Linking is only half the battle — if you want to up your SEO game, you need to know about anchor text. But what is anchor text and why does it matter?
We all know that links are a ranking factor. You want to gain links to your website and you want to link internally. But how much thought have you given to the actual anchor text you use?
Let’s explore what anchor text is, why it’s important, how to optimise anchor text (or whether you should!) and some great SEO best practice in this area.
We have a present for you — check out this post outlining where to use keywords for SEO
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is the clickable text in a link. Everyone will have seen it. In most browsers, it appears a blue text, usually underlined to make it clearly visible. Anchor text is designed to stand out so people understand that by clicking on that text, they’ll be taken to another page on that topic.
You can see an example of anchor text below:
The keywords in anchor text are one of the many signals search engines use to determine the topic of a web page. It’s also a useful indicator to users about what the linking page will cover.
Does Anchor Text Affect Search Engine Rankings?
Search engines use anchor text as an indicator of how users view your page. In a nutshell, this is why anchor text is so important. You want your anchor text to be accurate and reflective of the content it’s pointing to. There’s no sense using irrelevant anchor text to attract people to your page, as these people will soon realise your content isn’t what they’re looking for, and they’ll leave. This will result in a terrible bounce rate — a known ranking factor.
Google uses external anchor text to decide what keywords that page should rank for — so use it as an opportunity to be as helpful to Google as possible. What we’ll soon explore, though, is that exact anchor text isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. This means that you don’t need all external anchor text to use your exact target keyword every single time. Variety is key, so it is healthy for you to have related phrases and keywords pointing to your page.
Types of Anchor Text
There are various types of anchor text, which we’ll cover below.
Exact-Match Anchor Text
Exact-match anchor text relates to text that is exactly the keyword or phrase we want to rank for.
Partial-Match Anchor Text
Partial-match anchor text contains all the words in your target keyword phrase, but not as an exact match. The words might be out of order, or phrased in a different way.
Phrase Match Anchor Text
This anchor text contains the keyword phrase you would like to rank for.
Branded Anchor Text
This is a simple one — a brand name. So, for example, a branded anchor text for our business would be ‘Enchanting Digital’.
Naked URL Anchor Text
This is when a URL is used as an anchor. For example:
Generic or Random Anchor Text
You will often see random, or generic, words used as anchor text. They don’t describe the content they point to in any way and they are usually instructional. Below are a few examples:
- This website
- This article
- Click here
- Read more
- More information
- Download here
Image Anchor Text
When an image is linked, Google uses the text in the image’s alt attribute as the anchor text.
Are you looking for some more SEO-related content? Check out this guide on URL slugs and how to optimise them.
How to Optimise Anchor Text for SEO
First things first — people often make the mistake of over-optimising anchor text for SEO purposes. This is something you need to be cautious of when linking internally. If you want a page to rank for a very specific keyword, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using that keyword, and only that keyword, to link to that page.
However, this can end up backfiring since Google released a refreshed version of the Panda update in 2012. At this time, there were too many instances of exact match anchor text links, and it became a sign of unnatural link building. In essence, it looks spammy — like you’re trying to play the system rather than helpfully point people in the direction of content that would be useful or desirable.
Google began to look at anchor text a bit more closely in the Penguin update. Now, we’re in the peculiar position where the best way to optimise your anchor text is to not optimise it too much. Don’t place too much emphasis on exact-match anchor text. Understand that the Google gods will understand what to rank your content for based on similar phrases and LSIs.
Some sources even recommend keeping exact-match anchor text down to around 5% of your total anchor text. In fact, since the BERT update, it’s believed that Google is paying increased attention to context clues around anchors — so, when linking internally, be sure the surrounding words relate to the page you’re linking to.
Essentially, when it comes down to optimising, it’s best to just think like a human. What creates the best experience for the user? What appears more natural?
Anchor Text: SEO Best Practices
When it comes to other sites linking to you, you obviously don’t have much control over anchor text. However, when it comes to internal linking, or when guest posting, there are some rules you should live by.
Keep Anchor Text Succinct
There isn’t a set specific length limit for anchor text. It’s just a good idea to keep your link text as short and specific as possible while keeping the following questions in mind:
- Is this anchor text compelling to readers — will it encourage them to click through?
- Is this the most concise way to describe the page I’m linking to?
Avoid Excessive Exact-Match Anchor Text
As we mentioned above, an over-reliance on exact-match anchor text is a bad idea. It can look spammy and unnatural. Even casual internet users pick up on keyword-heavy anchor text, and it can be really off-putting. While it’s perfectly fine to use exact-match from time-to-time, you should branch out and go for a variety of natural anchor text, including related anchors or long-tail anchors.
Remember — Google knows you have control over your internal anchor text, so it’s likely to see excessive use of exact-match anchor text as an attempt to manipulate the system. When it comes to external anchor text linking to your website, Google is more lenient as it is beyond your control.
Keep The Anchor Text Relevant to the Target page
While you don’t want to rely on exact-match anchor text, you should still make sure your anchor text is reflective of, relevant to, the page you’re targeting. It’s helpful for your readers, but it’s also useful for Google bots — remember Google uses this anchor text as information to understand what pages are about, so they can rank them appropriately.
Be Mindful of Surrounding Text
Google is becoming more and more sophisticated every day. Gradually, it’s becoming clear that it is tweaking its algorithm in favour of natural, organic language. For this reason, it’s important to not only look at the specific anchor text you’re using, but also the surrounding text — so make it as informative and helpful as possible.
Use a Variety of Anchor Text Types
Variety is as important in SEO as it is in life. Shake things up when it comes to your anchor text.
Linkgraph recommends using:
- 30-40% branded anchors
- 30-40% partial match anchors
- 20%-40% generic, related, naked, random, exact match, and others
Remember, Google is continually tweaking its algorithm, so the SEO game can change at any moment. But what’s clear is the direction Google is heading. All they want to do is provide internet users with the most valuable, helpful content for the given search query. Provide quality content and use natural, helpful human language to link from one page to another and you’re in a really good position.
How much do you think about anchor text while writing blogs? Is there something specific you’d like to know? Let us know!
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