Exact Match VS Match Variants
For many years the strategy for anchor-text linking has been to create an exact match for the desired keyword phrase to rank well in the search engines. This exact keyword phrase would then be used over and over again within all areas of SEO, both on-page SEO as well as off-page SEO, for backlinking hypertext and anchor-text links.
Over time, these methods had to be tweaked here and there to keep up with the changing of the search engine algorithms. However, little change was made regarding anchor-text links.
In 2011 Google introduced the highly intelligent Panda algorithm, with an ever- increasing content evaluation IQ. The goal of this algorithm is pretty simple: to deliver the best user-friendly search engine experience while obtaining the most relevant as well as beneficial results.
There has been a lot of speculation and rumor about how to rank well in the search engines during these changes. However, if we want to know how Google’s new Panda thinks, the best way to figure things out is to go directly to the source.
Matt Cutts – Anchor-Text Variant Strategy
Matt Cutts is one of Google’s representatives who assists webmasters in understanding what they need to do in order to make Google’s new Panda algorithm happy. I was reading one of his blog posts today about how to write useful articles and within this article I found a wonderful gem of information.
Pay attention to his little bit of advice regarding keyword anchor-text links:
“I’d recommend thinking more about words and variants (the “long-tail”) and thinking less about keyword density or repeating phrases.” Matt Cutts, Writing Useful Articles that Users Will Love.
This helps us understand where our thinking should be when it comes to creating SEO content, anchor-text links, and on-page SEO. Exact keyword phrases repeated over and over again are not what this new Panda algorithm has been trained to look for. Rather than stuffing our SEO content with the exact keyword phrase that we are trying to rank, according to Matt, we should be using partial phrase matches along with keyword variants.
For instance, we might write an article with the title “Organic Gardening Tips for Newbie’s.” In the article we can use a variation of that keyword phrase, such as; gardening without chemicals, organic gardening secrets, tips for gardeners, etc…
Each of those keyword phrases is a variant on the targeted keyword phrase that we want to rank. The overall content of the article as well as the title can help the search engine understand that our site is all about organic gardening.
When writing articles, your keyword anchor-text no longer needs to be an exact match. Instead, the combination of your keyword variants along with your on-page SEO will help your site rank well for a wide variety of keyword phrases, including your targeted keyword phrase.
If we really think about what Matt said in that one little comment, we will come to understand that we no longer need or want to be focused on exact phrase matches or any type of keyword phrase stuffing. Rather, our focus should be on consistent variants of the keywords that we want Google to give a high-ranking position.
Comparing the Old Exact Match with MC Recommended Anchor-Text Variants
Back in the Day, Exact Match:
Organic gardening in the title tag, organic gardening in the h1, h2, and h3 tags, organic gardening in the alt image tag, organic gardening mentioned 2% to 4% throughout the content, and organic gardening anchor-text links in the side-bar, footer, and header.
And Today, the Panda Way:
Organic gardening in the title tag, gardening tips in the URL, h1 – gardening without chemicals, h2 – organic mulch tips, h3 – simple tricks for a healthy garden, alt image tag – best organic practices, and so forth.
As you can see, this new way of thinking about anchor-text linking is quite liberating. When someone types the keyword phrase, “Mom blue jacket”, with the old-school thinking we’d have to toss out using correct grammar in order to get that specific keyword into the article.
Today, we can easily add in that phrase by a simple variation, “My mom needs a blue jacket.”
I am sure that using the exact phrase match in some of our anchor-texts will still have a positive impact on our rankings. However, if we are not developing our SEO strategies so as to include well rounded variants of the keywords that we want to rank well, in time, it could possibly do more harm than good.
And if we are true forward thinkers, we’ll understand that the great Panda is learning to think more and more like a human being. And the more we conform to the new wave of SEO, the better our sites will fair with each and every Google Panda update.