I couldn’t have said this better myself, so I’m simply posting an excerpt from the (GREAT) article:
“Beyond Exact Match Anchor Text To Next Generation Link Signals – Whiteboard Friday” September 8, 2011 – Posted by Cyrus Shepard on SEOmoz.com.
We love exact match anchor text! It’s the Holy Grail of links that make our rankings soar – or does it? Many SEOs predict Google will continue to devalue exact match anchors as their algorithm evolves in the age of Panda. We’ve seen evidence of this phenomenon over the past year and many expect to see the value of exact match drop even further.
1. Exact Match
In the old days, if you wanted to rank for something, your tactic was very simple. If your target keyword was Bing cherries, you just tried to get as many exact match anchor text that said Bing cherries as possible to your website. Those of you who have been practicing SEO for a long time noticed something about a year and a half ago or so, that this method did not work as well as it used to. If you got too many exact match anchor texts, it could actually hurt you. That’s why you say, that’s such a 2009 tactic.
Now with the Google Panda update, we’re talking about a whole other realm of ranking signals, such as engagement metrics, social signals, but we don’t want to forget these link signals. Even if exact match isn’t the end all be all, there is still a lot of information that Google and other search engines are getting from these link signals, and that’s what we want to talk about today.
2. Partial Match
Now, one of the most overlooked types of anchor text links is the partial match, and I am in love with partial match. I really quit going for these [exact match links] a long time ago. Now it is all about partial match. People sort of misunderstand what partial match is. The technical definition of partial match is any anchor text that contains at least one of your keyword phrases. So, if your keyword phrase was Bing cherries, these would all count as partial match anchor texts: Bing are the best cherries; I love cherries; Bing is awesome. Yeah, it’s probably not what they are talking about, but it is still technically partial match anchor text.
If you are a fan of the 2011 Ranking Factors that SEOmoz did – we took a look, one of the factors we looked at was the power of partial match anchor text versus exact match anchor text. Now, in general, if you look at the root domain metrics, the correlation between the number of exact match anchor text was 0.17. All things being equal, the power of partial match anchor text was 0.25. Significantly more power and more correlation between the number of partial match anchor text and exact match anchor text. So, all things being equal, it seems like people rank higher, just a little bit, if they have more partial match as opposed to these exact match that everybody is always going for.
This is how I’d like to explain it. If you give me a choice, if you would say I could have any 300 links I want but they have to be 300 partial match anchor text or 300 exact match anchor text, a lot of webmasters would go for [exact match] thinking it is the best policy. Statistically though, [partial match] is your best choice. [Partial match] is going to contain some of your exact matches, but you’re going to have such a bigger broad tail, long tail queries that you can rank for. You’re going to get more traffic. You’re going to rank better for your targeted keywords, and this method is future proof. As Google deemphasize exact matches, [partial match] is going to take you forward in the long run. [Partial match] links are going to have a lot longer long-term value, and it is just going to give you a better natural looking link profile.