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Link Building

How to Build Proper Anchor Text Ratios

  • June 3, 2015

About the author

Ryan Stewart

I have an unhealthy obsession with being considered the world's BEST internet marketer. I'm highly active on social media and love a good debate.

I just parted ways with a client over anchor text.

They hired us to build white hat links – guest blogging, outreach, broken link building, etc.

After I landed a few on authority websites, I got an email from them regarding the link anchors:

“We are looking to dilute our anchor text profile. We hired you to build white hat links – anchor texts should ONLY contain our brand name! Anything else is manipulation and we will get penalized by Google.”

I broke off the working relationship – I don’t work with people hire me for a service then tell me how to perform it.

Aside from the massive loss in revenue, I’m glad it happened. I’ve been wanting to address this anchor text thing for a while.


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Anchor texts should be natural, not planned

You probably think you’re doing a bang up job keeping your anchor text profile “safe” because you follow a strict regimen:

  • 20% branded anchors
  • 20% naked URLs (i.e. https://webris.org)
  • 10% business owner name
  • 10% generic anchors (click here, read more)
  • 35% related keywords (keywords similar to your main one)
  • 5% “money” keyword

Sure, you’ll get a “natural” looking profile, but don’t you see the irony?

You’re trying to build a “natural” link profile by manipulating it.

Let’s look at Google’s anchor text ratio.

  • 2% branded
  • 2% naked URL

Anchor Text of Google

Over 90% of the links use “Other Anchor Text”.

Where are these links coming from? Why are so few links branded and naked URL?

The easiest way to answer that is exploring types of links that make up your profile.


Anchor text should be based on link type

Each link type has a natural anchor. My client wanted to “dilute” their profile with the wrong type of links.

Even if you’re a black hat SEO you shouldn’t have to “dilute” your anchors.

All you need to do is build links the way they’re intended.

Allow me to illustrate with some examples.


1. Profile LinksProfile Links

Natural link type: branded, naked URL

Any website you can create a profile on, do it.

More often than not you’ll get a chance to add a link to your website. These links won’t rank you, but they’ll pad your link profile.

Profile links are a natural way to build branded and naked URL anchors.

Some might give you the opportunity to use anchors – don’t! Resist the temptation!


2. Citations, Directories, Resource Pages

Natural link type: branded, naked URL, ‘click here’

These are the Yellow Pages for our generation. With thousands across the web, they present a perfect opportunity to build basic anchor texts.

The web directory in the image to the right lists my business with a link anchored by “Visit Website”.

This is an example of when that type of anchor is used naturally – NOT in a contextual guest blog post.


3. Blog Comments

Natural link type: naked URL, your name

Arguably the most misused link by SEOs.

When was the last time you read an article on your favorite blog and saw a comment with anchored links?

I’ll wait.

It never happens! Real blogs don’t accept comments with anchor text. However, they do allow you to drop a naked URL link (if relevant) or link to your site from the name field.

Blog comments are yet another way to leverage building natural anchor profiles.


4. Contextual (Organic)

Natural link type: naked URL, brand, ‘read more’, your name, anchor

Contextual links will make up the majority of your link profile and are the links that drive rankings.

There’s really 2 types of contextual links:

  • The ones you get organically because your website is friggin awesome. These generally come from press or media sites.
  • The ones you had to bust your ass for. These generally come from outreach, content submission or links built (blog networks, etc).

You have no control over organic (press) links. They’re going to link to your site however they see fit within their article.

For the most part, the link will be branded or generic (click here). Press sites use links to cite a source – if they’re sharing a case study or submitted tip they cite with a link to the source. These anchors generally end up as branded, naked or generic.

Press Mention Links

How often does your website generate organic links?

Yeah, me neither.

So, the majority of our links will come from the next type…


5. Contextual (Built + Earned)

Natural link type: anchor

Hopefully you stuck around because it’s what I’ve been building up to this whole time.

Exact Match Anchor text

I know – bold claim, but allow me to elaborate.

My recently departed client hired me to build “white hat” contextual links through guest blogging and outreach.

So, I wrote some killer content for some of the world’s top blogs. They accepted the posts, but not the links.

Likn Promotion Rejection

And another…

Link Rejection 2

I’ve NEVER had links stripped before. Ever.

Why’d they do it?

Because adding branded or naked URL links comes off as blatant promotion.

I know this. You know this. Google knows this.

This is incredibly important to pay attention to if you build black / gray hat links!

Private blog networks only work if they mimic real sites. If you’re trying to be safe by adding branded / naked URL links, you’re creating unnatural patterns.

Read any blog on the web. Look at the links. They very rarely use branded or naked anchors.

Contextual anchors should fit seamlessly with the content. This helps the flow of the article and is best practice for web writing.

Bottom line – stop creating content for built links with branded anchors. It looks like f@cking spam!


Content type is a factor too

I want to push this a little further.

Utilizing link type with anchor is really only half of it. You need to make sure you’re linking to the right content on your website.

Below is a diagram showing the proper use of link type, anchor and link destination.

Building Anchor Text Properly

I think it’s pretty self explanatory so I won’t go into detail on it. If you have any questions leave it in the comments or post it in our digital marketing help Facebook Group.


Closing: proper use of anchor text is powerful

I want to wrap this up by driving home the importance of non branded anchor text.

Anchor text is a HUGE ranking signal. You need to combine the power of anchors with the power of contextual links.

I recently wrote a guest post for Ahrefs – in that post I used the anchor text “Miami based SEO agency“.

Anchor Text Manipulation

Excerpt from the AHrefs post.

A few days later we shot up to the number two spot in Google for that keyword.

Exact match anchors aren’t spam – they’re a necessity.

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Comments ( 61 )

  • Brock Says
    8 years ago

    Great article. You are writing what many of us think on a daily basis.

  • Keith Heeres Says
    8 years ago

    Good write up Ryan. I like your style. Never had it explained like this. Filed under link building rules to follow.

  • Richard Merry Says
    8 years ago

    Great article. It really puts a different perspective on the right anchor. Almost like saying build the links and the anchor texts takes care of themselves.
    Also, I can’t believe those top sites accepted the posts, but not the links.

  • Paul Moyer Says
    8 years ago

    This makes perfect sense. I always had a question of how can you not create a footprint if you are consistently trying to not make a footprint the same way.

  • Tim Fehraydinov Says
    8 years ago

    Hey Ryan,
    You absolutely nailed it, thanks for sharing your experience. And this diagram is awesome!

  • Logan Says
    8 years ago

    Great article, but your social toolbar was covering a lot of your content. I’m currently using an iPad to browse.

  • Sam Jefferies Says
    8 years ago

    Fantastic post, I actually just linked out to this at: http://inbound.org/post/view/we-re-ignoring-google-it-s-working-here-s-why#comment-227894

    I think people can become too fearful of links, but if done in the right way can provide huge benefits.

  • Jon Blomquist Says
    8 years ago

    Common sense with anchor; How would I help guide my readers to get more related info. If you are truly doing this, you shouldn’t have to worry about the percentages, because a majority of the time it would be different. In addition, I’ve always veered away from following what every SEO agency is recommending regarding the percentages of anchor text you “should” be using. Numbers help as a guideline, but so many struggling SEO’s I know obsess over them. Great article – Keep up with the good content, Ryan.

  • Andre Says
    8 years ago

    This is great. Thanks for the post. This and Gotch’s guide together are the best anchor text guides I’ve come across.

  • Brian Hughes Says
    8 years ago

    Ryan, great post! I’ve been in this similar situation quite a few times, and it can become daunting. You made some excellent points here, I’ll be passing this along to some of my clients.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    8 years ago

    thanks Andre – much appreciated.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    8 years ago

    appreciate it brian – yes, please share! 🙂

  • Tim Soulo Says
    8 years ago

    Great post, Ryan!

    Congrats on raking for “Miami based SEO agency“ 😉

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    8 years ago

    i should be thanking you!

  • Ajay Prasad Says
    8 years ago

    Hey Ryan,

    Great post as always! I came to first read your article on ahrefs.com; the one you have mentioned here as well and since then I have been a fan of you and your articles. Gonna share it for sure.

  • David Leonhardt Says
    8 years ago

    For the most part I agree. However, I disagree about name/company branded URLs. If you are going to quote somebody in an article, do the reader a favor and link to them. The best place to link to might be a bio page, or it might be the company home page, and it should be the person’s name or the company name that is linked. That’s just good journalism.

  • fred Says
    8 years ago

    Hi Ryan, thank you so much for this article. Can you clarify for me… for #4 Contextual (Organic) you write “Natural link type: naked URL, brand, read more, your name, anchor”. I understand what a naked URL anchor is, what a brand anchor is, what a ‘read more’ anchor is, and what a ‘your name’ anchor is. But what is an “anchor anchor”? You also use it in #5: “Natural link type: anchor”.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    8 years ago

    Good question Fred, sorry I wasn’t clear. When I say “anchor” I mean contextual anchors. Pretty much anything aside from the anchors previously mentioned.

  • Anurag Says
    8 years ago

    Great article Ryan. Highlights the point that a lot of clients miss. I believe anchor text ratio is governed by the niche..i think looking at how the top sites are in particular market and if G is giving them a boost then thats how it should be for that niche or market.

  • David Cohn Says
    8 years ago

    Ha! I love that the client who hired you for your expertise is telling you that you’re doing it wrong. C-ya! Today I had a client try to tell me how to do things too. Just after they gave me a check… Ha! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

  • Gotch Says
    8 years ago

    Hi Ryan,

    I originally found this article on your Medium account and it speaks the truth! I’m really disappointed that I haven’t seen your content until now because you’re publishing some amazing stuff.

    – Gotch

  • Umesh Singh Rajput Says
    8 years ago

    Crystal clear. Amazing Ryan. You Rock bro 🙂

  • Martin Niedenfuhr Says
    8 years ago

    Brilliant post. The nerve of that client!

  • Kevin Schlegel Says
    8 years ago

    I’m making some changes based on this article… Thanks, Ryan.

  • Brett Says
    7 years ago

    Decent article Ryan. Not much new here, but you def have a more gentle way of putting it 😉

    I’ve always felt that creating a fixed anchor ratio only sets up a new pattern to look for. Luckily I’m in the minority where we actually get heaps of organic links. So working on ratios isn’t an issue.

    One thing tho:
    “Miami Based SEO Agency”….. Really…. who the fuck searches that phrase?

    Otherwise, keep it coming.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    Thanks Brett.

    About 2,000 people total per month visit this site through “Miami based SEO agency” and related keywords (according to Webmaster Tools).

    I hired an accountant just yesterday searching EXACTLY for “miami based accountants”. Not sure why you find that odd.

  • Sangkara Says
    7 years ago

    I still don’t know how to do this (which is why I don’t link to anyone – sorry all! there are dzeons and dzeons of great blogs I’d like to link to, but can’t). But I won’t ask you to show me the trick…

  • Andrea Says
    7 years ago

    It is important to know what saerch engine optimization means and how you can use SEO to optimize your website’s pages you need to add good , and perfect descriptions. This way, your site will be recognized easier by saerch engines and viewers. To optimize your website and apply good , you need to add keywords in each webpage that relates to that certain web page. For if you want to rank highly for groceries, you don’t list items that ain’t related to groceries stores. You should put yourself in the shoppers shoes and start to think like them. Remember that adding keyword phrases is getting more popular than one word keywords. The competition for certain high and you should research the competition and invest your money wisely.

  • Ryan Stewart Says
    7 years ago

    thanks kevin, glad you enjoyed it.

  • Roxxy Says
    7 years ago

    Hey Ryan this guide helps a lot to start link building campaign for my website . All the aspects are clear.. 🙂


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