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Examination of Anchor Text Ratios for SEO

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Examination of Anchor Text Ratios for SEO

There are many ideas about anchor text ratios and what is the best ratio for ranking on Google. Some SEOs have researched millions of search results and discovered common anchor text ratios for the top ranked sites. Are these anchor text ratios the key to ranking better and avoiding manual penalties?

Anchor Text

Anchor text is the technical name for the words used in a link from one page to another web page. Sometimes the anchor text is “Click Here.” Sometimes the anchor text is “Best SEO Dallas, Texas.”

An anchor text like “Click Here” is going to be ignored by Google for ranking purposes. But an anchor text like “Best SEO Dallas, Texas” could be used to help rank the page that is linked to for the search phrase of Best SEO Dallas, Texas because Google uses anchor text for ranking purposes.

Background on Anchor Text Use By Google

The founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page authored a research paper in 1998 that described Google’s innovative PageRank approach.

The research paper is called, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

The research paper explains the logic of using anchor text for ranking purposes:

“The text of links is treated in a special way in our search engine. Most search engines associate the text of a link with the page that the link is on. In addition, we associate it with the page the link points to.”

In another part of the research paper the authors explain how Google will dampen the effect of keywords (presumably to prevent excessive keyword use from having too much effect). They explain that this will prevent any ranking factor from having too much influence.

In the following quote, where the Google founders use the word “hits,” what they are talking about is a keyword found on a web page.

Google’s research paper:

“…we factor in hits from anchor text and the PageRank of the document. Combining all of this information into a rank is difficult. We designed our ranking function so that no particular factor can have too much
influence.

First, consider the simplest case — a single word query. In order to rank a document with a single word query, Google looks at that document’s hit list for that word. Google considers each hit to be one of several different types (title, anchor, URL, plain text large font, plain text small font, …), each of which has its own type-weight. The type-weights make up a vector indexed by type.

Google counts the number of hits of each type in the hit list. Then every count is converted into a count-weight. Count-weights increase linearly with counts at first but quickly taper off so that more than a certain count will not help.”

So right there you can see that there is a kind of ratio that Google is using to dampen the effect of that ranking signal. As mentioned earlier, the purpose was presumably to stop the popular ranking trick of keyword stuffing.

Some may say that the above upper limit contributed to the origin of anchor text ratios. But that’s not really the case.

In my experience, the concept of anchor text ratios was not actively discussed in the SEO community until about 2005 after Google announced that they were using statistical analysis to identify abnormal linking patterns. More on that later.

When Anchor Text Ratios Became Popular

Anchor text ratios however didn’t become a thing until sometime after 2005. In May 2005 at PubCon New Orleans Google announced that they were using statistical analysis to identify unnatural link patterns.

Back in those days I lived in San Francisco, about 45 minutes away from Google and was invited on several occasions to visit the campus and I had the opportunity to meet the members of Google’s spam fighting team including one member who told me he specialized in statistical analysis.

The idea of statistical analysis being used to identify unnatural linking patterns scared the SEO community into changing tactics in order to blend in and have their linkslook natural.” That Google was using statistical analysis to identify unnatural linking patterns is the origin of the phrase links that look normal.

Everyone sought to avoid being caught by statistical analysis for unnatural linking patterns so it was important to look natural by emulating the linking patterns of non-spammy websites.

The revelation in 2005 is likely the true origin of using anchor text ratios for looking “natural.”

How Google Handles Links

Google’s search engine today is completely different from what it was in 2005.

For example, Google in 2020 began using AI at the indexing level to block spam sites from entering the index (Citation: Google Announces it Uses Spam Fighting AI), which means all the links on those spammy pages do not have a chance to influence rankings. Google’s anti-spam AI also catches spam at other points as well.

There is the Penguin algorithm that is dedicated to identifying unnatural links in real-time as they are discovered. Nobody knows what is in the Penguin algorithm. It could use statistical analysis or maybe it doesn’t.

As new technologies are introduced, old ones are retired. Even Google’s PageRank Algorithm was retired and replaced with a new version in 2006 (Citation: Ex-Googler Says PageRank Replaced in 2006).

Does Google Use Anchor Text Ratios Today?

Anchor text ratios gained popularity beginning in 2005, that’s a long time ago. The search engines have moved on.

It’s unclear if anchor text ratios may cause a site to be flagged for a manual review. It’s definitely within the realm of possibilities but in my opinion probably should not be a consideration if all  the links are 100% natural and not the result of unnatural link activities.

Perhaps the most pertinent observation that could be made about anchor text ratios today is that anyone who is worried about anchor text ratios is building links like it’s 2005 and is unaware of today’s link related algorithms and AI spam fighting tools used by modern search engines today to spot and drop unnatural links.

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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