Backlinking,General SEO

What Is Link Anchor Text and Why It Matters for SEO (Understanding the Anchor Text SEO Relationship)

by Tom Buckland January 8, 2019

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!

What is Link Anchor Text?

What Is Anchor Text - Link Anchor Text

 

Link anchor text is the clickable part of every link.

Simply put, it’s what you see as the link at the front end.

For example, this entire sentence is the anchor text for a link that scrolls you to the top of this page.

 

 

Why Is Anchor Text Important for SEO? (Anchor Text – SEO Relationship)

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.

 

Anchor Text SEO Importance

 

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 On-Page Content

Where is the link being hosted? What does this website do? What does it talk about? What does the specific host URL contain? What does the destination page contain? What’s the connection between the two?

What is the context?

 

The Anchor Text

What does the anchor text say? What’s its relevance in the context of the on-page content? What’s its relevance to the on-page content of the destination URL? Why exactly is this link being anchored here and with this text?

What is the contextual relevancy?

 

A Quick Overview of Major Types of Anchor Texts

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.

 

A.    Brand Name Anchor Text (Exact Match Brand Name)

Example:Prime Pet Groomers offers free home visits for all pet grooming needs.”

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).

If you are already sure that you’re losing traffic due to over optimization, do take a moment to check out our optimization-centric link building service. To drop us a line instead, click here.

 

B.    Branded Anchor Text (Phrase Match Branded Keywords)

Example: “Cheap pet grooming services by Prime Pet Groomers are a saviour for pet owners in London.”

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.

 

C.     Naked Anchor Text (Naked URLs As Anchor Texts)

Example: “To find out more about our prices, visit www.PrimePetGroomers.com”.

Hugely important!

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.

 

D.    Keyword Anchor Text (Exact Match Keywords)

Example: “It’s not easy to find cheap pet grooming services in London – especially if you own an exotic breed.”

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?

Hell yes!

But do we want to go overboard and get ourselves penalized?

No way!

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).

 

E.     Keyword Anchor Text (Phrase Match Keywords)

Example: “Robin from Prime Pet Groomers recently conducted a wonderful pet grooming tutorial at the university.”

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.

 

F.     LSI Keywords and Phrases As Anchor Text

Example: “Dog hair services from companies like Prime Pet Groomers are popular for a reason – they are affordable, safe and actually take a lot of burden off your shoulders.”

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!

 

G.    Generic Anchor Text (Miscellaneous Anchor Text)

Example: “Click here to book an appointment with an expert from Prime Pet Groomers.”

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.

 

H.    No Text Anchor Texts (Images, No-Text Buttons etc.)

Visit Prime Pet Groomers
 

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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Anchor Text Ratios – Have You Been Ignoring These?!

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.

So, you check your link profile, fix broken links, disavow rotten ones and keep an eye on numbers – all that jazz.

But there’s one important point many miss – adding an anchor text ratio goal to your link building campaigns.

 

What Is Anchor Text Ratio?

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.

 

Anchor Text Ratios Example

 

What do we learn from this?
  1. There’s a great emphasis on naked anchor texts – partially due to directories and citations.
  2. We are going full-steam after branded keywords – especially the brand name ‘Ghost Marketing’. This is due to the fact that there’s an added SEO incentive for building a brand that people talk about.
  3. We have focused on primary keywords (the money keywords and phrases) with laser-sharp precision. The percentage is low, but the links are all premium, telling Google that our website is a good bet for relevant search queries. This also keeps us from wandering into the over optimization territory.
  4. We have also anchored many guest posting backlinks to my name (Tom Buckland). This is a phenomenally good strategy because it’s more about adding value to the time user spent reading the guest post + bringing them over to a contextually relevant page. In a way, this also helps build the name authority. 

 

Anchor Text Diversity – Why Is It Important for SEO?

Anchor Text Ratios - Anchor Text Diversity

 

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.

 

Anchor Text Diversity Is a Big Deal!

While this isn’t the place to talk about anchor text diversity at length, here’s a good read for you: Why anchor text diversity is important for SEO.

 

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.

 

How to Build Anchor Text Ratios That Work for Your Website?

It depends on the type of your website.

There are many factors to consider here:

  • Are you using an Exact Match Domain (EMD) or a Phrase Match Domain (PMD)? (Don’t be too adventurous if you are. In inexperienced hands, these domains can easily attract penalties. Get in touch with us to know exactly how to handle your optimization issues).
  • What page are we talking about? (The optimization rules are different for different page types – home page, service pages, contact pages and so on.)
  • How important is branding to you? (Is your brand already popular or you’re trying to build an empire from the scratch?)
  • What kind of backlinks are we talking about? (Earned? Digital PR? Influencers? For example, in most cases, your press notes will link back to your home page. So, you’ll need to apply the home page optimization rules 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).

 

Anchor Text Ratios for the Home Page

Anchor Text Ratios for the Home Page - SEO

 

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.

 

Anchor Text Ratios for Service Pages (And Other Inner Pages)

Anchor Text Ratios for Inner Pages - SEO

 

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.

 

How to Deal with Anchor Text Over and Under Optimization Issues That Hurt Your SEO?

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.

 

Anchor Text Overoptimization

 

 

Anchor Text Under Optimization

 

  • Once again, the solution lies in better, diversified, futuristic link building. Build links that let you exploit exact match keywords, phrase match keywords and LSI keywords to an optimal degree.

 

Addressing Anchor Text Optimization Issues Without Hurting Your Links

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.

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Sounds Great?

Let us know more about your requirements here.

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About Tom

Hi, I'm Tom, Founder & Director of HQ SEO. I live and breathe SEO. I hope you enjoy my findings. Interested in SEO?
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