Google Filters: Exact Match Anchor Text Links Are the New Meta Keywords


It’s always fascinating to see how Google treats SEO techniques that have gone main stream. Basically Google often uses filters on them. Of course many people out there abuse SEO techniques once they know they work.


What’s the problem with anchor text?

So called anchor text links are known to work quite well in SEO for several years. SEO practitioners know that they even can outmatch on-page factors like page titles, headlines etc.

My suggestion is that by now exact match anchor text links have been abused so much that Google treats them almost as bad as meta keyword tags.

We know that meta keyword tags aren’t a positive ranking factor. We don’t have proof for this but many people in the SEO industry assume that Google uses them as a negative ranking factor. That means keyword stuffing up there can make your page get downranked in Google results.


What actually happened on my blog

In the past months I’ve more than once experienced the following pattern: When optimizing my flagship blog content I noticed some pages were already ranking well but not on top yet.

I wanted to push them a little more and added exact match anchor text links (reflecting the keyphrases I already ranked well for) to these pages and expected an improvement of rankings.

Instead of improving in ranking the pages I linked to basically vanished from the top positions

in search results but only for the phrase I added. At the same time they ranked quite well for other keywords and phrases, even similar ones. It happened once, it happened twice.

I didn’t want to wait for a third time to tell you. I’m always apprehensive when using anchor text as mostly SEO people use this so it’s easy to filter but this wasn’t an addition of hundreds of similar anchor text links.

  • It happened both with one link added or with lots of.
  • Both an external link and as an internal link.
  • Both topical and off topic links.
  • Both inside content areas and in the sidebar.

All in all it seems exact match anchor text links suck sometimes.

Obviously people adding paid links and utilizing other SEO spam tactics have overused this technique and Google by now raises a red flag when the spiders notice exact match anchor text.


Ramifications for you and your optimization efforts

What does this mean for webmasters? Don’t link your own content with overly or exact matching anchor texts. Instead of linking to yourself as “SEO company UK”, try using something more natural like [brand + keyword] for instance: Datadial, SEO Company from London.

Otherwise Google filters may kill your rankings. How do I know? In both instances removing the anchor text links miraculously brought the rankings back over night.

Want to know more about anchor text, links and SEO? I strongly advise you to read and bookmark these resources elsewhere:

  1. All Links are Not Created Equal: 10 Illustrations on Search Engines’ Valuation of Links
  2. 5 things that stop anchor text being passed
  3. Google Patent on Anchor Text and Different Crawling Rates
  4. The Death of Exact Match Anchor Text Links
  5. Why Exact Match Anchor Text is Bad

Last updated: July 24th, 2015. Added eye-catcher image and two additional resources.


* (CC BY-SA 2.0) Creative Commons image by Randi Hausken