If you’re an Internet marketer, you must know the power of “anchor text” in search engine optimization. Although this is a commonly-used phrase, many marketers are yet to discover what it really means after Google's Penguin and Hummingbird updates. Anchor texts are a crucial part of SEO link building strategies and strongly impact your search engine ranking.
If you use it correctly, you’ll witness your rank climbing higher on a daily basis. If you use it without thinking, you might notice your organic search traffic disappearing overnight or be penalized. In this post, I’m going to explain what anchor texts are all about and how you can optimize them for a well-performing website.
What is Anchor Text and Why is it Important?
Texts that link to another location or document on the Web are referred to as anchor texts. In short, it’s clickable text in a hyperlink. For instance, in the sentence “Wikipedia gives an overview of anchor texts," Wikipedia is the anchor text. You can create it using this simple HTML code:
<a href="http://www.example.com">Anchor Text</a> As long as backlinks are an important SEO ranking factor, anchor text is going to play a significant role. It's added for the benefit of search engines, so that they can determine what the “linked-to page” is about. Before the 2012 Penguin update, Google used anchor texts to understand whether or not a particular website was relevant. Nowadays, anchor texts serve as a great way for the search engine to penalize websites for spam and over-optimization.
Types of Anchor Text
Optimizing your anchor texts involves having a clear understanding of the various types of anchors. This will help you create a link profile consisting of a diverse range of organic anchors. Learn all about the different types of anchor text below:
• Generic anchors – As the name suggests, generic anchors are normal anchor texts like “click here” or “go here." For example, in the sentence “Click here to get your free eBook," click here is the generic anchor.
- Branded anchors– A branded anchor is any anchor that uses the brand name as text. These are the safest to use unless your website is an exact match domain. Well-known brands and sites like Best Buy and Moz have the highest number of branded anchor texts. Review these images to see detailed data regarding branded anchors for the two sites mentioned earlier:
- Naked link anchors– These are the anchors that link back to a site by simply using the URL. For instance, https://moz.com/ and www.moz.com are both examples of naked link anchors.
- Brand + keyword anchor– Using brand and keyword anchors is another safe and effective method for building a strong anchor profile. This is basically a combination of your brand name and your choice of keyword. For instance, “SEO services by Moz” is an example of a brand + keyword anchor.
- Image anchors – To diversify your anchor profile even further, you should consider using image anchors. In an image, Google reads the “alt” tag as an anchor text. Leaving this blank will result in a “noText” anchor. Ex:
<a href=”http://example.com”><imgsrc=”http://example.com/sample-image.jpg” alt=”alt as anchor text” /> </a>
- LSI anchors – LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. It basically refers to the variations of your main keyword, or so-called synonyms. For instance, if you’re targeting “Flower Shop” , LSI keywords could include “Flower shop online”, “Florist Shop,” “Florist Online," and so on. You can see the related searches at the end of the SERP for each query.
- Partial match anchor text– The partial presence of keywords in the anchor text is said to be partial match. Examples of partial match anchors would be: “useful link building guide," “learn more about link building," etc.
- Long tail anchors– These are similar to partial match anchors, except for the fact that they're longer. Some examples could be: “anchor text is a crucial part of link building" and “these rankings are a result of anchor text."
- Exact match– Exact match anchors are easily the most important type of anchor text. While they play a crucial role in improving your ranking, they also could be the reason you get penalized by Google. As the name suggests, these anchors are the exact match of your target keyword. For instance, your target keyword is “link building,” so your anchor is also “link building."
Tips on Optimizing Anchor Text
Like I’ve mentioned earlier, optimizing anchor texts for your website can be a tricky move. Some Internet marketers make the mistake of over-optimizing their anchor text, thus resulting in unnecessary penalties. The following are some useful tips you can use to optimize your anchor text without being penalized by Google.
• Keep anchor texts relevant – For anchor texts to work in your favor, they need to be relevant to the content you’ve placed them in. The more relevant your article is to your target keyword, the better your rank will be. For instance, if your target keyword is “link building," writing an article specifically about link building would be your best bet. If your target keyword is “plumbing services in Chicago," writing an article about how to find the best plumbing services in Chicago would be better than a generic article about plumbing.
• Distribute different types of anchors wisely – Your anchor text distribution can make or break your search engine ranking, so it’s here that you need to focus your energy. It is hard to say what is an ideal anchor text distribution, but as per my experience and what I saw is working and makes a link profile natural follows:
- Branded Anchor text: 40%
- Unique/Other anchor text: 25%
- Naked link anchor: 15%
- Brand + keyword anchor: 5%
- Partial match anchor text: 5%
- Genric anchor text: 1-5%
- Long tail anchor text: 2-4%
- Exact Match Anchors: Less Than 1%
The Anchor text distribution graph will look like this:
It would be wise to conduct thorough research to understand the anchor text distribution of the top-performing sites in your industry. This will give you a clear idea on how you should distribute the various types of anchors in your own website and you will mainly find it to have a close relation with above graph
• Don't link to toxic sites – It’s a well-known fact that having authority sites linking to you is highly beneficial for SEO. You should also remember that the sites you link to play a significant role in how search engines rank your page. This is where the co-citation principle comes to play. Make sure that your anchor texts don’t link to toxic or spammy sites just for the sake of winning reciprocal linkbacks. Instead of wasting your time on such sites, focus on healthy, authoritative sites that are relevant to your niche.
- Avoid internal linking with keyword-rich anchors– While internal linking is highly recommended, avoid doing it with keyword-rich anchor text. Using too many keyword-rich anchors can have a negative impact on your link profile. Try the healthy alternative of spreading the anchor across a sentence. For instance, instead of using “link building definition," you can go for something like “learn about the definition of link building." So, this ideally means that you create a long anchor and spread the keywords within.
- Write relevant guest posts– Some marketers believe that guest posts aren’t useful anymore, but they're still very effective for building a strong link profile. Try to write for strong domains with two tier links, which will give the best results. When launching a guest post campaign, you should go for domains with 30+ Domain Authority (DA). It would be best to use LSI anchors and partial match anchors for these posts. It goes without saying that you’ll need to write about topics that are relevant to your niche and use co-citation and co-occurance.
- Track your anchor texts – When you’re building backlinks, it’s crucial that you track the anchor texts you’ve used. Otherwise, you just blindly take a step ahead without knowing exactly where you’re going. You need to be organized and ensure that you’re not over-optimizing your page with keyword-rich anchors. You could track your anchors on an Excel spreadsheet and systematically avoid overusing those you’ve already used. Using monitoring tools like SEMrush, Monitor Backlinks and Ahrefs could be helpful.
- Acquire links from the right sites– I'm not talking about relevancy here (which is no doubt an important factor to consider and everyone knows it, right?). It’s about the right site. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, having authoritative sites linking to you can be great for your link profile. You need to focus on getting links from sites with high authority and traffic. Go for sites with Domain Authority (DA) above 30 and Page Authority (PA) over 35. Also, look for sites with the Trust Flow of 10 and above. Make sure that the ratio of trust flow to citation flow is around 1:2.
In the post-penguin and 2016 SEO strategy, the exact match anchors should be minimized to 1% or less. You need to be more careful when using this type of anchors since they can penalize your site. The main types of anchor texts that are both safe and effective are naked link anchors and branded anchors. Focus on building your links organically using quality content and a diverse range of anchor texts with proper co-citation and co-occurrence. This will help you optimize your link profile and make it next to impossible for Google to penalize you.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant, named the #1 social media consultant in the US by PROskore Power Rankings. He has expertise in business development, online marketing and is an SEO specialist who has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and a number of A-list celebrities.