Can You Over-optimize Your Anchor Text?

Can too much use cause a drop in rank?
SIA Team
July 10, 2021

Quite simply, anchor text is the text on a webpage that is clickable and leads to another site. Anchor text is supposed to help the user get a better idea as to where the particular link will take them. 

SEOs have long known that a link with a specific keyword related anchor text will affect the ranking algorithms differently than a link with general anchor text (click here, visit this site, etc.).

There are many tools that can even show you your anchor text profile or what percentage of your inbound links have anchor text and what that particular anchor text is.

The very logical next step to this is, should all my links have my target keyword in them? If not, what is the right percentage or profile? A follow up to this is, can you over optimize your anchor text by having too many links containing your target keywords? 

There are many articles on anchor text and many people have weighed in on what the “ideal” anchor text profile is.

Some articles have mentioned that 1% should be your exact keyword or keyword phrase, and 70% should be branded, the rest would be a mix of naked urls and other things.

While this is sound advice, it falls into the big trap that we are trying to get ourselves out of – the opinion based SEO trap. 

For this test, 5 pages were set up with 500 words on the page. The meta titles and h1 per page are the same, while the URL is the title. The #3 result was chosen so that it had room to show upward and downward movement.

Drip Feed Links were used to build backlinks to the url. 100 links were requested as exact match keyword (25% of the total links), 300 links were used as site or brand links (75% of the total links).

Something to note of is that even though 100 and 300 were requested, Drip Feed Links provided extra links. We imagine that is built into their system as people probably get upset when they get below their requested number of links.

As a result of this, the actual text percentage came out at 28.2% as the total links were 549, and the 155 links had the exact match anchor text.


There were no movements after links were posted. On May 19, the test page dropped one position but a few days after on the 22nd, it moved up to the top spot. 


It has been a pretty wild ride for these results. Initially, there was no movement. This is probably the result of the backlinks not yet being indexed the moment that they were pointed.

Then the test page dropped one spot and a few days later, shot up to number #1 and has stayed there. So far, these results are in line with what we have been thinking.

In terms of how the algorithm works, “if” there is a penalty to be had for over optimization, it doesn’t come on the first crawl (it clearly doesn’t come on the second or third, either).

We believe it takes several more crawls or another step in the ranking process for the review of anchor texts to kick in. 

It is also very interesting that the links from Drip Feed Links are also ranking for the target term – several pages of indexed links are.

These results will still be monitored to see if the rankings will fall. Dori has an interesting theory that we are in a penguin-free window where spammy links and over-optimized anchor texts are not being monitored.

But, a day of reckoning is coming with the next Penguin update. We wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was the case, and it would make sense with the test results we’ve got both on this test and another paid links test. 

Google representatives have stated they are going to roll out Penguin and it will operate in real time. That is music to our ears as it will make it even easier for us to reverse engineer.

Until then, it is a great time to do some affiliate marketing or launch jacking “churn and burn” sites using all the tactics that we have been told not to do. But remember, to be on the safe side, this should not be done on client sites and money sites.

Clint’s Feedback

In this video, Clint talks about this test and his insights on the use of anchor text and keyword density.

Test 19. Can you over optimize anchor text?

I think from test number 18, I already alluded to there are instances where you can certainly just go way overboard and Google will get you.

However, it is actually keyword specific and even niche specific. Depending on what the percentages are that you should be going for. Great example I like to use especially when I’m talking about anchor text analysis is the web design keyword. So city web design. Phoenix web design. LA web design. Vegas web design.

Look at the exact match anchor text percentages for those keywords. On average, it’s not unheard of to see like 45 to 60% exact magic or text. Google is ranking those pages, that’s fine.

Whereas you can go to some other niches that the exact match anchor text is down there more than the averages of what people were saying in the one to two or less than 1%.

Some of those are close. You can get into the ones and 5%. That’s typically the averages that I’m seeing around. The competition is 1% to 5%. It’s not necessarily the one that has the higher anchor text percentages that’s winning, but it is there in that top 10 for ranking a keyword.

Now what does that what does that tell us? Number one, anchor text. And the rule of your exact match should be less than 1%. That’s just entirely false. It’s debunked by the actual search results.

You don’t need an SEO test to tell you that. You can go in the search results and look at the anchor text. If it’s 1% to 5%, then the recommendation that you should be less than 1% is gone right off the bat.

You can do that yourself. However, you shouldn’t get a little bit crazy with it either. In our test results, the test page actually dropped to the bottom. But then it went to number one and it stayed there. That’s 25% exact match anchors.

Keep in mind, it’s a test keyword. There’s no search volume for it. Probably no one’s searching for it, which is why it’s chosen as a test keyword. And there’s no other links to the other pages. So 25% is that’s the norm.

We could actually redo this test and every page gives 25%. Then the test page gets 50% to see if there’s an over optimization there.

This test is not a bust. But it is good information in regards that we can say.. One, to stay at 1% or less that people are spouting off is complete useless.

Two is probably not an over optimization if you’re the norm. If you are new to a market… I wouldn’t suggest getting into a business where there’s absolutely no competition, because then this probably means there’s no money, right?

But if you’re the norm and your norm is 10% or 25% anchor text and everyone is meeting you 10 to 25% anchor text, you then bump it up to 12% or 12.5% or 11.5%. You may win based off of the quality of your backlinks.

You may not get penalized, but you may win. Think of it that way.

Don’t use exact match anchors with the less than 1% as a rule. Do your research. Figure out what your competition is doing. And that’ll tell you right around the sweet spot where you have to be.

It doesn’t account for the quality of your backlinks. They have 10%. You have 25% and their backlinks are just better quality they can beat you. It’s not necessarily always more quantity. Quantity can beat you out too.

But if they have better quality and if you know each have 10 links but theirs is better than your 10, they’re going to beat you regardless of what your match anchor is.

However, if you can get some decent links of similar quality and power, the exact matches probably give you a step ahead.

I would look into that look. Do some more research. You can actually go through and find sites that are ranking in one or two spots with exact match. Then look at all their competition and if they don’t have any exact match, you should be doing some exact match stuff. Even if it’s not a lot.

This was the first test we have had on the use of exact match link anchors. We have more coming up. Visit our test articles to get to know the latest deal on exact match!