Problem with exact match anchor text links?1
Lots of chatter online about the upcoming/in-progress “over optimisation” algorithm update – the general consensus being that exact match anchor text spamming might now be a cause for concern. This has primarily been prompted by a number of “unatural links” messages from Google to be sent out and reports by a number of websites that they have seen drops in their rankings.
For many years exact anchor text matches in your backlink profile would be a big indicator to Google as to the content on the link location and many SEO’s have benefited from such optimisation (as it did work). So with all this talk of exact match “over” optimisation you really should not have been relying on such a tactic for so long (sorry to preach).
Firstly if you’ve been relying on exact match anchor text links as a large percentage of your overall strategy then you have only yourself to blame. Most worthwhile SEOs out there will have been creating good content for their sites which will inevitably result in a natural mix of anchor text links anyway. Even if you haven’t had the luxury or resource to build “good content” then whatever your link building strategy has been; directories, articles, PRs, paid links etc then what you would have found is that you will actually get better results by spreading the amount of links evenly across the different types:
- Exact Match – i.e. Credit Cards
- Phrase Match – i.e. looking for a credit card
- Brand Match - i.e. Matt’s Credit Cards
- Natural Match – i.e. http://www.mattscreditcards.com or click here
There is of course a glaringly obvious issue which I’ve yet to see be discussed, what does this mean to exact match domains?
Besides having keywords in the domain, which has for a long time been weighted extremely heavily in Google’s algorithm, the other attractive element of exact match domains is that you are much more likely to be referenced “naturally” with your target keyword (as it’s your website name). This does then present a dilemma, if your brand name is the same as an exact match keyword with high search volume will you continue to benefit if a high percentage of your links are exact match? I’ve not seen any reports (or my own sites) start to behave irregularly or take drops so I’d say that if there is any over optimisation for exact match links there’s a rule in place which does not apply to the exact match domain name – yet.
About the author
My name is Matt Ridout, I've been working in digital marketing for 9 years; worked for agencies and currently Head of SEO at fashion startup called Farfetch. Try to test my own theories.