Today you’re going to learn about a super important part of the entire search engine optimization equation, for both on-page optimization and link building: link anchor text. Put in very simplistic terms, anchor text is the clickable text that sends users to a different page (on the same website or on a different one).
We’re going to take a look at good anchor text, bad anchor text, how to pick the right anchor text SEO for you, and all the different options you have when you’re following the anchor text SEO best practices connected to your link building strategy (internally and externally).
Remember, link anchor text is related to SEO, and SEO is only one piece of your entire digital marketing pie (it is one channel of the many different things that you could be doing, such as social media, email marketing, and so on.) So although anchor text won't come up in a big picture look at your SEO efforts like in an SEO report, it is still important.
Keep this broader picture in mind as we dive into the details of what link anchor texts are.
Anchor Text Overview
Anchor text is the visible text that you see in a link on a website. Readers click on anchor text to navigate from one online web page to another. It physically connects two separate web pages (on the same website or a different one).
Anchor texts are usually highlighted and colored differently from the rest of the text. The web-standard color for underlined anchor text is blue. However, through HTML code, you can change the color and remove the underline.
Anchor text is a ranking element. It improves user experience on your site and gives the search engine a better idea about the relevancy of the anchor text links. Keyword-rich anchors will help you in optimizing your content for On-Page SEO.
When you link out to a page, the anchor text SEO gives credibility to the linked page. As a result, you should use proper anchors for the web page you're directing your viewers.
In the above example, we have some text out on the web. It reads, “This is a great search engine called Google” and links to a specific web page.
The code here consists of:
- An “a” tag that represents the link,
- The “href” attribute that indicates the URL the link points to,
- And then the link text that’s surrounded by the opening and closing “a” tag. In this case, “a great search engine called Google”—is the surrounding text.
There are two basic types of links to point to your pages: internal links and external links. And the idea here is that the anchor text you use on both matters when you want to rank your site higher in the search results.
Internal & External Links
Internal links connect different pages on your website. Internal links enhance your website in several ways.
Internal links spread the SEO value of your most valuable pages to less valuable ones and enhance site usability and navigation to improve user experience. They assist search engines in more effectively finding, indexing, and understanding your site content.
On the other end, External links direct users to a different website from its source website.
It is tough to keep track of external links. Because the website owner, not you, decides which third-party sites connect to your site.
It is not an impossible task altogether. You can influence external anchor links with link-building strategies to manage your external links.
Let us understand internal and external links with an example.
- Assume we own a website: yourwebsite.com
- There is also a different website that does not belong to us: differentwebsite.com
- We have a page on our website about "blue barracudas". It is on the URL: yourwebsite.com/blue-barracudas
- We want that page to rank number one on Google for the term “blue barracudas”
A good internal link would be, for example, a link with the anchor text, “Blue Barracudas” in our “About Us” page. The anchor text could be like, "Look at our other great page on anchor text blue barracudas."
An external link would be on a blog post on “differentwebsite.com” about types of barracudas that link to our page on blue barracudas. An example of the anchor text could be “check this great page about blue barracudas.”
Both internal links and external links are valuable elements of your anchor text profile:
- Link building is the process of generating external links. (such as through guest posts on other sites, for example).
- Creating internal links is a process called internal linking.
Most of the time, you want to start with the internal linking part because you have control over your site. (you or your Webmaster can make the changes directly, and you can control your linking process).
External link building is significantly more challenging since you must convince other Webmasters to link to your web page. However, you can write guest posts for other relevant websites to link to your website.
There are different types of anchor text you can use to link to your site.
Anchor Text Match Types
You can link different documents on your website in many different ways. Let's take a look at some of the different types of anchor texts.
Exact-Match Anchor Text
If the anchor text includes a term that matches the page you want to link to, it is considered exact match anchor text.
If you have done your keyword research and you know the target keyword you want to rank for—the exact match keyword anchor would be that keyword itself.
Consider the following scenario: I'm Nike.com, I sell shoes, and I'm attempting to get a page on my website to rank for the phrase "cheap shoes."
An exact match anchor for my page on cheap shoes would be, "cheap shoes."
In the screenshot below, you can see the “ahref” tag, the URL I want to link to, and the exact match anchor text.
Partial-Match Anchor Text
When you use partial match anchor text, you combine your target keyword with other keywords.
It is a very close variation of the exact match anchor text.
It includes the primary keyword I want but might have a couple more words before or after that. Long-tail anchor text is another name for this sort of anchor text.
So, if my primary word is “cheap shoes,” I will still use the same URL pointing to the "cheap shoes" page, but my anchor would be something like “cool cheap shoes,” “cheap shoes for sale,” or “cheap shoes everybody loves.”
As you can see, I have the primary keyword in there (cheap shoes), but there is a little bit of variation, which makes this anchor text a partial match.
In terms of coding, it is similar to exact match anchor text(the “ahref” tag, the URL, and then the partial match anchor text).
A branded anchor text uses your company or your brand name and has nothing to do with the keyword you are attempting to rank for.
In this case, I have my URL (same as in the other examples), and I still want to rank number 1 on Google for “cheap shoes.”
However, I will use a branded anchor (“Nike”). I’m still linking to the same document, but the anchor text I’m using here is “Nike.” So, my code will look like this:
An image anchor text is comparable to CTA. You will use anchor text on an image in this case.
When you hyperlink images, search engine crawlers will not find an anchor text but an alt tag.
The alt tag is an indication of what an image is about for search engines.
Using the same Nike example, if I want to link to the same page on my site (“Nike.com/cheap-shoes”), and I have a picture of a black Nike shoe (“nike.gif,” for example), the alt tag I will use is “black Nike shoe.”
Although alt text is less functional than actual anchor text for users, Google will infer that the content is still about black Nike sneakers in this context.
In this case, there’s no actual anchor text at all. We have no exact keyword match, no partial match, no brand name, or anything. These are naked link anchors.
It’s just the URL, linking to “nike.com/cheap-shoes,” using as anchor text the exact link (“nike.com/cheap-shoes”).
Sometimes certain websites don’t allow for anchor text and force you to use naked URLs. Platforms like YouTube only allow naked URLs in the description of videos. Make sure to keep this in mind when you’re writing your YouTube description.
Generic Anchor Text
You will be using a text entirely unrelated to the content in a generic anchor text.
This type of anchor text is quite popular, and you see it everywhere: “click here,” “learn more,” and so on.
For example, you would see this in a community where you can set up a profile for yourself. You can see anchor text like "visit website" or "sign up."
In terms of coding, we have pretty much the same thing as before (the “ahref” tag, the URL “nike.com/cheap-shoes,” and the anchor text “click here” for example).
Both internal links and high-quality backlinks will be beneficial to your webpage. You may use any of these types of anchor text on your site, but it is vital to understand the context first.
Google's "Penguin" Update
Google shocked the SEO world with the Google Penguin Update in 2012. Before that, keyword stuffing and creating spammy backlinks were very common.
Marketers had reverse-engineered Google's ranking algorithm and eventually overdid it to be on the top of the SERPs.
Google identified many of the link manipulations they discovered on the search engine, and several sites were punished as a result.
However, the Google Penguin Update set up metric parameters and targeted the abuse of anchor text as a ranking factor with a much more sophisticated algorithm.
Google uses anchor text and backlinks to determine if a website has been over-optimized.
Google Penguin specifically targeted websites that had too much exact-match anchor text.
As a result of this shift, anchor text rapidly became the most straightforward way to evaluate how trustworthy a website was.
Google keeps updating the Penguin algorithm, and there are always dramatic changes to website ranking after the update.
Nonetheless, keep this in mind: before Penguin, people overdid it, but there are now safeguards in place to prevent this going forward. So, getting a little bit of everything is OK.
Too much of any type of anchor text is not good. You neither want all generic anchors on your website nor all exact matches.
Think about the balance of it all: You are writing for humans. Natural language will interact with people more than copybook-style writing.
It's great if you have a mix of anchor texts. There is no need to worry about having an exact match all of the time. It is not only odd, but it may also appear highly synthetic, and you can wind up receiving a Google over-optimization penalty.
As one of the best examples on the Internet, look at Wikipedia.
They do a phenomenal job of internal linking, and they always have really good descriptive anchor text.
The focus here is to improve user experience and then optimize for search engines:
- Do your keyword research,
- Make sure your primary keyword is at the top of your mind, but be descriptive about the web pages you want your readers to see.
Natural anchor text is good for users and good for search engines as well. Eventually, your website will also be on the receiving end.
Natural & Unnatural Anchor Text
If the anchor text isn't a commercial keyword term, it is typically regarded as "natural."
Here are several examples:
- "Visit Us"
- "Click Here"
- "Know More"
- "See More"
- "Visit this website!"
- "Contact Us"
The call to action usually provides users with more information. The readers shouldn't be shocked if these words are hyperlinks.
Brand anchor texts may be considered a natural anchor text for link development. Take a look at the following examples:
- "Visit YourWebsite.com for more information."
- "MyWebsite.com has this information."
- "Check out Thisstore.com for the product."
Brand anchor text is a genuine way to credit or encourage users to visit relevant web pages.
Excessive usage of anchor text or a large number of targeted one-way anchor text backlinks, on the other hand, are indicators of unnatural anchor text distribution.
Google employs the Penguin algorithm and other advanced technologies to identify whether pages are manipulating their SERP ranking solely based on anchor text.
Search engines will detect if an unusual and exact match term links to another site. They will notice information is not for reader benefit but to optimize the site for search engine ranking. As a result, Google penalizes both the linked site and the linking site.
Our Preferred Type of Anchor Text
My personal favorite type of natural anchor text is branded partial match (a mix of branded anchor text and partial-match anchor text).
Basically, what I do is get a variation of the core keyword in there, and my brand in the anchor text.
So, for example, I have a page I’m trying to rank for "SEO checklist", and I like to like to it with something like: “ a great SEO checklist from ClickMinded”, or “awesome SEO checklist – ClickMinded”.
This type of anchor text offers a great, nice, healthy balance because it gets a bit of everything in it.
That’s it, that’s the high-level overview of how link anchor text works and how they can help you rank higher in the search engines.
Remember, it’s all about balancing out the different types of anchor texts and being natural about it.
That's a high-level overview of how anchor text impacts your organic search strategy. I hope it was helpful.
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