First things first – the link anchor text is important for SEO. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise – not today, at any rate.
The real question is – how important?
It’s very, very easy to miss the mark, I’ve seen many professional SEOs do it all the time.
Like most things SEO, wrapping your precious backlinks AND internal links with good anchor texts is a balancing act between under and overoptimization.
Most of us know what not to do here – we don’t peddle every link with the brand name, we don’t let every link be anchored against generic, non-contextual text, either.
But what about the stuff we need to do? How do we really make sure that Google’s not looking at our backlinks with raised eyebrows because of sloppy anchors? Let’s discuss!
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Link anchor text is the clickable part of every link.
Simply put, it’s what you see as the link at the front end.
I don’t want to spend time here discussing if anchor text is still important – we got that out of the way right at the start for a reason.
So, where does the importance of link anchor text come from?
The SEO importance of anchor text comes from one and only one place – the contextual relevancy of the link. This relevancy is important to the host website, the destination website, the search engines and – most importantly – the visitor.
No, it’s not one of those made-up SEO phrases that are supposed to make us look smarter. It’s exactly what it says it is – it’s all about the relevance of the anchor text in the context of the link’s host and destination.
Link building is important for a reason. It’s one of the most talked about ranking factors, and a very powerful way of maximising your inbound marketing efforts. There are two broad ways for Google to decide what a particular link is about:
The focus of this article is on understanding how the relationship between anchor text and SEO works. To do that, we need to first understand what some of the most common anchor text types are. Most of the anchor texts used across the internet fall under these types.
To understand these types better, we will consider a fictional example. Let’s say we have to optimize anchor texts for the website “PrimePetGroomers.com”. As you can imagine, it’s probably a business that offers grooming services to dogs and cats and wants to target local customers in a given location.
I have dealt with hundreds of clients over the years – and this is one thing that every client who wants to build links is worried about. They all want to build thousands of links and they expect most of these to be ‘branded’. While it’s important to dedicate a good deal of your anchors (and links) to brand building, it’s always equally important to do things in moderation (we’ll discuss the optimization rules in a bit).
Branded anchor text contains your brand name, coupled with a useful keyword or phrase, or any other non-keyword text. This set of anchors perfectly dilutes the exact match brand name anchors, adding a natural touch to your anchor text profile.
A quick anchor text ratio lookup of the top ranking websites for your focus keywords will show you that a significant percentage of anchors (in most cases) are naked URLs.
These include all URL variations – http, https, www, non-www, subdomains and so on. For local websites, these links may come from directories and citations. We usually treat naked anchors as safe bets that help you fine tune your anchor text ratios once we actually start building links.
It’s pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?
It’s also a heavily abused thing (sigh!).
Do we want to have exact keyword match anchor text?
But do we want to go overboard and get ourselves penalized?
I can’t begin to tell you how many people think it’s okay to have a heavy dose of backlinks that are anchored to exact match keywords or phrases over and over again.
I’m not kidding – I’ve seen websites that had thousands of premium backlinks all anchored against the same keyword . It’s a tricky chase – cut to it smartly!
As a rule of thumb, we stay away from using the same exact match keyword twice for our anchors. This may not always work for certain niches that are limited by their size, but you get the point. That’s where the LSI variations will come in handy for you (read on, to understand what I mean).
Here, a moderately important key phrase “pet grooming tutorial” is included in the anchor text.
Phrase match keywords add a great deal of credibility to your anchor texts. They look natural, align perfectly with the on-page content and in general add value to the user experience.
I’m assuming here that you already know why LSI keywords matter.
For those who aren’t, it’s enough to know at this point that these consist of keywords and phrases that carry the same searcher intent (with synonyms or different phrasing variations). For example, we are using here a variation of ‘pet grooming services’ as ‘dog hair services’. Please note that LSI keywords are not the same as secondary keywords.
If the backlink anchored to the example above takes the user to the service page dedicated to dog hair treatment services, it’s a win right there!
Generic anchor texts are all non-keyword anchor texts.
As your link building campaigns grow, you will (ideally) start getting more and more editorial backlinks. Once this happens, generic anchor texts will also grow in percentages. While you cannot really control editorial backlinks, it’s good to note that having a healthy percentage of generic anchor texts makes your backlink profile look natural.
As for the links you build, it’s important to dedicate a certain share to these. You can fine tune these anchors with universal calls to action like, ‘Click Here’ or ‘Get in Touch’ to get the most out of your link building budget.
It’s all about exploring every option. Get creative – use author bios, names of key people, event pages and so on to build generic anchor texts that will add more value to your links.
I understand that monitoring thousands of links and making them all pull the weight for your website every single day can be challenging. At HQ SEO, we do this for hundreds of clients using advanced strategies, algorithms and manual expertise. Want to know how this can help your organic rankings grow exponentially? Just write to us here, and we will get back to you ASAP.
Again, pretty self-explanatory.
Links that are anchored against images, video thumbnails and codes don’t have any anchor text. We can treat the alt-text as the anchor text in some cases, but let’s ignore that for now. These shouldn’t, anyway, be a big part of your inbound link profile (unless you’ve placed a direct banner ad on a website).
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Well, many people have.
Building links the right way is a never-ending process.
You’ll never hear an SEO say ‘Finally! I’m done building links! On to other things.”. If you do, it’s time to find a better one.
Link building is, in reality, as much about maintaining links as it is about getting them.
But there’s one important point many miss – adding an anchor text ratio goal to your link building campaigns.
The percentage distribution of all anchor text types for a given website/page is the anchor text ratio.
Just taking a quick look at a websites anchor text profile gives you a very good insight into what they are trying to do.
I’ve always maintained that if you don’t know what you’re doing, the first step should be to see what’s working for your competitors. It may or may not work for you – but it’s a damn good starting point.
Here, for example, is the anchor text ratio analysis of one of our sister companies. I’m using Ahrefs to crunch these numbers.
I have said many times – the ultimate SEO goal is to give the user exactly what they want.
If you notice how SEO has evolved from a caveman-like 2005s to a machine-learning beast of 2019, the ‘bigger picture’ is easy to focus on.
The same applies to anchor texts.
Just how you cannot get away with unnatural keyword implementation anymore, you cannot rely on monotonous, unnatural and spammy anchor texts. It does sound like a truism – but it’s really important to understand its gravity. Are you willing to have your carefully built links under-perform just because the anchor texts aren’t diversified? I hope not!
If you have a commercial key phrase as anchor text (our example – “pet grooming London”) for 4 out of 100 backlinks, that’s still fine. But do it 400 times out of 10,000 backlinks and Google knows something’s not right. A big part of focusing on anchor text diversity is to pre-empt Google penalties and avoid future SEO problems.
So, it can be a game of percentages – but only to a certain degree. Beyond that, it’s all about letting your content grow with the right SEO strategy. As far as links go, this is where anchor text diversity comes to the fore.
Easier said than done, though. We, at HQ SEO, take care of this – and every other SEO problem you can think of – with our bespoke services. To know more about how these services can help your marketing campaigns grow, you can get in touch directly with us here.
Before we wrap up, let’s take a quick look at how to achieve anchor text diversity and how to deal with over/under optimization.
It depends on the type of your website.
There are many factors to consider here:
Depending on these, let’s draw out a plan for two of the most important page types: the home page and the service page (follow similar rules for other inner pages).
Take a moment to think about this.
The home page is all about the identity of your business. Sure, you will try to sell your services subtly there, but a good homepage prefers talking about the business itself and how it helps its customers. In other words, this is your branding canvas.
So, it’s important to focus on the ‘branding’ aspect for the anchor text of the home page backlinks to keep reaping SEO benefits.
Here’s what this could shape up like: 30-40% branded terms (brand name + branded keywords), 15-20% naked anchors (URLs), 25-30% LSIs and phrase match keywords, 15-20% generic anchors and the rest (no more than 10%) exact match keywords.
Again, let’s apply the same logic.
Your service pages are supposed to ‘sell’ your service directly.
So, we can afford to move just a little bit away from branding and towards ‘sales’.
To make sales happen, the searcher intent is enormously important. And searcher intent generally reflects via relevant keywords.
We can best achieve this using anchor text ratios that may look something like this: 20-25% branded terms (brand name + branded keywords), 10-15% naked anchors (URLs), 20-25% generic anchor texts, 10-15% exact match keywords (be careful with these), 40-45% LSIs and phrase match keywords.
I’m not going to go into the details of this in this post. You can head to this page to know how – in easy steps – you can solve all anchor text optimization issues. If you have trouble making these tweaks work for you, do feel free to drop us a line. We’ll assess your website and prepare a detailed plan of action for you.
Fiddling with backlinks often means that you have to either get in touch with hundreds of host websites or ramp up your link building efforts many notches higher.
Both – quite obviously – are going to be tedious jobs (not to mention, expensive).
But there’s a slightly easier solution – one that is 100% within your control.
Relating all anchor texts and backlinks to your on-page content while solving over optimization issues is the key here.
For example, you can tweak the on-page keyword density, alt-texts and heading tags to strike a balance. This is a delicate matter – but it can yield amazing results, if you know what you’re doing.
The relationship between anchor text and SEO is an important one.
But we need to understand that this importance comes directly from the importance of backlinks.
If you add an anchor text optimization dimension to your link building efforts, it will take care of all the fundamental optimization issues – before they have a chance to hurt your organic rankings.
Knowing this fully well, we – at HQ SEO – have crafted end-to-end link building services for businesses like yours. We don’t just build links – we build quality links that keep giving you returns on every campaign dollar you spend.