Since the time that Google first released Penguin, people have been under the impression that their anchor text ratio plays some role in getting screwed or not getting screwed by the Penguin filter. I have already argued over and over again that the problem is not the ratio of anchor text in the links. The problem is the crappy backlinks, but that is another story. Going along with this, one of the most common recommendations I see people out there making to others is that you need to use the naked URL of your site for the anchor text in a lot of your links to make it look “natural”. Well, I am going to show you examples that prove you can rank just fine without concerning yourself with naked URL links.
First, what do I mean by naked URL links? It simply means that you are using the URL of your website, or some variation of the URL, as the anchor text for your links. For example, if your website was www.yoursitestillsucks.com, using any of these as the anchor text in a backlink would be what people refer to as naked URL links:
Many IM’ers out there and wannabe SEOs will recommend using these types of anchor text for 20% or even more in your link profile. You will find posts like this all over the internet. In this one, a 30% ratio is recommended.
This user, who spouts off SEO nonsense constantly like it is her job, recommends a combination of 50% naked URLs and “generic” anchor text links.
Is it really necessary to have that high of a percentage of your links as naked URLs in order to rank successfully in the SERPs? Well, the great thing about SEO, despite what a lot of people might tell you, is for most things you do not actually have to do any testing. With SEO, you have a giant laboratory where most of the tests have already been run. It’s just a matter of whether or not you can access the data, or enough of the data, to feel reasonably comfortable to draw conclusions from it. Where is this great laboratory? Simple. It’s the SERPs.
In a lot of cases, all you have to do is study the websites that are already ranking to draw conclusions about what does work and what does not work. This is one of the things that drives me nuts about some of the incredibly stupid questions actual SEOs ask. Most of the time, all you have to do is study the SERPs. All the answers are right there already.
So how does that relate to this discussion? Take this ridiculous theory that you need to build a lot of naked URL links in order to rank successfully. I took a look at some highly competitive search terms in the insurance industry. I picked off some of the top ranking sitse and took a look in Ahrefs at what type of anchor texts were being used. If you have been holding to this theory of naked URLs, you might be rather shocked.
First I took a look at www.farmersinsurance.com. This site is ranking for all kinds of competitive insurance terms. When you take a look at the anchor texts, you will find that only 0.45% of the links found in Ahrefs show naked URLs being used. That is not 45%. That is less than half of one percent.
Next up was www.ehealthinsurance.com, which ranks number one for the highly competitive term health insurance. This one was a bit higher, clocking in at 6.59%. I suspect though that some of the reason this one is a little higher is that part of their SEO strategy was to go ahead and use the URL in links a little more since it contains the term health insurance.
I took a look at the site ranking number two for this same keyword, which was www.healthinsurance.org. What I expected was to find something similar to the previous example with this being an EMD. It would make sense for them to use the naked URL since it includes the exact match of the keyword. I was right. This one was the high water mark in the group of sites I checked with 7% of its links using naked URLs.
The last example is www.metlife.com. This website has an internal page that owns the top spot for the term life insurance. It also ranks extremely well for a lot of highly competitive life insurance terms. Ahrefs reported 2.43% of its links using naked URLs.
If you dig through some of these links on these four sites, you will find that a lot of the links using naked URLs are in business directories that only allow that type of link. They were in no way intentional. They were just the only option.
Now does that mean that a site with a higher percentage of naked URL links will not rank? No. Not at all. My point of this discussion was to show you real life examples in the SERPs that show that A) naked URL links are not necessary for rankings and B) they are not as “natural” or prevalent as people claim they are.
I am sure if you dig through the SERPs in Google you will find sites that are ranking well which use 30% naked URL links or even higher than that. However, looking at these sites I pointed out which are ranking for highly, highly competitive keywords, proves that such a high ratio is not at all necessary to achieve the rankings you want.