When it comes to links, most SEOs give more importance to the authority of the page where the link is coming from or whether the link is dofollow or not. But these two things that I mentioned are not the only stuff that matters. The anchor texts of links matter too and they more important than most people think.
If you do it right, anchor texts can not just increase your rankings but also get you more clicks. But it’s not that easy to get it right. When people try to optimize, they actually end up over-optimizing their anchor texts. That is why it is important that you understand how anchor texts work, how it is helpful to your rankings, and the best way to handle it.
In this blog post, I’ll cover all that you need to know regarding anchor texts and give you the best practices for it.
What are Anchor Texts?
Anchor texts are the clickable texts and characters where an HTML link is attached to. By default, anchor texts are colored blue in most browsers but can be changed via CSS as long as they are easily distinguished by users.
Check out this example:
Here’s a list of the best SEO tools out there.
Why is Anchor Text important for SEO?
Yes, anchor texts are being used by Google for rankings and it is an important factor. Anchor texts give Google and other search engines more context about the content of a webpage. Whether you’re linking from your own page to another page on your site or a different webmaster is linking to your website, Google uses anchor texts to better understand what the content linked to is about and get more clues regarding the keywords it should rank it for.
Anchor texts are also helpful to users. It is important that the anchor text would meet the expectations of users from when they read it up to they land on the page from the link they clicked on. Strategically using the right anchor texts can attract more clicks and drive more traffic to your website.
Different Types of Anchor Texts
Branded Anchor Texts
Branded anchors use exactly the brand name of the website/business.
For ex: SEO Hacker
Exact match anchor texts use the exact target keyword of the page it is linking to as the anchor text.
For ex: HARO Guide
Similar to the exact match anchor text, partial match includes the target keyword of the page it is linking to but it is mixed along with other words.
For ex: (Target keyword: email outreach tips) Helpful email outreach tips
Generic anchor texts use generic words or phrases.
For ex: Click here, Check out this page, Buy now
Bare anchor texts use the exact URL of the target page as the anchor text.
For ex: https://seo-hacker.com
Long-tail anchors are longer than partial match anchor texts and contain more words/phrases that are relevant to the target keyword.
For ex: Check out these helpful tips for trailing slashes
The Page Title anchor text uses the exact title of the article/blog post that the link is targeting.
For ex: How to Use Keyword Mapping for SEO
Image alt text
When a link is attached to an image, it uses the alt text of the image as the anchor text of the link. If the image does not have an anchor text, it will be detected as a blank anchor text or no text
Which is the best Anchor Text type for SEO?
Most people would think that the best anchor text for links would be the Exact Match anchor text since it targets the keyword you want to rank for, but that’s not always the case. Back in the old days of SEO, people would stuff keywords on their anchor texts whether it’s backlinks or internal links. It worked, but just like any other spammy tactics that were used by many black hat SEOs in the past, Google created measures to fight against them.
So the question is, what’s the best anchor text to use now?
The answer is, there is no specific anchor text that is best. A diversified anchor text portfolio is healthy for SEO. Similar to how backlink profiles work, a good mix of dofollow and nofollow links works best.
You need to know that the anchor text should fit the context of where it is placed. When it comes to backlinks, branded anchors are more common and it is great for building brand authority and awareness. And since you rarely have control of the anchor text when someone links to you (unless you ask them to change it), anchor texts tend to be partial matches, long tail, or page titles. When it comes to internal links where you have more control, you should only use exact match anchors from time to time and I’ll talk more about it below. Long tail anchors are also helpful because words around your target keyword also help Google and other search engines understand the context of your links.
Monitoring your Most Common External Anchor Texts
If you want to know what anchor texts websites use when linking to your site, there are two methods.
The first is via Google Search Console’s link report. If you’ve verified your website in GSC, in the menu click on “Links” and in the report, you should see “Top Linking Text”.
The next method is via Ahrefs. Simply search your website on Ahrefs and click on Anchors on the left sidebar or scroll down to the bottom of the overview report. I prefer this method because I could easily see the anchor texts of specific pages whereas, with Google Search Console, it just shows you the most used anchor text of your whole website.
Best Practices for Anchor Texts for SEO
Most of the time, you do not have control of what anchor text webmasters will use to link to your website. Regardless if they use exact match, brand anchors, phrase match, etc, as long as they are natural, you’re fine. But if you are proactively building links, you would want to be careful with that. The same goes for internal links where you have 100% control of the anchor texts.
You wouldn’t want to force the anchor texts just to fit the exact keyword you are targeting. A good measure is to read the sentence where your link is placed. If your anchor text feels awkward and forced, others would most likely see that as well, the same goes for Google.
Avoid Stuffing Keywords
Like I mentioned earlier, people stuffed keywords in anchor texts in the old days of SEO. Simply repeating exact match anchor texts for your target keywords will not work anymore and may actually do more harm than good.
Use Relevant Anchor Texts
The anchor texts of your links should always be relevant to the page you are linking. This is to avoid misleading users by redirecting them to a completely different page than what they expected.
Keep it Different but Keep it Close
Your anchor texts don’t have to be the same every time. Repeating your anchor texts in multiple pages over and over again may have the same effect as keyword stuffing. To simply put it, it’s not going to work.
Diversifying your anchor texts is critical in optimizing anchors the right way. Mix it up by turning your target keywords into different phrases or by using LSI keywords and as always, it will also depend on the content of the article the link is in.
For example, in this piece of content from my article about Dropshipping SEO, I linked to an article that I wrote: Ultimate Guide to Site Speed Optimization, and my target keyword here is “site speed optimization”. The anchor text that I used is “website’s overall loading speeds”.
It’s not exactly my target keyword, but the context is closely related.
Words around matters too
Yes, you read that right. It’s not just the anchor text itself that matters, but also the words surrounding it. Google also takes into consideration these words to understand the context behind that link and that anchor text. This is also related to the first tip to be natural because this is also how Google will also see if you’re just ramming your keywords without the sentence making sense.
SEO is all about optimizing every bit of detail that you can find. But too much optimization can also hurt your website and it shows when it comes to anchor texts. Be mindful of the anchor texts that you use. Having your keyword in it is not always the best way to do it. Look at it from a user’s perspective and see if this will actually help guide a person or not. If your answer is yes, then you’re already doing well.