Optimizing anchor texts for SEO is crucial for your search ranking success.
If you do it right, tighten your seatbelts to witness an improved performance of your site in the search results. And if you do it wrong, say a big hello to Penguin.
For starters, the Penguin update from Google aims at lowering the search engine rankings of websites that violate Google Webmaster Guidelines.
These include sites using black-hat SEO techniques, such as spammy keyword stuffing, misleading anchor texts, shady backlinks, and so on.
So, what is anchor text, and why is it such a big deal? Let’s find out.
What is anchor text in SEO?
Anchor text is the clickable text that you see in a hyperlink, as highlighted below: –
Why is anchor text important for SEO?
Anchor text is one of the indicators Google uses to check the relevance of a website.
For example, if you use anchor text as “important onpage SEO parameters” to link to a specific page, Google will expect the linked page to be covering onpage SEO factors.
Simple, isn’t it? Not really.
Back in the day, all you needed to do to rank your site was to get enough links with exact match anchor text to your site. It was akin to saying that if 100 websites are linking back to you with anchor text as “important checklist of XYZ”, then the linked page is definitely on “important checklist of XYZ”.
But there comes the Penguin, which checks and analyzes the quality of your links, along with determining if the anchor text is relevant to your site’s offerings or not.
That’s when wisely choosing your anchor text become important.
Anchor text HTML format
Within HTML, anchor text looks as follows: –
On-Page SEO then gets labelled as the anchor text.
Types of anchor text
#1. Branded anchors
Branded anchors refer to anchor text that uses your brand name.
For example, if we link to our website “onpagechamp.com,” you can use “OnPage Champ” as the branded anchor.
These anchor texts are the safest to use if you are linking to your homepage.
#2. Generic anchors
Generic anchors refer to anchor text that indicates a call-to-action (CTA), such as “click here,” “check out,” “buy now,” “signup” etc.
#3. Naked link anchors
Naked link anchors refer to anchor text that uses a raw URL. For example:
#4. Image Anchors
At times, you would link an image to a URL.
In that case, Google considers an image alt text as the anchor text for the linked image.
Therefore, make sure you have well optimized your images with alt-text.
#5. Brand & keyword anchor
You can also branch out your anchor text profile by coupling your brand name and your target keyword. For example, using the following text as your anchor text:
- OnPage Champ URL tracker
- Easy onpage SEO with OnPage Champ
- OnPage Champ what is SEO
#6. Keyword variations
Keyword variations are an excellent pick if you want to strengthen your anchor text profile.
For example, if your target keyword is “on-page SEO,” you can use keyword variations like:
- what is on-page SEO
- on-page SEO tips
- how to on-page SEO
#7. Partial match anchors
Partial match anchors resemble keyword variations; the only difference is that in the partial match, you add generic words before and after the primary keyword phrase. For instance, if your target keyword phrase is “on-page SEO tips,” some partial match anchors can be:
- easy on-page SEO tips for free
- cool on-page SEO tips for beginners
#8. Exact match anchors
Exact match anchors are one of the most powerful kinds of anchor text; they can alone increase your rankings; however, they can get your site penalized as well.
An exact anchor is the exact match of the keyword you are targeting for a particular page.
For example, if “learn on-page SEO” is the target keyword you are using for your page, the exact match anchor to link back to this page will be “learn on-page SEO.”
How does anchor text affect SEO?
As discussed earlier, anchor text is one of the indicators Google uses to determine the relevance of the linked page.
It’s a complex algorithm wherein Google sees the content of the linking page, relevance of the anchor text within that page and finally the relevance of the anchor text & linked to page wrt the linking page.
Anchor text is just a small piece that has to fit perfectly amongst the other components of your content & SEO.
In simple terms, consider anchor text as the sign of entry and exit in a never-ending network of roads (called the internet).
If used correctly, it gives good signals to both the users as well as the search engines bots and enhances the overall experience.
Anchor text SEO best practices
For starters, an SEO-friendly anchor text should be relevant to the linked & linking page, succinct, not generic, and should feature low keyword density.
Although, in most cases, you cannot control the anchor text other websites use to link to your site, here are a few practices to use anchor text within your own website.
#1. Write relevant anchor texts
A few years back, the relevance of anchor text did not matter.
All you needed were a few anchors linking to your site, and you will dominate the search results.
But with every passing day, Google is improving its algorithm to understand the actual meaning of the content on a web page. Here is how you can do to increase the relevance of your anchor texts:
- Your anchor text should be relevant to the surrounding text. For example, if a page talks about learning SEO, and you use the anchor text “make money online,” Google will certainly question the relevance of the anchor text. Thus, be sure that the anchor text you use is in accordance with the text surrounding it.
- Be sure to link the anchor text to a relevant website. For example, an anchor text “free digital marketing course” should direct to a website that offers a free digital marketing course and not a site where you can stream free movies.
As mentioned earlier, Google prioritizes user experience and assures the delivery of the most relevant content.
Thus, irrelevant anchor texts and links are some things Google will not applaud.
#2. Avoid excess use of same anchor text
It is crucial to distribute your anchors in the right proportions.
For instance, it is evident that exact match anchors can significantly boost your website SEO, but using the same exact match anchor everywhere can be a red signal to Google.
Maintain a variation of the anchor text you use to link your pages internally, as shown below.
These percentages are not sacrosanct but should be a high level guidance to ensure you are not making a mistake.
- 1-5% – Exact, partial match, and generic anchor texts
- 10-20% – Page title, naked URL, and website name anchor texts
- 50% – branded anchor texts
You can also do a competitor analysis (using OnPage Champ) to understand how your competitors are linking internally and externally, and which anchor texts they are using.
Buying backlinks is a big industry, but a risky one too.
A couple of bad backlinks and Google won’t hesitate to penalize your website.
The reverse is also true. Linking to spammy websites will get you marked the same as well, thanks to the Hummingbird update.
You might gain short-term benefits by winning a bunch of reciprocal links, but it can potentially damage your website’s SEO performance and authority.
When you link to other websites, make sure they are authoritative and high-quality.
#4. Don’t overdo keyword-rich anchor text
Though your anchor text should have the target keyword, over-optimizing it is something Google may not like.
Have a mix of anchor texts as per the guidance given above.
Repeated use of keyword rich anchor text can indicate a link manipulation, which can, of course, lead to a penalty. This is valid for the links you earn from other websites.
If the link is naturally acquired, you will automatically have a variation of anchor text.
The same is not true if you are manipulating backlinks. In that case, Google will identify the backlinking pattern and the chosen anchor text.
#5. Placement of anchor text is important
Most people don’t read an entire blog but scan it.
Placing your anchor text amidst an ocean of words and sentences can make it difficult for the reader to see it, which will make the use of anchor text pointless.
Instead, use an anchor text near places where people are likely to pay more attention, such as headings, subheadings, paragraph breaks, images, etc.
The more easily an anchor text is visible, the more its click-through rate will increase.
However, that does not mean you use irrelevant anchors for merely increasing engagement.
If your content is valuable and the reader feels the anchor will add more value, they will certainly click the link to check what is on the other side.
If you engage in guest blogging, you must be aware that relevant anchor text is one of the critical aspects of an effective guest blogging strategy.
For instance, if you are using the anchor text “lose weight fast,” you should use exact match or partial match keywords to place your links to the page.
And, make sure you use the “lose weight fast” anchor text on a website that has something to do with fitness and weight loss.
Moreover, don’t forget to get a variation of “do follow” and “no follow” backlinks, as Google has started taking manual action against websites that sell backlinks in the garb of guest posting.
#7. Go deeper than homepage and landing pages
One of the common blunders most website owners and SEO professionals make is to link the anchors to the top-level pages, such as homepage, product pages, or landing pages.
Firstly, linking to these pages generally provides not much value to the reader. Secondly, it will not look natural to the search engines as this is not how links are placed naturally.
Instead, link to deep-level, worthy, and relevant pages as it will help you develop a natural anchor text cloud, along with enabling visitors to easily navigate to other sections of your website.
All of this will be a thumbs-up for your website SEO.
Wrapping it up
Anchor text can be a complex topic.
Some people in the SEO game prefer making excessive use of exact-match, whereas people like me tend to be on the safe side.
Since the time of Penguin update, Google has tightened its leash on anchor texts and backlinks; thus, it is crucial to ensure you are using the best practices and approaches to use anchor texts while building backlinks (both internal and external).
Being acquainted with several types of anchor texts, along with an indicative proportion to use them, will help you develop a 360-degree arsenal to build inbound and outbound links.