But some are more critical than others.
Anchor text certainly falls into the critical category.
But do you know how to leverage on-site and off-site anchor text to your advantage in SEO?
The anchor text variations that you use when linking to your web page are a crucial component of any SEO strategy.
This is because search engines will use the anchor text variation as one ranking factor in determining how relevant a link is to the content on your site.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything there is to know about proper anchor text variation, including exact match anchor text and how it can impact the SEO of your website.
Table of Contents
What is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.
The anchor text can either be descriptive or generic, but it should always accurately reflect what the page being linked to contains.
For example: “our company” vs. “click here”. Your website’s ranking on Google will depend largely upon how many links your site has and how relevant those links are when it comes to incoming traffic (i.e., whether they contain quality keyword phrases).
The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your site, the higher likelihood that search engine rankings for your site content will improve over time – this is known as building an SEO foundation with link equity!
On the HTML code side of things, it looks like this:
On the user-facing side of things, it looks like this:
If it weren’t for anchor text, you’d have to write out the exact web address each time you wanted to link users to another linked page or resource. They would then need to copy and paste that link into their web browser.
Anchor text provides a clickable shortcut that’s both aesthetically pleasing and convenient.
But it goes far beyond looks.
Anchor text is ultimately one of the top factors in the link building process.
Why is Anchor Text Important for SEO?
Anchor text is vitally important for SEO because it tells search engines what your website’s content is about.
This ensures that your web pages will rank higher in SERPs (search engine result pages) as a result of the keywords you optimize them with and help provide more clarity to any potential visitor who lands on one of these web pages through organic or paid traffic channels.
Ultimately, this all comes back to high-quality links.
Higher quality anchors mean better rankings from authoritative sites – which means an ideal situation like higher click-through rates and conversion rates over time.
Anchor text serves a variety of purposes and can be utilized in numerous ways, but the two biggest benefits – in terms of link building – are as follows:
More link juice
Google uses anchor text to help determine the relevancy of a link. So, while overly optimized keyword strings are no longer a best practice, keywords still matter to an extent – so long as they’re natural. The right anchor text can feed more link juice to the page being linked to. Some would even say it’s the single most important factor for backlinks (outside of the domain authority of the referring domain).
It’s not all about technical SEO. There’s also a practical aspect of anchor text. The right anchor text makes a link more attractive to human users and, as a result, more clickable. This drives traffic and engagement. (The benefits of which may include direct sales, but also enhanced SEO signals.)
The Evolution of Anchor Text
Anchor text has played a valuable role in SEO since, well, the origins of search engines. But that’s not to say things have stayed the same over the last couple of decades.
Anchor text, much like every element of SEO, has undergone significant shifts over the past few years.
Prior to 2011, keyword-rich anchor text was considered a best practice.
If your keyword was “yummy chocolate brownies,” you were instructed to use anchor text like:
- Yummy chocolate brownies
- Buy yummy chocolate brownies
- Yummy chocolate brownies buy
- Buy yummy chocolate brownies online
- For more info on yummy chocolate brownies visit: yummychocolatebrownies.com
- Yummy chocolate brownies: yummychoclatebrownies.com
- Image link alt=yummychocolatebrownies
The entire goal was to exploit the Google algorithm.
There was nothing dishonest about this – it’s just the way the game worked back in those days. Some savvy SEO experts would find out what made the algorithm tick, and everyone would jump on.
SEO was about manipulating the algorithm.
Unfortunately, this came at the expense of user experience.
Google saw webmasters manipulating anchor text and decided to make some major changes.
In April 2012, the first Penguin update was released.
And for anyone using the same keyword rich anchor text, rankings plummeted.
And when rankings began to fall, so did traffic, and revenue.
The whole cookie crumbled overnight.
Ever since that first Penguin update, Google has continued to emphasize user experience, while implementing requirements that dissuade spammers from gaming the system.
Anchor text is just as important today as it’s ever been – especially from an SEO perspective. It just looks a little different than it did 10 years ago.
It includes ratios that are natural, including the surrounding text around the backlink and not just the anchor text in the link itself.
What is Anchor Text Ratio?
Anchor text ratio is the proportion of links on a website that uses any given keyword.
This metric can be used to understand how prevalent keywords are in your SEO strategy and whether or not you need more content relating to those terms.
The goal should always be an average anchor text ratio of about 20%. This means that for every 100 optimized pages, there will typically be about 20% with the target keyword as the primary link text variation.
What is Anchor Text Keyword Density?
Another way this data can affect search engine rankings is through what’s known as anchor text keyword density (ATKD). ATKD refers to how often certain words appear within specific lengths of linked texts.
ATKD can be calculated by dividing the number of occurrences of a keyword in your anchor text variations by the total number of words within those links.
To calculate ATKD, use this simple formula: (word count / link length) * 100 = percent occurrence per 100 words.
This metric is used to determine how often certain keywords are targeted on individual pages or across an entire website and helps inform search engine rankings for specific terms.
What Can Anchor Text Variation Do?
Anchor text variation has many different uses that impact SEO efforts including improving click-through rates, increasing traffic levels, making content more visible to social media users through increased shares, and providing additional information about what’s being linked from one page.
Why Is It Important to Mix Your Anchor Text?
In addition to having a high ratio of anchor text variation, it’s important to mix the types you use as well. Doing so will avoid keyword stuffing and improve how your site ranks in search engine results pages (SERPS).
Furthermore, there are many ways you can experiment with using different variations for the same keywords on your website.
For instance, if someone searches “best pizza restaurants,” they might see links that say: – Best Pizza Restaurants Near Me – The Top-Rated Pizzas In Town – Our Favorite Places To Eat Pizza Around Here
Each one has a slightly different feel and context which causes Google to rank them differently when analyzed by their algorithms.
12 Types of Anchor Text
Okay, now that we’ve provided a little context in regards to what an anchor text is, why it’s important for link building, and how it’s evolved over the years, let’s explore some of the different types of anchor text that exist.
1. Branded Anchors
A branded anchor is an anchor that uses your brand name. Examples include:
Used in an example, it would look like:
Branded anchors are very safe and powerful. The problem is that you won’t always be able to get them in when you’re doing link building.
Publishers aren’t keen on branded keyword anchors because they’re overt. You’ll need a reason for using a branded anchor, otherwise it could disrupt the flow of the article.
This anchor text variation is used to promote your own website and inform visitors that it’s the source of this content.
It can be beneficial for both long-term rankings as well as traffic levels but should not be overused or else you’ll run the risk of creating a spammy environment where users might become frustrated with what they find on your site.
3. Generic Anchor Text (AKA CTA Anchor)
A generic anchor text variation is one that does not have a specific keyword. For example, “click here” or “read more.”
Generic anchors are often used to improve readability and avoid over-optimization of keywords while still improving search engine rankings.
CTA or generic anchor text uses some sort of call that’s specifically designed to encourage the user to visit the page. Examples include:
Check out this page
Used in an example, it would look like this:
Generic CTA anchors work when there’s a legitimate call-to-action to be made. They don’t provide much branded relevancy, but to work to provide users with clear direction.
4. Page Title Anchor Text
A page title anchor is a variation that includes the name of your article.
This type should be used sparingly as it’s often seen as over-optimization and can lead to penalties in search engine rankings if not properly utilized like other types.
5. Naked Anchors or Full URL
Any time you use a raw URL, it’s considered a naked link anchor text. It looks something like this:
seo.co (could also be considered “branded anchor text”)
Used in an example, it would look like this:
Naked anchors used to be fairly common in the early days of the internet when not everyone was savvy enough to understand anchor text, but now that anchors are commonplace, you’ll rarely see them used. (Our company is actually one of the few exceptions, since our brand name and domain name are the same.)
6. Brand + Keyword Anchors
You’ll occasionally see situations where an anchor text uses a combination of your brand name and the target keyword. It might look like this:
seo.co link building services
Link building by seo.co
seo.co link building tactics
Used in an example, it would appear like this:
7. Exact Match Anchors
An exact match anchor is the gold standard of the industry. These are the anchors that everyone used to leverage prior to the Penguin update in 2012. And while you certainly can’t overuse them today, they do still have a time and place.
If your keyword is “link building service,” it would look like this:
8. Partial Match Anchor Text
While exact match anchors are powerful, they’re hard to use with consistency. Another option is to go with a partial match anchor text that uses a variation that’s similar to your keyword. It involves adding generic words around the primary keyword phrase.
Using the example of “link building service,” partial match anchor text would include:
Great link building service
Highly-rated link building service
Using a link building service
Placed in a sentence, the anchor would look like this:
9. Invisible Anchors
This tactic is tricky (and perhaps a little shady). It’s not really a black hat technique, per se, but it would certainly fall under the heading of “gray hat.”
You plug the link in but use the following html: <a>no text</a>, which creates a link without any visible anchor.
Invisible anchors are most commonly used with images when you want an image to link back to a certain page.
10. Empty Anchor
An empty anchor text variation is one that doesn’t contain any information.
Typically, these types are used in order to provide additional keywords and improve readability for users.
11. Home URL
The home URL is the base address for your website. It’s important to include this variation when it links back to a specific page or post on your site, as well as if there are multiple pages with similar content using different URLs.
12. URL with No HTTP
The URL with no HTTP means the link will go to a page that is not found in your web browser’s address bar.
It should be used sparingly and only when there’s an intent for readers of this article to visit another website or location, such as clicking on “more information.”
The Three Main Anchor Text Groups
In addition to the 12 types of anchor texts, there are also three main groups you should remember:
1. Blended Anchor Text
This type of anchor text variation is typically a blend of two or more types. For example, you might be linking to your own website and use the keyword variant as well so that there’s no mistaking where this article comes from when visitors click on it.
2. Natural Anchor Text
This group includes only one type of link but can include any number of words in order to improve readability for readers without over-optimizing their search engine rankings. These are often used by bloggers who want natural links back into their articles with variety instead of ones that would seem repetitive.
3. Exact Match Anchor Text
The exact match is a variation that includes the keyword or phrase in question. This type should only be used when there’s an intent to provide additional information about what you’re linked to and give readers both options for where they click on next.
SEO Strategies for Optimizing Anchor Text
Okay, there are probably more anchor types than you realized…right?
Don’t get overwhelmed, though.
You don’t need to know the technical names. You don’t even need to use them all.
It’s much more important that you understand the big picture, what you’re trying to accomplish, and some specific ways you can use anchor text to your advantage.
Here are a few helpful tips and tactics:
1. Choose the Right Keywords
A good anchor text strategy requires you to begin with the right keywords in the first place. If you’re chasing down branded keywords, then this is pretty self explanatory. But if you’re looking for high volume search terms that will help people find your pages, you need to do a deep dive and conduct some keyword research.
Good keywords have a high search volume and lower than average competition. This is the sweet spot. Most keyword research tools have some sort of calculation to show you which keywords are worth pursuing (from a cost and time perspective).
2. Develop Rich, High-Value Content
It’s not enough to implement good keywords in your anchor text. You must ensure that the pages you’re linking back to are relevant to the anchor. Stop linking to spammy sales pages and focus on rich, high-value content that Google loves.
3. Find Relevant Websites in Your Industry
You’ll benefit so much more from linking to relevant websites that are in and around your industry. This amplifies the strength of your anchor text and simultaneously increases your odds of getting relevant search traffic back to your pages.
4. Track Your Anchor Text
Diversity is key in link building. It’s also important when it comes to anchor text. Too many similar anchors to the same page will come across as spammy. By tracking in a spreadsheet (or with a link building tool), you can diversify your approach and get better results.
When it comes to tracking the anchor text of your internal links, we recommend SEOJet. Their tool lets you know what is natural (for both homepage SEO and internal page SEO) for anchor text variability.
Here are a couple of helpful graphs showcasing the types of anchor text and their mix for both the homepage and internal pages:
5. Keep the Anchor Text Natural
Natural anchor texts typically include one type of link but can also have any number of words to improve readability without over-optimizing the SEO rankings. These are often used by bloggers who want natural links back into their articles with variety instead of ones that would seem repetitive.
6. Avoid Empty Anchor Text Variations
When you use an empty anchor text variation, there’s no information included in the link at all and it should be used when there is a specific intent for readers on this article to visit another website or location like clicking on “more information.”
7. Avoid Over-Optimization
A page title anchor is a variation that includes the name of your article. This type should be used sparingly as it’s often seen as over-optimization and can lead to penalties in search engine rankings if not properly utilized like other types.
An exact match anchor text variation includes the keyword or phrase in question and this type should only be used when there’s an intent for readers on this article to visit another website or location, such as clicking on “more information.” It shouldn’t include any repetitious words so you don’t appear spammy with links.
8. Start Guest Posting
One way to increase your website’s SEO value is by publishing posts on other websites.
Guest posting allows you to link back to a landing page with the same content or blog post from your own site and should include appropriate anchor text that contains keywords for search engine optimization.
9. Avoid Linking to Spammy Websites
Be careful about the type of websites you’re linking to and avoid spammy domains that will decrease your website’s SEO value in a hurry.
You should only link back to prominent websites.
10. Keep Your Ratios Consistent
While there isn’t any general rule, you should at least try to maintain the following ratios when mixing different anchor texts:
- 50% — Branded anchor texts
- 15% — WebsiteName.com
- 10-20% — Naked URL
- 10-15% — Page Title
- 1-5% — Generic anchor texts
- 1-5% — Exact and partial match keywords (but, as per the above, this can be higher, depending on whether it’s a home or inner page and depending on what is more standard in the industry).
11. Only Commit Anchors to Top-Level Pages
The anchor text should only be committed to top-level pages and not subdirectories.
This is because when a link isn’t clicking through correctly, it’s the higher-level page that suffers SEO value rather than one of the lower subdirectory links.
12. Place Anchor Texts Where Readers Pay the Most Attention
You should place your anchor text close to the keyword or phrase it’s referencing.
This is because readers are more likely to notice information in this area of a webpage and click on what they’re looking for if you use an appropriate type of link variation.
13. Audit Your Website to Find Broken Anchor Text Links
It’s important to audit your website backlinks periodically for broken links and anchor text.
This is because if a link isn’t working correctly, it can actually hurt the search engine rankings of other pages on your site that do have properly clicking through links.
Internal Anchor Text Optimization
While this blog post is all about external anchor text for the purposes of link building, internal anchor text also plays a role in improving your website’s SEO. (Not to mention it makes it easier for visitors to navigate your website.)
With this in mind, here are a few “bonus” pointers for internal anchor text optimization – just since you stuck around and read to the end!
Don’t stuff keywords
Just because it’s your website doesn’t mean you can stuff as many keywords as possible into your anchor text. Keep everything simple and straightforward. An anchor text shouldn’t disrupt the flow of the sentence.
Go for variety
If you have 50 different uses of the same anchor text pointing back to the same page, Google is going to raise its eyebrows. It appears spammy and will do very little for your SEO efforts. (It’s also possible that your site visitors will notice and wonder why you’re pounding the same exact anchor phrase over and over again.)
Ensure link relevancy
Don’t link to something just because you want to drive traffic to it. Backlinks need to be relevant to the page and the anchor text needs to be relevant to the link. (Nothing is more frustrating from a user side than to think you’re clicking on one thing only to be transported to a page that’s irrelevant and undesirable.)
Choose your links wisely. As a general rule of thumb, you should never include more than one backlink/anchor text in a single paragraph. (Definitely don’t include multiple links in a single sentence if you can help it.)
There you have it!
Now you’ve got some of the basics of both external and internal anchor text optimization.
While external anchor text might have a more significant impact on your SEO, there’s something to be said for emphasizing both sides of the coin. In doing so, you can ensure you’re gaining every possible advantage.
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Over the past decade-plus, we’ve made a name for ourselves as the premier link building agency in the industry.
From content to link placement to anchor text, we have a thorough understanding of link building from the inside out…and we want to help you next.
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