Hands down, the most important skill you can have when it comes to offsite SEO is anchor text selection. Having the correct anchor text distribution can make you (or break you) in the SERPs. If you do it right, you’ll find yourself at the top of page 1, and you’ll do it with less links than your competitors. If you do it wrong, say hello to Penguin penalty.
Not surprisingly, the most common question I get from customers is: What anchor text should I use? While I’d love to be able to answer this for everyone, but there simply isn’t a 5 minute answer. Selecting the right anchor text takes analysis and practice, and this is a skill that you want to craft for yourself, rather than rely on others for. But let me just say, once you get this down, it’s like graduating to the next level of SEO.
The first step in anchor text selection is to figure out where you’re headed by determining what is the target anchor text distribution for your niche. Here’s how I do it, broken down step by step:
Analyze the Competition
Many SEO’s often talk about needing a “natural” anchor text distribution when they describe it, it typically looks something like this:
- 50% Brand/URL anchors
- For example, a branded anchor for golfgenius.com would be “Golf Genius”. Branded anchors only apply to non-EMD/PMD sites.
- URL anchors are variations of the naked URL: golfgenius.com, http://golfgenius.com, www.golfgenius.com, etc
- 25% topic anchors
- Example: “sports equipment” would be a topic anchor for the keyword “best titanium driver”
- 10% keyword and longtail anchors
- Examples: best titanium driver, what is the top titanium driver, buy titanium driver online
- 15% miscellaneous anchors
- click here, read more, go to website, etc.
While many people stick to this idea that you need this perfect, “natural” ratio of various types of anchors, this simply isn’t the case.
Protip: Whenever you do a search for a specific keyword, Google shows you exactly what they like to see in the SERPs. Do a search for your target keyword and toss the results into a backlink checker like Majestic or Ahrefs. Here, and only here, is where you’ll find the anchor text distribution Google is looking for.
Often this looks nothing like the cookie-cutter anchor text distribution that is supposedly “natural”.
Case in point – Keyword: “sell my car online”
Your anchor text plan often isn’t what you initially expect. I’ve been in niches where I had to consecutively hit the site with target anchors for a month straight until I was able to break into page 1. Sounds like SEO in 2005, but sometimes that’s what the niche is asking for.
Find the Average Anchor Text Distribution of the Top 5 Rankers
To figure out the target distribution of anchors for my particular niche, I rely on Majestic and Excel.
Step 1) Download the Majestic Anchor Text data for the site in position #1
Step 2) Categorize all of the anchors by type
I use the “Referring Domains” column so I don’t double-count anchors sent from the same domain, possibly from a site-wide link.
Step 3) Find the anchor text distribution for this URL by creating a pie chart.
Step 4) Repeat for Sites in Positions #2-5
Step 5) Your Niche-specific Target Anchor Text Distribution = The Average of the Top 5 Sites
Next Step: Do It Better than the Competition
Now that you know the anchor text ratio that Google is looking for, it’s time to begin your link building campaign whose anchors will mimic this distribution. The only difference is that you’re going to be doing it much better than the competition.
In the next article, I’ll go over 6 crafty anchor text techniques that will allow you to get much more value from your links and push you past your competitors’ amateur SEO efforts.