Gareth Goddard

A look at 101 genuine natural external links

With all the worry about too many exact match anchor text links we’ve seen a growing trend in trying to include “natural” variations into the mix and trying to mimic “natural” linking patterns.


Typically this means:

  • Includes mixing in a few “click heres” or “urls links” when linking out
  • Getting a homepage and internal link in an article
  • Linking to another authority website link wikipedia in the article
  • Trying to keep external links as low as possible in the article (typically 1-2 to your site and 1-2 to authority websites)

In reality though, how natural is this? (I think we know the answer already).

Partly Inspired by this post http://www.seomoz.org/blog/click-here-seo 


Looking at 101 non branded external links from blogs that don’t care about SEO or weren’t SEO focused (apart from a couple of examples) – posts that weren’t guest blog posts/sponsored posts, and weren’t promoting a product or service – to see how people link out when there is nothing at stake. In essence..the genuine and perfect “natural link”.

People often link to the same site twice in the same articlevue

“my local vue,here in Oxford, England”

“the Vue Website”

Here is an example of a website linking to the same website (in this case the vue website) providing links to two different pages with a legitimate reason. A lot of link builders I’ve seen will try and put 1 or 2 links in an article or post, one link to homepage one and one internal link with no real reason for it other than trying to get credit and link juice to both pages.

This shows that in natural linking patterns people do link to the same site twice, but not in the way plenty of SEO’s try to cram multiple links in. Note that these also contain the brand name and location, but don’t fall into the “cinemas in Oxford” pattern you might see in a placed link.

People do use simple referential internal links, but really not very often.

this link

“this link”

This might fall into what we might automatically think of when we think of varying anchor text link and throwing some natural non branded links into the mix. Similar to “click here” or “more information” demonstrating people are linking in this fashion and that it falls in line with what we would see in a natural backlink profile. Interesting to note though that after looking around 300 links in total, the “click here” style links sat somewhere around the single digits. It really isn’t used that often so an overuse of “click here”‘s will probably swing you right back into looking unnatural.

People Include Multiple Links Within the Same Sentence

one example another

“one example”


Here we see multiple links that make sense in the context of a full sentence. “One example” “another”. This could also work with “example 1” and  “example 2” for instance. In the blogs I looked at there were multiple examples of multiple links within a single sentence.

We typically think of getting a link at the start of an article and one near the end, maybe one in the author box, and trying to keep links away from each other. This shows people link out multiple times in close proximity, but that typically they don’t use any type of keyworded anchor text.

 People Link to the Same Brand, With Different Anchor Text (In the Same Article)

different anchor text same brand

On this blog we see links to a brand’s pages, but neither to the brands homepage itself but each link contains different anchor text, one without a space, one with a space, the brand name is clearly two words so I don’t think it is a case of not being sure how the brand officially splits it (I’ve seen a lot of brands that you are never quite sure whether they want to be known as “brandname” or “brand name”. This shows is is natural to have varitations on your brand name as your anchor text. I didn’t see many spelling mistakes in my examples but I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that spelling mistakes in anchor text is also part of a natural profile.

Complements in anchor text


“well respected and talented screenprint”

Notice that the term “screenprint artists” isn’t in the link text. I’m pretty sure this is the kind of thing Google will be able to pick up and wants to give credit for and is a factor in deciding what searches you appear in. The main bulk of the link is actually a compliment to the artists, but in the context of the sentence it also provides us with what they do even though that isn’t part of the link anchor text itself. Do your links contain “amazing guys” “awesome website that” “best site for” “my favourite people” “my friends at” etc etc? If people like you this often makes it into the anchor text.

Names, Names Everywhere

names everywhere

Forgive the meme, and Woody’s worried look. This is a good thing. I would’ve had my 101 non brand/name examples in half the time if these weren’t used so often.

Well over half the links I looked at linked out using names when linking externally. Even when linking to a post, picture or a main site it the anchor text would be the name. “Joe Smith”,”Joe”, “Joe’s Blog”, “Joe Wrote” “Joe Drew”, “Joe Discovered” “As Joe Says” etc etc. This also spread across to their social media account links.

The amount of names being used in natural links really blew me away. As SEO’s we always think of trying to get a keyword or brand in there –  especially internal pages, but this really highlights the social aspect of the web. People want to credit a PERSON. They don’t want to say “coke wrote about xyz” they want to say “John Smith wrote about”, they don’t want to say “Snazzy Brand Built x product” they want to say “Joe Smith came up with the product” and link to his articles and social presence so you can connect with HIM, they want the personal story.

With the author rank and author profiles in Google+ I wouldn’t be surprised to see this grow even more. If you don’t have a person attached to your site who people can talk to – set up a profile, start writing as a person and not a brand, get people to link to YOU, names seem to make up a HUGE percentage of anchor text .

Brand name to internal pages

With so many people eager to get exact match anchor text to the relevant page I was a little surprised to discover that the majority of external links I saw to subpages on external sites were under the brand name. This was true of articles, posts, reports, products and so on. People didn’t link with the title of a post or product name they more typically linked with the Brand name or a variation of it – “Site X” says. or credit to “Site X”.

In most linking patterns I see, it seems to be a case of

  • Brand name links to the Homepage
  • Product names/Keywords to the sub pages

When in reality I saw the majority of links to “brand name or author name to the home pages AND subpages”.

It was true however that nearly all the links I saw pointed at the homepage of a site were under the sites name.

Summaries of Article Content As Link

  • as seen in a video posted on E!
  • is wrapping up negotiations
  • announcement at Austin’s SXSW
  • 70% of processed foods
  • the Washington Post cited in a false report 

If an article or news story had any kind of point or key fact in it – the link anchor text would often be about this fact. I would imagine if Google don’t credit these links properly they will be trying to figure out a way to use this information. None of these are keyworded useful phrases. None of these are terms you would type into Google to hoping to find that page, but crediting pages for information and facts is surely a great and important metric for showing a site is trustworthy and a useful resource.

People use punctuation in their links

Whether by accident or not, a decent percentage of the links we saw had punctuation in them, some were a left over commas and some would be a colons but we did notice punctuation was included in more links that we expected to see. If you look in the link document you can see examples of these.

People regularly link out 3-10 times in an article.

Another “Golden rule” I seem to see from certain sites is that you should only link out once per X words or an article should link out as little as possible. When getting a guest post you’ll typically be tempted to keep the links as low as possible (mainly to your blog).

However we noticed that in most cases people linked out LOADS regularly linking out 3-10 times in an article.

The key point here is that people linked out as much as was useful and relevant to that post. If there were 4 awesome posters they would link to 4 pictures. If there were 3 examples of one point they would link 3 times in a single sentence to each of those examples. If there were no relevant links then they wouldn’t link.

Now think about your “2 links and a wikipedia link” or “2 links, only to my blog” or “one link in the author bio” perfect guest post. If Google is looking for an unatural pattern I think we can see one right there. Natural posts don’t have a pattern because they just link as an when they need to no matter how many or how few links this might be.


Download and Look at our Document Yourself

We have included a Google Docs of our 101 keywords that you can look at. We also included notes of whether the link pointed to the homepage or to an internal page on that site.

You can view the document here

Please share this post if you found this useful, if you have any insights let us know – I’ll leave the comments open for a while.