Anchor text (sometimes called link text) is surprisingly more complicated and involved than you might imagine. There are opportunities you can take advantage of when using anchor text and also some pitfalls you should avoid.
Using anchor texts effectively, especially for your internal links, can boost your SEO and ultimately the amount of organic search traffic you get from Google.
In the following sections, I’ll delve into the details of anchor text and how you can leverage it to your advantage.
Table of Contents
- What is link text
- How to make an anchor link
- Types of anchor text
- Impact of anchor text on SEO
- How anchor text affects search engine rankings
- Anchor text ratios
- How to optimize anchor text for user experience
- Avoiding anchor text penalties
- Software to help you check your anchor texts
- Final Thoughts
What is link text
Link text, also known as anchor text, is a word or phrase on a web page that the user clicks on to jump to another page on the same site or to a page on an external site. The link can also point to another location on the same page (an intra-page link, such as the table of content links above).
Link text appears as underlined text and can be displayed in a different typeface or color, which is usually blue but can vary depending on the website’s theme.
The link text is the part of a hyperlink that’s visible and clickable, allowing users to jump to another page on the same website or to an external site. It helps both users and search engines understand what the linked page is about.
How to make an anchor link
Depending upon the blogging software you are using this can vary. I will use WordPress as an example as this is the most popular software used for making websites.
Highlight words you want to link to another page or website (this is the anchor text). A popup toolbar will appear, select the link icon (the icon is in blue), or use the key command for a link.
From the dialog box that appears you can add the title attribute associated with the link and select various parameters that help Google understand what kind of link it is.
The various type of links are:
- Open in a new tab – when a user clicks on the link it opens in a new tab instead of replacing the current page
- nofollow – informs Google not to “follow” or crawl the page
- sponsored – informs Google the link is an affiliate or sponsored link
- ugc – stands for “user generated content” such as a comment on a website blog
Types of anchor text
There are a surprising number of different types of anchor text, I didn’t realise there was this many until I researched this article. Here is a list of each type with a description and some pros and cons to consider.
The anchor text is the exact keyword or phrase you want to rank for.
Use exact match anchor text when you want to emphasize the relevance of the linked page to a specific keyword.
Targets specific keywords; provides clear context about the linked content
Can appear spammy if overused; may lead to search engine penalties
The anchor text contains the keyword phrase you want to rank for.
This type of anchor text includes a phrase that partially matches the targeted keyword of the linked page. It’s useful when you want to provide context for the linked page without being overly repetitive or stuffing it with keywords.
Also known as long-tail anchor text.
Provides context while avoiding over-optimization; targets related keywords
May not be as effective as exact match for keyword targeting
This type includes keywords that are related to the targeted keyword. Use related keywords anchor text when you want to provide additional context or show the relationship between different topics.
Diversifies anchor text; targets semantically related keywords
May not be as effective as exact match or partial match for keyword targeting
The anchor text includes your brand or another website’s brand as clickable text, e.g. Google
Use branded anchor text when citing a source or linking directly to your website.
Enhances brand recognition and credibility; less likely to appear spammy
May not provide enough context about the linked content; may not target specific keywords
Brand + Keyword
The anchor text includes your brand, or the name of your website along with keywords.
Combines brand recognition with keyword targeting; provides more context
Can be longer and less concise; may appear overly optimized if overused
The anchor text is the raw or “naked” link, e.g. https://www.google.com
Appears natural and unoptimized; easy to implement
Provides little context about the linked content; may not target specific keywords
The anchor text is a generic phrase which does not include any target keywords, examples of generic phrases are:
- click here
- read more
Appears natural and unoptimized; easy to implement
Provides no context about the linked content; does not target specific keywords
This type includes unrelated or unexpected words or phrases. While not recommended for SEO purposes, random anchor text can be used creatively in certain situations, such as in a funny or artistic context.
Humour can boost your appeal and improve readability of your content
Provides no context about the linked content; does not target specific keywords
When an image has a link wrapped around it the alt text of the image is used as the anchor text.
Images are more visually appealing than text
May not be obvious to the reader that the image is clickable
Impact of anchor text on SEO
Everyone understands the importance of links for SEO (internal links and external links). But what about the link text, is that important?
Here John Mueller, from Google, underscores the importance of anchor text when including a link:
Yes, but anchor text (and image alt text) helps us quite a bit in understanding context, so I wouldn't leave it out if you can avoid it.— John Mueller (official) — #StaplerLife · #DownWith (@JohnMu) May 15, 2017
Common misconceptions about anchor text and its impact on SEO
Bloggers and content creators do have a few common misunderstandings about using anchor text with links. I’ll briefly go over these misconceptions.
Too much emphasis on exact match
Exact match anchor text can be useful but is prone to overuse. This can results in penalties from Google as exact match anchor text can be used to manipulate search engines.
It’s important to vary the types of anchor text for a given page, such as using partial match, related and branded keywords.
Generic anchor text is good enough
Generic anchor text, such as, “click here” or “read more” are not helpful to search engines as they don’t describe what the linked page is about.
You are missing an opportunity to provide more information to Google to help it properly index a page. If the anchor text is an internal link on your website you are harming your SEO efforts.
Try to always use descriptive anchor text when linking to other pages, especially for internal links.
Manipulating anchor text is necessary for SEO
Excessive manipulation of anchor text can cause Google to apply penalties to your website.
Instead just provide natural, descriptive words that summarize the content on the page you link to.
Anchor text is a crucial ranking factor
Anchor text is a minor ranking factor, so you don’t need to obsess about getting the perfect text for each link.
While optimizing each element on your page can, over time, add up to a significant ranking boost there are many other equally important factors that affect your ranking such as:
- high-quality content
- user experience (fast loading website)
- use of images and white space
- easily readable fonts, high contrast colors
And many other ways to optimize content quality for improved SEO.
How anchor text affects search engine rankings
Google uses anchor text to understand what the linked page is about. Carefully choosing anchor text for your internal links can help Google understand the page better.
For instance, if you use the anchor text “keto diet” to link to a page, Google recognizes that the page is related to the keto diet.
The more people who link to the page using “keto diet” or similar keywords, the more confident Google is that the page is indeed about the keto diet.
Anchor text ratios
To avoid penalties on your content, use a varied range of anchor text in your backlink profile (external sites that link to your content) instead of just exact match links.
This is because using exact match links to a page has been used in the past to manipulate ranking positions in Google.
When linking to an internal page on your website, use a range of anchor types, such as exact, partial, and related. This looks more natural to Google and avoids penalties to your content.
Audit your website to check your internal links look natural and use a variety of anchor text types.
How to optimize anchor text for user experience
Provide descriptive anchor text that summarizes the content of the page.
Keep your anchor text natural and conversational. Don’t stuff keywords into the text or try to over optimize.
Use a variety of different anchor text types (exact, related, partial, branded). This avoids your links looking spammy to search engines.
Ensure your anchor texts appear relevant within the text and add value to the user. Don’t unnaturally force anchor texts into your content.
For image links (an image wrapped by a link), your alt text description should be descriptive of the image and the link as it will be used for both by Google.
Maintain a balance of anchor text types. This creates a natural and diverse link profile.
Avoiding anchor text penalties
In 2012, Google introduced the “webspam algorithm update” to address the issue of link spam and manipulative link-building practices that had become prevalent among SEO experts and agencies. This update aimed to improve the quality of search results by penalizing websites that used these practices.
Before this update anchor text could be manipulated easily, as Google found out. Here is an example:
By coordinating with others to link to a page with a specific anchor text, in the example above using the anchor text “miserable failure” and linking to
www.whitehouse.gov/president/ you can make certain phrases point to any page you want.
This was something Google noticed and fixed with it’s Penguin update.
Google Penguin Algorithm Update (2012)
This algorithm update from Google specifically targeted using links to manipulate the Google search engine. Site wide penalties were introduced to offending websites.
The algorithm penalized websites that used manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing to rank higher in search engine results pages.
The update worked by finding low-quality or unrelated backlinks used for link building.
Google continues to update the Penguin algorithm and has released a number of refreshes of this algorithm.
In 2016, Google announced that the Penguin algorithm had been added to the core ranking algorithm.
Websites that engage in manipulative practices may see lower rankings or may even be removed from the index entirely.
Spam links and manipulative link-building practises
Link spam refers to the practice of creating backlinks on pages and websites without regard for context or user experience. Its sole purpose is to manipulate search engine rankings.
Google’s Penguin algorithm targets manipulative link schemes that involve the development, acquisition, or purchase of backlinks from low-quality or unrelated websites. This creates an artificial picture of popularity and relevance in an attempt to manipulate Google into giving high rankings to pages that don’t necessarily deserve them.
Billion spam links detected every day by Google (2020)
Human reviewers employed by Google can issue manual actions against your site. This happens when they find something on your site that goes against Google’s guidelines.
Most manual actions are caused by attempts to manipulate Google’s search index. The result of a manual action will be lowered search rankings or your content removed from the search index entirely. You can appeal manual actions for your website by using Google Search console and selecting manual actions from the sidebar.
Software to help you check your anchor texts
SEO software can help you audit your website content and identify a wide range of SEO issues.
For instance, here is a section of a SEO audit from this website:
And here is another section of the SEO report from the same piece of content:
SEO software is very useful in identifying issues with anchor text as well as a wide range of other SEO issues.
I hope you found this article informative. Here is a quick summary of the article:
- Anchor text is the link text, clicking on the text takes you to another web page
- Anchor text affects SEO because Google associates the other web page with the words in the anchor text
- Software can help analyze your anchor text to ensure you are effectively using your keywords
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