Can too few Brand Anchor Text or too much Commercial Anchor Text penalize a site? (note: commercial anchor text is also known as Money or SEO anchor text)

Taking in consideration all the unnatural link penalties lately and the new ones to come, Google surely does not only look at the individual links, but it also looks at the Anchor Text Profile naturalness.

Google tries to understand if the anchor text pointing to a site looks natural or not. This can be easily done by the search engine, if they are comparing anchor text distributions for the sites ranking on a specific keyword or for the sites ranking in a specific niche.

Usually people tend to link to your site with anchor text that contains:

  • the brand name
  • an url
  • navigational queries such as : click here, visit etc
  • random words

Rarely you will see unbiased people linking with commercial keywords, because it seems that it is not in the human nature to link to a product or site with a “keyword rich” anchor text. (unless the site has an EMD or a partial EMD for a commercial keyword which kinda of explains also the value of an EMD).

Google knows this, and it tolerates it, because it still needs this signal in its ranking algorithm. It is still an important signal, until Google will be able to completely understand conversation, and I am sure this is one of their main technical challenges. Co-citation is another signal that Google started using, but the search engine is still relying heavily on anchor text as a signal to guide Google in ranking a site on a specific set of keywords.(one signal in over 200 signals)

Google already has keywords classified as being Commercial or Not (think about the PPC data they have). Brand terms are also easily spotted by Google. (sample: cognitiveseo/cognitive seo or any other derivation from that).

Knowing that Google does this, I am sure that everyone’s desire would be to have access to similar data.

To make your “SEO life” easier we upgraded our service with a feature that allows you to view the same anchor text distributions based on Brand and Commercial anchor text.

As a quick case study I did an analysis on two niches:

  • payday loans (very spammy)
  • buy flowers (almost natural)

This is how the Brand vs Commercial anchor text distribution looks like in each of these niches.

Payday Loans Anchor Text Ratio


Buy Flowers Anchor Text Ratio

In the first graph we can spot a very high ratio of commercial anchor text 61% to 94% for the first two sites. The Brand anchor text ratio is somewhere around 6% to 20% for those two. If we compare it to the third site, we can see a very high brand anchor text ratio of 53% and a commercial anchor text ratio of 22%. This signals Google a difference in patterns, which means that it is highly probable that either the first two sites or the third site is doing some shady stuff.

Looking as the second graph we can see that big brand sites have a high Brand Anchor Text ratio. One of those 5 sites has a difference in patterns though. This again might signal Google a potential issue and the algorithms will go deeper to investigate it. In certain cases this might be a false alarm, but in most of the cases big differences in anchor text profile distribution means something is unnatural.

Keep in mind that there is no secret distribution ratio like 60% Brand / 20% Commercial and 20% Misc. The ratio is related to the specific niche of the site. In some niches 70% Brand anchor text might be natural while in other niches 40% Brand anchor text might be natural.

To put it simply:

Brand Anchor Text is one of the signals that Google takes in consideration when deciding if a site should be “trusted” or not, while the Commercial Anchor Text tells Google what keywords might the site be interested in ranking.

Using this new cognitiveSEO feature you will be able to:

  • Understand the overall distribution of Brand,Commercial and Misc Anchor Text ( Misc keywords are navigational keywords or keywords that do not fit in the first two categories)
  • Browse over the Anchor Text Cloud to easily comprehend “What is What” (actionable also. click the keyword and you get the links using that anchor text)

  • Filter by Brand Flag and be able to segment your link profile the way you need it for your backlink analysis.


Here are a few other interesting articles on the anchor text distribution topic:


What do you think on the Brand vs Commercial anchor text distribution ? What are the numbers that you see in your niche?



Start Your Free 7-Day Trial