid directories, niche relevant blog comments, press releases, etc. Only use branded anchor text.

Step 3: Build unoptimized backlinks to your penalized domain
The goal is to decrease the percentage of keyword-rich anchors. The percentage all depends on the severity your particular situation. If you have 70% keyword-rich anchor text, then you will need to get that down to at least 30% or less. If you have 30% keyword-rich anchors, then you will want to get it down to 10% or less.

Step 4: Check your anchor profile with Ahrefs, Majestic, or Open Site Explorer.

Step 5: If you have cut your keyword-rich anchors in half, then it’s time to redirect your penalized site to the new domain.

This works because, A) you are using a new branded website with an established branded text anchor profile, B) you have improved the anchor profile of the penalized website, and C) you have transferred authority to a new domain.

What About Manual Penalties?

It’s less of a headache and much more cost-effective to just start a new website, than to try to get out of a manual penalty.

Like I always tell my clients, getting a manual penalty is like going to prison for a felony.

Although you may get out of prison one day, you are still always going to have the felony on your record.

Do you really think Google wipes the slate clean for a website that was previously given a manual penalty?

Even if you do get the penalty lifted, ranking your site will never be easy and it’s always going to feel like “something is holding you back”.

Changing Anchor Text: Red Flag?

I’ve heard this question a lot and I’ve actually done this many times.

The answer is: sometimes.

I know it’s an annoying answer.

If you want to raise a red flag, then change a non-keyword-rich anchor to a keyword-rich anchor. Google may or may not devalue a link when this happens, but it’s definitely not worth it.

Just leave the link how it is, and go acquire a link somewhere else.

Situations that won’t throw up a red flag:

1. Changing a keyword-rich anchor to a non-optimized anchor – going back and decreasing your amount of commercial anchor text can often increase your rankings. If your exact match anchors or keyword-rich anchors are above 25%, then you may want to consider unoptimizing some of those.

2. Deleting an anchor and placing it within a different part of the article – if you decide to change an anchor, you should always place the new one in a different part of the article. When you do this, it makes the anchor / link “new” in Google’s eyes.

You will be losing an aged link, but in theory, starting with a fresh link.

IMPORTANT: You should only change anchor text under extreme circumstances.

Most over-optimized anchor text issues can be solved with the techniques I listed in the penalty recovery section.

Number of Links + Brand Searches = ?

Although this has more to do with links in general, it’s still important to note. If you have a certain amount of links, then you should be getting a certain amount of branded searches. It’s hard to give a definitive number or ratio of brand searches to links, but Google is actively implementing this into the algorithm and it will be a strong ranking factor once it’s refined.

For example, if Gotch SEO has 1,000 backlinks, then hypothetically, 1,000 websites have found my content or site to be useful.

For this reason, my website will have buzz and people should be searching to learn more about my brand on Google or by revisiting my website.

I should be getting searches like “Gotch SEO”, “Nathan Gotch”, “who is Nathan Gotch”, etc.

branded

This is exactly what you want.

Now, there are two ways to get more people searching for your brand.

  • #1: Create highly valuable content that people share and link to naturally
  • #2: Create highly valuable content, rank it well in Google, THEN people will share it naturally (if it’s good).

Option #1 is the hoping and praying approach, while #2 is the action-taking approach.

As you will notice, creating valuable content is a must for both.

Don’t get so obsessed with rankings that you forget that you are actually supposed to provide the searchers with some sort of value.

If you don’t, then you won’t make money from your website or business, and you just wasted months trying to rank on Google for no apparent reason.

Focus on Option #2, and you will get the branded searches you need to keep your site looking natural in the eyes of Google.

Anchor Text Tracking: Don’t Shoot Blindly at the Target

Tracking your anchor text is absolutely critical if you are building backlinks. If you aren’t, you are basically shooting at a target blindfolded.

There needs to be organization and you need to make sure you’re not overdoing it with keyword-rich anchors.

I use a good ol’ Google sheet to track my anchors.

In the sheet, I typically only track the keyword-rich anchors and keep a mental note of the branded links I’ve built thus far.

Conclusion

That’s all I think can of on anchor text. I know these strategies will help you achieve some awesome rankings while keeping your site from any future Penguin updates.

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Comments

  1. i question.

    Naked Links: 24%
    Generic: 22%
    LSI:6%
    Partial Match: 2%
    Branded / Exact Match Anchors: 1%

    Is it ok ?

  2. Hi Nathan Gotch, Thank’s for this great article. I want to know one thing. when i will create backlink for my articles can i use brand name, naked url, generic or i need to use exact anchor text.

  3. Hi Nathan

    If I cross link from one internal page to another using teh appropriate primary keyword anchor text for teh target page how come teh page I am linking from also shows in SERPS for that target keyword.

    Surely Google should work out that the reason I am linking across is to point out a better page to talk about that query?

    Thanks in advance. Nigel

  4. Hello, good evening, this text was certainly one of the best things I’ve read lately, enlightening. Thank you for sharing!

    Hugs from Brazil

  5. Hi Nathan,

    What would be your recommendation for anchor text ratio if I am building links to rank YouTube videos?

    Would it be the same as

    Branded Anchor Text: 70%
    Naked Links: 20%
    Generic Anchors: 5%
    LSI, Partial Match Anchors: 1-5%
    Exact Match Anchors Text: Less Than 1%

    For Branded Anchor, should I put my Youtube channel brand name (eg: YI) into the anchor or should I use YouTube? Eg: Watch this video on how to grow a farm from YI or Watch this video on how to grow a farm from Youtube?

    Thanks in advance.
    Edmund

  6. Hey Nathan, it’s a really great content… I am reading your blog from quite a bit days and this is my first comment… So, my question is if I buy an EMD for my niche and build some Backlink from web 2.0 and guest post etc, then it will be a no problem if my target keyword anchor text is below 5%… More simply I am going to purchase an EMD so just want to know whether I will get problems in getting Backlinks or just like PMD? Hope I am clear

  7. Wow! Nathan, I really like your site. Extremely detailed and the content is very rich. I can see how this site rocks! I will definitely use your site as an authority and reference source.

  8. The way you have explained about link building text, Exact Match Anchors, Generic Anchor, Branded Anchor, Naked Link nobody ever has explained on Internet but I am confused what meta title and H1 should be used.

    what is Exact Match Anchor is it the phrase we have used in the meta title or H1 or anything else??

    Please reply Nathan.

  9. Thanks for this – this awesome.

    One question – when fixing an over-optimised anchor text profile, about how long does it take to see an improvement in rankings?

    Is it mostly just a matter of waiting for the new anchor text to be crawled? Or are we talking weeks and months beyond that?

  10. Hello, Nathan! First of all thank you for sharing of your experience and answers!
    I d like to know you opinion in 2 cases. About meaning “Branded” anchors. Here are 2 examples
    1) example of the link somesiteT.com – branded anchor will be
    a) somesiteT
    b) some site T
    c) or could be both 50%/50%

    2) some-bay.com – can i use 50% as branded “Some Bay” isn’t risky to promote 2-3 keywords brand anchors?

    Thanks in advance for your answers

  11. It was a long and thorough piece of information about anchor text most people doing SEO neglect. I’ve used 2-3 SEO agencies before and none of them seemed to use the correct mix of anchor text and that’s why have always disappointed me with the results. Now I am doing Self SEO and have grown the traffic up from 100-150 visitors a day to around 300 in 6 months. It seems slow, but I guess, I’ve learnt a lot in that period.
    Your guide has a lot of important info about the anchor text. I never had read such a good guide about the topic, but a comparable one I read yesterday is by ‘Matt Diggity’. He too possess a good knowledge, but he is more a grey hat.
    Any ways, I’ll be implementing things said above to one of my page ranking at the second page of Google and see how it goes…Thanks for the write up….

  12. Hi Nathan, thanks for your super in-depth content! I have a question. Will this anchor text ratio of EMD apply for every page or just homepage?

  13. Very thorough blog — thank you so much! This was just what I needed to start a conversation with a potential client. Think I will need to revisit it a few more times so that it sinks in… but this was perfect.

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