Google’s Penguin update has had a drastic effect on traditional SEO link building. Specifically, partial and exact match anchors have been the subject of great controversy as these two are both widely practiced and have  been one of the hardest hit by the major algorithm change.

So what exactly are exact match and partial match anchor texts and what are its ramifications on link building? Let’s go through this one at a time.

Anchor Texts and SEO

Let’s first revisit the basics. SEO has always been about ranking keywords based on their relationship with inbound links. The keywords your site should rank in will have to either be within the text surrounding the link, or as most SEO experts did, it should directly be in the anchor text (the clickable text wording of the link: <a href=”www.yourwebsite.com”>Anchor text</a> ). The reason behind this is that a page, which people link to using these keywords, should be relevant to these keywords. Of course that was the rationale before SEO hijacked the system and inorganically dropped the links on other sites themselves. Now the system has changed.

Exact Match Anchor Text

Traditionally, an SEO will always want to rank for keywords by putting those keywords in key places throughout the page. For example, one might want to rank for the keyword “Bicycles Florida”. This phrase would typically appear in title tags, the body text, the url of the page, and meta data. If the website also builds links outside of their site and uses the exact phrase “Bicycles Florida” in their anchor text, then that’s an exact match anchor text link.

Partial Match Anchor Text

As the name suggests, instead of using the exact phrase “Bicycles Florida” in the anchor, a partial match would be something like: “Bikes Florida”, “Bicycles for sale in Florida”, “Florida Bikes” etc.

After Penguin

Google has already dealt with exact match even before the Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm changes. This is probably why a lot of SEOs went for partial match anchor texts thinking that this would save them. It didn’t. Google cracked down hard on these partial matches. In fact, Google seemed almost harder on partial than on exact matches, probably because so many SEOs abused it. But this is not to say that exact matches are okay to use. They are definitely not going to work either and you will get penalized.

Of course partial match anchor texts that a website gains naturally (without direct link dropping) is something that shouldn’t be a problem. It should not hurt your ranking. Nowadays, the best practice is just to write in your text and find the most practical place to anchor your text without being too concerned about matching keywords. Keep in mind also that you don’t have to be too afraid of partial or exact match occurring naturally. After all, they really should happen a few times. But just remember, if you do something formulaic in large quantities, this sends a red flag to Google. In other words: just stop being spammy.