When it comes to content marketing, SEO, and link building, there are dozens of important elements in play.
But some are more critical than others.
Anchor text certainly falls into the critical category.
But do you know how to leverage it to your advantage?
We’ll discuss all of that – and more – in this blog post.
Before we take a deep dive into some of the common types of anchor text and how you can optimize for the best results, we need to begin by setting the table. In other words, let’s get clear on what anchor text is and why it matters.
For starters, anchor text is basically the visible and clickable portion of text that people see when reading a blog post or website copy.
On the HTML side of things, it looks like this:
<a href=”https://www.seo.co/”>Best SEO agency</a>
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 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.
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:
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 expert 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 what was happening and decided to make some major changes.
In April 2012, the first Penguin update was released.
And for anyone using 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.
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:
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.
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 anchors because they’re overt. You’ll need a reason for using a branded anchor, otherwise it could disrupt the flow of the article.
A call-to-action (CTA) anchor – also known as a generic anchor – 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.
Any time you use a raw URL, it’s considered a naked link. It looks something like this:
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.)
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:
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:
While exact match anchors are powerful, they’re hard to use with consistency. Another option is to go with a partial match anchor 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 anchors 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:
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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 and internal page) 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:
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!
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.
How can we be so certain?
Because we’ve worked with thousands of companies to help them do just that.
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.
Interested in getting started?
Contact us for your free site assessment and we’ll get you moving in the right direction.