The anchor text distribution on your website is an important metric to pay attention to. Building links manually is frowned upon by search engines (especially Google1) but you can do it without calling attention to yourself.
A red flag that someone is aggressively manipulating PageRank by building low-quality links to their site is when anchor text distribution contains high ratios of exact match keywords that the site is trying to rank for. You can check your anchor text distribution2 using free or paid tools on the web. For this post, I will be using ahrefs.com3 as an example. From the Ahrefs site, you can obtain a free version of the tool, or you can sign up for one of the paid packages if you are a heavier user.
Step 1: Enter Your URL
Log into Ahrefs and enter the URL you want to analyze. If you do not have an account, just plug in the URL and click the “try it free” button. Note that with the free version, you are not going to get as much information about your site however if you do not have that many links, you may get everything you need.
By default, you’ll see all anchor text used in links to pages on the URL you entered. Note that if you are using the free version, you will only see a portion of all data. Anchor text distributions can be segmented by Ahrefs in a number of ways. In addition to the total number, segments are created for no-follow, do-follow, sitewide and type of domain the link is coming from.
In the fourth column, you will see the title “Referring Pages with Anchor.” This column shows the distribution of the different kinds of anchor text for the domain. The percentage indicates the number of links using that anchor text that lead to the domain being analyzed.
By clicking on the “domains” drop-down menu on the right side of the screen for any backlink, you can see the domains where the specific anchor text can be found.
By clicking on the “snippets” drop-down menu, you can see the context in which the anchor text and link are used. For instance, this will show whether it is a standalone link in an image or a part of a larger body of text.
The fast answer here is that there is not one. I can see a lot of people disagreeing with this, and there is certainly a lot of information and numerous theories4 out there on what anchor text distribution you should have pointing at your site.
Think of it this way: Imagine a scenario where thousands of links were built to your domain using a keyword you are trying to rank for. However, those same links happened naturally with no influence from you whatsoever. Is Google going to penalize your site? Probably not. It is a definite possibility that it would draw some attention to a website, though, and serve as cause for a manual penalty if it appeared that those links were not natural.
When building links to your site, look at things from a 50,000-foot view. Frequently asking colleagues, collaborators or those in a referral network to build links to your site using target keyword terms might seem innocent enough, but looking at the picture that behavior creates over time might indicate something suspicious going on from the perspective of a search engine.
In general, sites that have a natural link profile will have a greater proportion of anchor text composed of brand names, root domains and arbitrary text (i.e. click here, read more, etc). They will have a smaller number of links with anchor text using keywords that they are trying to rank for. Links Management has an interesting take on the anchor text distribution5.
Keep these basic ideas in mind when building links manually or with the help of collaborators:
• When people build links, they seldom use your target keyword terms
• Most people use brand names, root domains or arbitrary text when building links
Avoid erratic patterns and try to keep things on an even keel. Deviations in patterns or spikes in data can draw unwanted attention and manual penalties from search engines.