Last week I ran a half marathon race. Leading up to the race, I decided I was going to plan an overall strategy for the race in hopes of running my fastest time ever. This was my 3rd half marathon, and while I did just “OK” in one race, another one was a complete disaster. It was a disaster because of lack of setting a realistic goal pace and sticking to it (I slowed down dramatically the last few miles).
So, in order to set my goal pace, I looked over all the training runs I had down over the past few months. This helped me determine that running a pace at 6:30 minute miles was not realistic, but 7:45 minute miles was. I also researched what other runners were able to accomplish based on their training plans. This planning and strategy gave me confidence that I could run a great race at the appropriate pace.
On race morning, there is always a lot of adrenaline pumping at the start of a race which can cause runners to go out much too fast for the first couple of miles and then die out. However, I stuck to my pace and ended up running my fastest half marathon ever in 1 hour 40 minutes and 54 seconds (a 7 min 42 second pace)!
Why Anchor Text Strategy is Important
Who cares you say?
Well, I think there are some lessons in regards to planning and strategy that can be applied to building links to your site, and in particular planning the anchor text that you will use. You see, too many people go out too strong in the race to build anchor text and absolutely kill themselves by using too much exact match anchor text early on.
So, if the keyword you are trying to rank for is “dog training tips” and that exact keyword is all you use in your anchor text; your site will likely be just like the runners that go out too fast and then die at the end. Sure your site might get a quick bounce to the top of Google, but then after a few weeks it will get slapped down by the Google master and will never be seen again.
The reason? Google Penguin was all about penalizing sites with poor link building strategies. This includes both links coming from low quality sites, but it also includes penalizing sites that overuse keyword anchor text. Penguin includes other factors as well, but today we will discuss new strategies for using anchor text.
Let's develop a realistic strategy for setting an anchor text “pace”…
Determine How Much Control You Have Over Anchor Text
If you are a pure “white hat” when it comes to building links, well go ahead and pat yourself on the back. There is not a lot you can do to control anchor text if you have no control over the links pointing to your site. Other than asking sites to alter anchor text for you, or being ever cognizant of the link baits you send out (be aware of the anchor text it encourages), you don't need to worry about this topic too much.
However, if you are like most webmasters, you do indeed have more control over the links pointing to your site, so keep reading…
General Guidelines for Anchor Text Usage
Anchor text is used, because it essentially tells Google that this site is related to this topic. So, if your keyword is “dog training tips” and the link pointing to your site has the anchor text as “dog training tips”, this is an added vote that tells Google the site should be ranked for “dog training tips”. That's why you want keyword anchor text.
However, if a large portion of your anchor text is all “dog training tips”, Google will see that as suspicious, and may very likely de-rank your site. So, you need to find a balance.
Here are several options for anchor text that you can use when linking to your site, along with the percentage of time they should be used:
10% – Exact Match – “dog training tips”
20% – Partial Match – “best dog training”
10% – URL Match – dogtrainingtips.com
10% – Brand Match – Bills Dog Training Tips (if your site is billsdogtrainingtips.com). Note that if your site is dogtrainingtips.com, then “Dog training tips” is both an exact match AND a brand match.
20% – Related keyword match – “puppy potty training” or “housebreaking a puppy”
30% – No match – “click here”, “read more”, “get a free gift here”, “check out this super sweet website”, “Spencer is cool”, “Spencer is da bomb”, “Spencer needs to chill on the Spencer related anchor text”, “you get the idea!”
The percentage of use is just a general guideline. Don't stick to this religiously! Also, expect this to change as Google changes their algorithm! These percentages just emphasize that you should not be using exact match anchor text most of the time, and you need to diversify.
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Follow the Lead of Your Competitors
In planning for my half marathon race, I was able to look at the training plans and related goal pace of other runners in order to set a realistic pace for myself. You can do the same when planning your anchor text strategies.
Why not look at the top ranking sites in Google for your keyword, and see what type of anchor text they are using?
After all, if they are ranking #1 for your chosen keyword, then they must be doing something right. Don't try to guess the percentage of anchor text that should be used – just copy them! Here's an example of how to do that:
Let's say we are trying to rank for the keyword, “dog training tips”. If we do a quick Google search, you will see that dog-obedience-training-review.com is ranked #1 and dogtrainingtips.com is ranked #4. Lets take a deeper look at the anchor text that these sites are using.
Example 1 – dog-obedience-training-review.com – ranks #1 in Google for “Dog training tips”
If you go to Open Site Explorer and do a search for this domain, you can simply click on the “Anchor Text” tab to see the breakdown of all the anchor text that is used:
You can see from this image, that this site has a total of 13,315 links pointing to it. Here's a abbreviated list of how anchor text is used for those links:
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- dog training tips – 12.35% (1,645 links)
- dog training – 24.24% (3,227 links) – this site also ranks #1 for “dog training”
- URL match (in various formats) – 2.46%
- dog training central (and lots of other Partial match) – 28% +
- other anchors – 32%
Example 2 – dogtrainingtips.com, ranks #4 in Google for “Dog Training tips”
If you take a look on Open Site Explorer here, you can see that the site has a total of 629 links, here's a breakdown of the anchor text:
- dog training tips – 6.84% (43 links)
- aard wolf's dog training (partial match) – 62.9% (390 links)
- URL match – 0.79% (5 links)
- Other anchors – approximately 30% – (191 links)
Overall, you can see that the #1 site for “dog training tips” is only using exact match anchor text about 12% of the time and the #4 site in Google is only using the exact match anchor text around 7% of the time. This certainly tells me that if I were to enter this market, I would want to stick around 10 or 15% of the time using exact match anchor text. Then I would vary it with similar percentages for partial and URL match.
Hopefully, this short exercise gives you a clear idea of how you can take the strategies of your competitors and apply it to your own anchor text goals.
What's Your Strategy?
In wrapping up, I think its important to emphasize that each niche could be different. Some niches may have sites ranking with heavier keyword anchor text usage, and perhaps you can follow their lead on that. But in general, I think its now important to not overuse your keyword too often if you have control over it.
Building sites is like running a marathon, don't go out too quickly to race to the top of Google. Set your goals, look at the strategies that work for your competitors, and develop a plan to rank long term.
Who knows, maybe you'll set a personal earnings record with your well-paced link building plan!
Do you have any strategies that you would like to add to the discussion? Leave a comment and lets discuss!