Whether you’re an SEO-er, a blogger, a content editor, an internet marketer, or whatever have you involved in online content management, the word “anchor text” may sound familiar to you in one way or another, especially in terms of search engine optimization (SEO).
In this guide, I’m going to walk you through the term Anchor Text in detail, its facts, uses, types, and best practices using the simplest concepts, so you can apply them right into any SEO campaign for a successful online presence.
What is Anchor Text? What Does It Look Like?
Anchor text refers to a text found in a blog, article, or any web content that links to another web page.
For a simpler definition, it is a clickable text (one word or more) in a hyperlink. You probably don’t realize that you’re already using anchor texts regularly with the purpose of creating links on your website.
For example, this text link will lead you to a Wikipedia page about Anchor Text.
How to create an Anchor Text
Using HTML code, you can simply create an anchor text:
<a href="http://www.yourdomain.com">Anchor Text</a>
For WordPress users or similar Content Management Systems:
- Select the text where you want to insert a link
- Click the “link/anchor icon” [insert/edit link] from the toolbar
- Paste the URL (link) into the box popped below the selected text
- Press “enter” or click the “apply button” right next to it
It’s easy to notice an anchor text in a blog or article. As a link, it’s usually different in font and color from the rest. In traditional/outdated sites, anchor texts appear as blue underlined texts. You can also change the styles and colors through CSS or HTML.
Most often than not, these are links that are underlined colored texts.
When you have anchor texts used correctly, they’ll navigate your visitors throughout the site and help them discover more sources of useful information.
Anchor Text is Different from Internal Link and Backlink
A backlink or external link is a type of hyperlink that links a domain or website to one another. It is the exact opposite of an internal link, wherein it links one web page to another web page of the same domain or website.
Supposed that you click a link in BBC where it directs you to another page belonged to BBC, that is called internal link.
In the other hand, another BBC link taking you to an entirely different website, like Forbes, will be considered as a backlink (to Forbes), or an external/outgoing link (from BBC).
Think of anchor text as a mask worn by a link. Regardless of what kind of link it is, anchor text just plays the role as the text part of that link.
But do they affect each other? Keep on reading.
Why Do We Use Anchor Texts? How Does It Influence SEO?
For the off-site point of view, as long as SEO takes backlinks as a crucial factor in search ranking, anchor texts will always play a vital role.
Search engines look at backlinks as a signal to determine how reputable and relevant your web page is to a particular topic. As it turns out, the relevancy part will be strongly affected by Anchor text.
So the idea behind this is pretty simple: the more links with anchor texts using the exact target keyword, the more it will help Google to understand what your page is about and therefore it’s easier to rank for that keyword.
True that… Just not long before Google made a huge change in its algorithm.
Google fought back its vulnerability in Anchor Text
Back in April 2012, when the Penguin Update was launched by Google that rock the world of SEO. It aims to provide a remedy to the weakness of Google’s system.
Before this core update, the algorithm of Google could be easily manipulated by spammy links, exact match keywords as anchor texts, leading to high ranking results on Google.
Like having 90% of links to your site with the anchor text “dentist hamilton” would get you straight to the top results of Google for that keyword in no time.
This made Anchor text become one of the easiest methods to fake the reliability and authority of a website.
And Google’s Penguin put a stop to this. No more games, no more tricks. Websites will be devalued or even completely disappeared from the search if it is involved in spam practices.
Anchor Text still has a big impact on SEO
No one can deny the power of Backlink to SEO, and with anchor text always being a part of Backlink, you already know what I’m going to say next…
It’s just that the game has changed. Forget about all the old-school tricks.
And for your link-building campaign to work effectively, you must play safe, think of a clear strategy to have your anchor texts profile clean and natural as possible.
Even your motto “I don’t do backlinks”, you still have to pay attention to the anchor text distribution. Who knows… someday your site may have a chance of winning a lottery for 1,000 spammy backlinks with exact match anchors from some kind strangers on the internet. Anyone in competitive niches would probably recognize this.
All that to say, never underestimate the importance of Anchor text. Whether like it or not, you got to take some time learning about it. It’s for your own good.
It also helps optimize site structure
Site structure – a significant part of on-site optimization, is created by individual subpages linked to one another. That’s where internal links come in and serve as joint elements or connectors for the pages of one whole website entity.
Anchors texts are of great use for these interlinkings because they direct user flow from page to page, and help search engines get why these pages are supposed to be relevantly connected to each other.
Types of Anchor Text
Before trying to make up any anchor texts and not to get yourself “hurt”, you need to know and understand all kinds of anchor texts existing in this world.
1. Exact Match
Whatever your main targeting keyword (you want a web page of yours rank for) used as an anchor text, will be categorized as an exact match. It’s usually short and reflects a big topic in your niche.
For instance, the anchor text “digital marketing” links directly to https://www.ostellar.com. This indicates the main topic of the website is about digital marketing.
Through Exact match, it’s clear to both search engines and users what the link is all about. Using this would be the way of telling search engines that your page (or money site) is strongly relevant to the targeted keyword.
2. Partial Match
For a partial match, it is an anchor text using keywords that are sub-topics or partially related to the content it is being linked to.
Considering the above example again, with “digital marketing” as the target keyword. Partial match anchor texts could be “digital marketing agency“, “digital marketing platforms“, “learn digital marketing“.
As you can see the main keyword is present with some add-ons, they make the anchor text partial, which differentiates this type from the exact match.
3. Branded Anchor Text
In short, a branded anchor text simply is just your brand name (if you have a branded domain). Like our agency’s name OSTELLAR.
Using a branded anchor is foreseen as the most healthy practice so far as Google tends to love brands and it’s what a reputable company should look like.
In case your domain is an exact match which is not a branded domain (e.g. newyorkseo.com, torontohouses.com), it could be really tricky and easily get penalized because the name is already the main keyword.
4. Branded + Keyword
The name has said it all – combining your brand name and the target keyword. This is definitely much safer than using exact match (or even partial match) anchors, and yet Google’s still able to get to understand about the linked page’s topic.
- Nike shoes sales
- SEO services – OSTELLAR
- Marketing software Hubspot
5. Generic Anchor Text
Generic anchor texts are usually used to divert the attention of the audience. They prompt the readers to proactively click on the link. It is a demanding way to ask your readers to take action.
The disadvantage is that it doesn’t provide a clue to search systems what the link is all about. Which’s why generic anchor texts should be used sparingly.
These are how it would look like:
- Click Here
- Learn more
- Get More Info
- See These Helpful Tips
- Visit This Link
Note: These generic anchor texts examples can be plugged into a resource box. They are used to follow the content you have seamlessly. Be creative in using generic anchor texts. You can mix subjects and roots to create many more helpful combinations.
6. Naked Link URL
A naked link refers to a hyperlink using its exact URL as the anchor text. This link is usually called as “naked” because the URL is completely visible to the readers. It can be described as a hyperlink for which an anchor text is a URL itself.
Here is an example of a naked link format: https://www.example.com.
The variants of a naked link include the following:
- Branded link: It is a link around a company name
- Optimized link: It is a link around the key phrase or target keyword
- Semi-Naked link: It is a link without http:// format (e.g. www.google.com)
7. Image Anchors
It’s pretty common to see images that are used as clickable links. Keywords can be included in ALT tag to let search engines get the meaning of that image, which is also considered as an anchor text.
To illustrate, this is an HTML code of an image link:
<a href="http://www.example.com"><img alt="put-anchor-text-here" src="source/picture-name.jpg"></a>
8. LSI Keywords (Synonym)
Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI keywords are thematically related. It is a system that Google and other search engines use in analyzing other words/phrases that people use in searching for a particular topic. By leveraging LSI keywords, we could find many excellent ideas applying into anchor texts.
LSIGraph is an example of a popular LSI keyword tool. It’s possible to hack keyword research using LSI keywords.
By entering the phrase “online marketing company” in this tool, you’ll come up with the following LSI keywords results:
- seo digital marketing company
- social media marketing companies
- digital agency
Given these results, not only you make it look natural in Google’s eyes by using variations of the main keywords, but it’s also useful for optimizing your content for SEO. Which means, people who want to find marketing agencies, may also enter their query differently on search. So using different LSI keywords as anchor texts and in your content will increase your chances of getting more visitors.
9. Longtail Anchors
Longtail keywords usually refer to at least four-word phrases that are usually questions or any long formed sentences related to your niche. They are ideal to use as anchor texts, especially for blog posts.
You can find longtail keywords by looking at the auto-complete suggestions feature of Google, or the related searches section at the bottom of every search page.
- How to optimize an anchor text
- What is the most important factor in SEO?
- What are the best SEO service providers?
To get even more, think about how customers search for the products or services you’re offering. It’s also a good idea to talk to your customers to find out what words, phrases, and terms your customers use. Check the threads on social media groups, forums, and online communities.
Best Practices of Anchor Texts for SEO and Warnings
The last thing you want to happen is over-optimizing your anchor texts that may result in unnecessary penalties. Follow these rules and tips to make the most out of it without putting your site at risk.
Distribute Your Anchor Texts Wisely
Make sure to use different types or categories of anchor text. While it’s difficult to say the ideal distribution of anchor texts for all niches, you can follow this recommended guide:
- Exact Match + LSI: < 5%
- Partial Match: < 5%
- Branded: 40%
- Branded + Keyword: 10%
- Naked Link: > 25%
- Long Tail: 5%
- Image/Generic/Others: 5%
Note: This guide is for general purposes. It’s important to do in-depth research to fully understand the distribution of anchor texts of the top-performing websites in your niche or industry. Doing so will give you a better idea of the proper percentages of the different types of anchors to your website.
For anyone using exact match domains (EMD).
Unless your business has a unique brand name, your branded anchors will count as exact match anchors. Hence, your site will easily end up getting penalized or sandboxed for over-using keyword anchors (even you don’t intend to do that).
In fact, EMDs have been devalued from a long time ago, officially announced by Matt Cutts – The former head of Google web spam fighting team.
A temporary solution for this is to use naked link anchors as an alternative for the branded one. However, it’s still not as efficient as if you have an actual branded domain (or at least partial match). So I highly recommend you getting one as soon as possible. The process could be longer as you have to start over, but definitely worth it in the long run.
Use Exact Match Anchors for Internal Link
This may sound a bit contradictory to the guide above. No worries, it’s not. Those percentages are for backlinks which belong to off-page optimization, while we’re talking here is for internal links (on-page).
Yes, it is recommended to use the exact match anchor text that explains best the content of the linked page (on the same site). If that exact keyword helps users understand what they are clicking through, it would make sense for Google to understand the page that’s being linked to.
And don’t just take my word for it, John Mueller from Google also stated this point in a Webmaster Hangout:
That sounds perfect. If you’re updating anchor text internally to make it more easily understandable by users then usually that also helps search engines to better understand the context of those pages.
So when you are drafting anchor text, think critically about what would compel a reader to learn more by clicking on a link. Use proper words to motivate them in a way that has a direct call to action, but does not feel forced. The link should be framed around the existing content, not the other way around.
But keep in mind it could be a total backfire if you’re spamming internal links all over the place for this sole purpose.
Keep It Relevant
Imagine you’re reading an article about “pet care tips”, and out of nowhere comes in a text link “tree removal service” which doesn’t add up anything at all to the piece. Would you click on the link or find it valuable? 100% you would NOT and the same for Google.
Whether it’s on-page or off-page, the link or anchor text must distribute value to the current page. Period.
Or else, it looks super suspicious, unauthentic and won’t bear much power to your web page.
Another tip is to avoid using a generic article. For instance, if the target keyword is “landscaping services in Milton”, you should write an article about tips when looking for the best landscaping services in Milton. Don’t just write a generic article about landscaping.
Stay Away from Spammy Sites
While linking to authority sites is beneficial for your SEO, spammy or toxic ones are a big No No. The website you link to is essential for how Google and other search engines will rank your page.
Don’t try to put anchors on or link to any site just to get a winning backlink or reciprocal links. Focus on authoritative or healthy sites relevant to your site’s niche.
Always track Your Anchor Texts
This is a must – tracking your anchor texts no matter you’re building backlinks or not. It’s always best to keep up on the percentages of all kinds of anchor texts and ensure that you are not over-using keyword-rich anchors for one particular web page. Otherwise, you’ll only blindly take steps ahead without any idea where you’re going and eventually fall into the “over-optimized” zone.
One simple way to get this done is by using Ahrefs Backlink Checker. Better paying attention to Referring domains instead of the other 2 columns.
There’re also other options of monitoring tools such as SEMrush, Moz, and Monitor Backlinks. This step is pretty important in the process of your link building campaign which affects your ranking, traffic and lead generation.
Don’t Ignore Links on Social Media Pages
You probably think that links coming from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites don’t have much power because most of them are nofollow and naked link anchors.
Yup, you’re right. Nonetheless, they can still be useable for the purpose of boosting the number of naked link anchors which will be likely to diversify the anchor text distribution. Plus, that can somehow help to increase your domain authority even just a little bit as those are top of the world domains.
So don’t hesitate if you can get these FREE social links from profiles, posts, comments, and shareable contents. And make sure to put each of them in a paragraph for search engines to understand the context of the link.
Use Anchor Texts in Email Marketing
Thought I mention this anyway. While email marketing doesn’t have a big impact on your SEO or ranking, but people do visit sites via emails. Text links in emails would be incredibly helpful for newsletters, giving your readers the urge to click on the links for the information they may be curious about. As long as your site/content get them to stay and happy afterward, it’s sure going to help the sales and support the on-site user metrics (which affect SEO results).
Now that you’re more confident to create and utilize anchor texts in general use. Proper ratios of anchor texts with high relevance backlinks will do really much good to your site. I guarantee you’ll soon get better SEO results coming or at least you won’t get a penalty for over-optimizing from search engines.
Which action or trick will you choose to optimize your anchor texts and why? Let me know in the comments below!
Hi! Again great content. I have to spend a bit more time later to read it a bit more carefully as there is so much! When I read Info. on SEOs at other places, some of them write a lot but take soooo long to get to the point, but this one is not and is content rich and I appreciate it! Just starting out so can’t afford your services, but so appreciate a well written and thoughtful post! Thank you! Not just saying that ; ). Karen… in Japan ; )
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