Backlink Audit crawls domains looking for any dangerous backlinks that could harm a site’s SEO. One way we analyze the potential toxic level of a backlink is by looking at the anchor text. This guide will help you understand the differences between the anchors we identify and why some of them can become a danger to your backlink profile and SEO.
What makes anchor text dangerous?
Anchor text is the word or phrase (usually in blue underlined text like this) displayed in a web hyperlink. A long time ago, Google would reward websites if the anchor texts in their backlinks matched the keywords they were trying to rank for.
It didn’t take long before “anchor text stuffing,” or overloading backlinks with anchor texts of your target keywords became a common black hat tactic. Fast forward to now, and Google sees anchor text stuffing as a sign of manipulation and will actually punish a website if it has too many of these suspicious links.
What are “potentially dangerous anchor texts?”
If you have a campaign already set up, you may have received an email notifying you of how many “potentially dangerous anchor texts” your site has.
There are two categories of anchors that SEMrush classifies as potentially dangerous:
1. Money anchors and
2. Compound anchors.
There is a total of seven categories SEMrush uses to classify anchors. You can see them with the drop down in the interface of your campaign.
1. Money Anchors [Potentially dangerous]
These links use anchor texts that is exactly matching a keyword the website is trying to rank for in organic search. For example, a link to bestbuy.com using MacBook Pro as an anchor text would be considered a money anchor, because bestbuy.com is ranking organically for that keyword.
Money anchors are potentially dangerous because they’re a common strategy in black hat SEO.
2. Compound Anchors [Potentially dangerous]
These links use anchor texts that contain the brand name and another word or phrase. For example, a link to bestbuy.com with the anchor text Check out Best Buy Deals here! is a compound anchor.
Oftentimes the other word included in a compound anchor is a money term, making this type of anchor potentially dangerous as well.
3. Branded Anchors
These are links containing your brand name in the anchor text. When you configure your Backlink Audit, one of the steps is to enter the variations of your brand name. With this information, we identify how many of your backlinks use branded anchors. For example, a link to bestbuy.com with the anchor text “Best Buy” is a branded anchor.
If you ever see branded anchors labelled “other,” it’s likely because you didn’t specify your brand name in the settings of your campaign. You can configure the various spellings of your brand with the settings gear → brand name.
After clicking this menu option, you can add up to 10 variations of your brand name to track branded anchors for.
4. Organic Anchors
These anchor texts represent links that are written naturally. Links using words like "click," "here," "visit," and "website" are all considered organic anchor texts.
5. Naked Anchors
Naked anchor texts are links that use the complete URL as the anchor text. A complete URL needs protocol (https, ftp, etc,) and a domain name (bestbuy.com). If you see a link that uses protocol such as “https://…” or “www…” it’s likely a naked anchor.
For example, http://bestbuy.com pointing to bestbuy.com is a naked anchor because it’s a complete URL (protocol+domain address) for the website’s homepage.
However, a link that is simply bestbuy.com would not be considered a naked anchor, because it’s missing the protocol.
6. Empty Anchors
Empty anchors simply mean that the link has no anchor text. Commonly, these are image links with no accompanying anchor text.
7. Other Anchors
Links in this category have anchor texts that are not related to the website’s brand name or a keyword the site is trying to rank for. The anchors are generally random and don’t fit in any of the other categories we use. For example, a link to bestbuy.com with a random word like “stores” as the anchor text would be classified as “other.”
Keep in mind: Having one suspicious backlink by itself is not a danger to your SEO. If there are only a few links to your site with money anchors, there’d no reason to try to get rid of them. The issue with these types of anchor texts and links occurs only when a website has a significantly high number of links with money anchors (or other toxic signals) in their backlink profile. When disavowing links, you should be fully certain that they are not bringing any valuable referral traffic to your site.