On-Page SEO & Exact-Match Anchors

On-Page SEO & Exact-Match Anchors

Since Google rolled out its Penguin update in April of 2012, there has been divergent opinion on exact-match anchors in on-page SEO efforts. I’ve read articles by some SEO specialists suggesting that exact-match anchors in on-page SEO is bad. Certainly, it is widely accepted that exact-match anchors (the text that is the link) are a bad thing if overdone in backlinks from external domains. In Google’s view, it’s not natural. A website would have diverse backlink anchor text. What about on-page anchors? If I sell blue widgets, isn’t it natural that my nav would contain the link anchor “Blue Widgets” and that some links pointing back to that page would also use “Blue Widgets” or close variations as anchor text? Wouldn’t that help visitor?

What is exact-match anchor text?

Exact-match is just that: the link text matches your target page keyword focus exactly. For example, you provide SEO services in Vancouver and all of the links pointing back to your website use the anchor “SEO Vancouver”. The previous link example is an internal link, but if that link was on hundreds of external domains pointing back to your Vancouver SEO services page, and you had no other variations on this anchor text, Google may penalize your site. Prior to Penguin, SEO specialists manipulated ranking by over-using and abusing anchor text. The theory was, the more links pointing back to a page on keyword-X, the higher the page would rank for the search term “keyword-X”. It worked, so people used it, then abused it.

What does a natural backlink anchor profile look like?

A natural backlink anchor profile would be diverse. Sometimes the link would be exact, but mostly it would be varied. The following are a few examples of the many ways in which link anchors might appear on an external domain pointing back to your target page. In the following examples, I’m targeting a pretend SEO page with the keyword focus “Vancouver SEO”. In the old days, the link anchor would be “Vancouver SEO”, or “SEO Vancouver”  with little variety.

Varied anchor text on external domains

  • SEO Services
  • SEO by Websessive Media
  • Read more about SEO services by Websessive Media
  • Read more about Vancouver search engine optimization
  • View our SEO services page: https://www.websessive.com/services/seo.php
  • Need Search Engine Marketing? We can help.
  • Click here for information about our Vancouver BC SEO services.

But what about on-page link anchors?

That’s the question many search marketers have been struggling with.  Many have been guessing about exact-match anchors and on-page SEO.  In April 2013, Matt Cutts answered a question many have been asking:

Do internal website links with exact-match keyword anchor text hurt a website?

To paraphrase Matt Cutt’s answer: generally not unless it is overdone. Google understands that internal navigation is there to help people, well…navigate. It would be more natural to use exact-match text as a visual clue that reveals the subject of the page the link targets.

Yes, I know, it does the same thing for readers of external domain content, but then, overabundance of exact-match on external domains is quite likely an attempt to manipulate ranking. Cutt’s does say it can be abused in on-page SEO efforts, and cautions not to overdo it, but I think many SEO specialists have perhaps been overcautious where on-page internal link anchors are concerned.

Summary

The Penguin update made a lot of SEO providers paranoid about Google penalties for over-optimization, including anchor text over-optimization. I think a good rule to live by regardless of the latest, scariest Google algorithm update is: some keywords will naturally appear in content, including anchors, but don’t overdo it. What does that mean? There isn’t a formula. If someone tells you there is, beware.  Everything in moderation. Including SEO.

Google SEO Ranking Factors 2013
Website Speed and SEO Ranking
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