According to recent experiments by the likes of ahrefs.com, it would appear that link anchor text still has a significant impact on a site's rankings within the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Since the Penguin Google update, many online marketing experts have emphasised the importance of caution when looking to generate or build links - whether it be with great content or authoritative blog posts, a 'natural backlink profile' is crucial, and anchor text is certainly a fundamental element of this.
How much exact match can I use?
Ahref's research suggests that ideally, exact-match anchor text should make up 1-2% of all anchor text, phrase match appears to have the most beneficial impact on rankings when it makes ups around 30% of all anchors.
This means that if you are trying to get a site to rank for "red apples", then around 1-2% of the links pointing back to your site from other sites such have the anchor text "red apples" and around 30% should be phrase-match, "the anchor text contained a keyword phrase or partial match anchor text" e.g. if we are trying to rank our site for "red apples" still, an example of phrase match anchor text would be "these are the best red apples that I have tried".
Does exact match or phrase match influence rankings?
Both exact match and phrase match anchor text still appear to influence rankings. However, it is crucial to stay within the 'safe levels' for both these types of links and as such, the number and distribution of different types of links and anchor texts should be constantly monitored.
"Average and median figures are closer than with exact match, and it would appear that around 30% of anchors containing a target phrase would be a desirable and safe level.
It would also appear that a fairly even split between DoFollow and NoFollow correlates with rankings."
The data above would suggest that exact match anchors still have some influence on top placements in competitive niches.