Anchor text – the clickable text that’s visible in a hyperlink – is an essential element of link building. When used correctly, anchor text helps users to navigate your site through internal links to other pages or backlinks to other external sites that you view as valuable and relevant to the content of your own page.
In the early days of SEO, it was very easy for webmasters to manipulate their website’s search engine rankings with questionable practices like keyword stuffing, spammy backlinks and using lots of exact match anchor text of their targeted keyword.
Nowadays, Google’s algorithm is much smarter, and penalizes sites and pages that are over-optimized. Too much exact match anchor text can actually harm your SEO, reducing the credibility of your content and ultimately leading to a Penguin penalty.
Penguin is a central part of Google’s algorithm for determining where a page ranks, and when it was brought in, many pages received a huge drop in traffic almost overnight. Therefore, it is important to take steps to ensure your anchor text is used effectively, to avoid Google’s crawlers deciding that your webpage is spam and also to avoid any future penalties if the algorithm is updated again.
What are the different types of anchor text?
We have discussed the idea of exact match anchor text, which is where your anchor text is the same words as the target keywords that you are trying to rank for. It is acceptable to use exact match anchor text occasionally, but you should use a mix of different types of anchor text in order to create a natural link profile and avoid being flagged by Google.
Branded anchor text is where you use the name of the brand you are linking to as the visible, clickable text of the link. Linking to brands is generally considered to be a healthy practice by Google, as it tells their algorithm that your outbound links are pointing to other high-quality pages and services. They are generally a safe type of anchor text to use as they clearly signal to the audience where the link leads to. However, too much-branded anchor text can look like spam, especially if the brand name includes keywords or exact match domains. Too much could also put you at risk of a penalty from Google, so it is best to use these sparingly as well.
Next is partial match anchor text, which is where you use your target keywords along with other generic words, such as “this guest blog” if your target keywords were “guest blog”, or “services that build links” if your target keywords were “link building”. Partial match anchor text is a great way of indicating to the user and to Google what is on the page, without looking suspicious or spammy.
Naked anchor text uses the full, raw url as the anchor text. These are generally considered a “safe” option to avoid a Google penalty, but can negatively affect the overall user experience of your website as it can be jarring to suddenly see a URL sandwiched in the middle of content. This could affect your SEO if users click away from your site because it is not easy to read or looks unprofessional. This could signal to Google nothing on your page worth staying for.
Generic anchor text can be a better option for helping anchor text blend into content without disrupting the flow. They often prompt a call to action like “Discover more” or “Click here”, and work as a great way to engage users with the other sources of content that you are linking to. The main downside of generic anchor text is that it can become repetitive if overused. Seeing lots of ‘Click here’ style links scattered throughout content can look spammy and may lead your audience to doubt your domain authority, potentially driving them away from your page. Alongside this, it also doesn’t give your audience or Google much idea of what the content is that you are linking to.
Latent semantic index keyword anchor text – or LSI keyword anchor text uses words that are similar or closely tied to your target keyword. To find LSI keywords, you can use online tools such as LSI Graph, or search for them manually using Google’s suggestions to find what people search for when you type in your main target keyword. Using LSI keywords in your content can really help your SEO traffic and is another way to vary your anchor text.
Image anchor text is where the image is the clickable link, and in this case, Google will use the alt text of the image as the anchor text.
What is the best anchor text ratio?
Anchor text ratios have been much discussed since Google Penguin was first implemented, and many SEOs have many different opinions on what the “right” anchor text ratio is.
What is most important is that your anchor text profile looks natural, and by following a strict ratio, you are doing the opposite of creating a “natural” profile. Of course, it’s best to switch things up with the types of anchor text you use, but remember that there is no clear cut formula for what ratio of links are used “naturally” on the internet and in trying to replicate a “natural” link profile, you can adversely end up over optimizing your page.
Instead of calculating a strict ratio, the best practice for anchor text is to prioritize link diversity. If you consider how links appear organically on the internet and how people who aren’t SEOs are linking to pages, there is no format or ratio and you have no control over how other people organically link to your page.
By focusing on link diversity rather than a clear cut ratio prescribed by someone else, you are free to experiment with what proportions of different anchor text works for you and your website. You can keep a note of what anchor text ratios different pages on your site use and how each of them do in terms of traffic to help you determine the best ratio for your site. You can also keep tabs on what type of anchor text other people are using to link to your site to get an idea about what sort of links other people are using.
Remember, anchor text is a crucial part of SEO, but it is only one element of SEO. Focus on ensuring your anchor text is diverse, succinct and relevant, and remember over optimizing can take away value from your page, so feel free to experiment and play around until you find the right ratio for your site.