The most basic tenet of SEO is build links and your rankings will go up. But there are different kinds of links. Other than where they come from, the words that form the link (anchor text) are tremendously important.
Should you build links that use the exact keyword you are optimising for? Something similar? Or something else altogether?
Exact match links have been the lifeblood of SEO for years now. They are links that use the exact keyword you want to rank for. For example, if you wanted to get to the top of Google for vegetarian shoes you would ask someone to link to you with those exact words.
Historically a high number of exact match links equalled high rankings. However, Google has got wise to this and although still important, the value of exact match links seems to be degrading.
According to a recent study by SEOMoz, partial match links are now worth slightly more than exact matches. A partial match would be a link containing part of your keyword, so any phrase containing vegetarian or shoes (while still relevant).
These sorts of links appear more natural, less obviously engineered. The trick is to use your on-page optimisation to establish keyword relevancy. So if you linked to your homepage with the phrase vegetarian footwear make sure the title tag is vegetarian shoes and there are a couple of instances of the phrase in your copy.
There is a case for including a lot of completely unoptimised, natural links in your link building. These are your click here links or check out these great shoes! links.
Google is getting better at reading context, and all the signs point to this being the determining factor in the future. Using natural links will prevent you from being downgraded and future-proof your strategy. Putting in a keyword or two in the vicinity of the link certainly can’t hurt though.
Again, your on-page optimisation is paramount for these types of links, as well as making sure they appear in relevant content. Don’t link from a piece about UFO sightings to your vegetarian shoe page.
All of the above
The real answer is to use a mixture of all the above. The safest strategy is to predominantly use natural and branded links (your business name) with the remainder a mix of partial and exact match.
What do you think? Please leave any questions or comments below.