Link building is an important digital marketing strategy that boosts your rankings on search engines. However, the words you use when building those links really matter. We know these words as anchor text.
The use of anchor text and its role in search rankings has changed over the years, as Google clamped down on them being used to manipulate rankings. Nowadays, Google analyses the surrounding content alongside the anchor text.
It may seem complicated, but the principle is simple to understand. Find out more below as we explore what is anchor text and how it affects SEO.
What is Anchor Text?
An anchor is text users click on to move from one part of the internet to another. The process anchors two different internet locations with this one piece of text featuring a link.
Most anchors are used to link web pages, they can also be used to start downloads and link to documents such as PDFs or files in a cloud platform such as Google Drive.
The following is an example of an anchor text used on the Ricemedia website:
You should never leave pages on your site to be crawled that are empty, faulty and have thin content.
In the above sentence, “thin content” is the anchor text. When you hover over the anchor, you can see that it leads to another Ricemedia blog.
Anchors can be used maliciously leading users to download a virus filled file, so it’s important that you only click links on websites you trust. You can hover your mouse over any anchor link where you can check if the URL looks legitimate.
Why is Anchor Text Important?
There are two key reasons why anchor text is important:
- User Experience: They inform your users what to expect before they click on the link. It acts as a promise to users that the link added is relevant to what they are currently reading.
- Google: Anchor text informs Google and other search engines what your content is about. Google’s algorithms use anchors to make sure you aren’t using spammy links and also understand the topic you are linking to in your on-site copy.
As confirmed by Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, anchor texts give Google context to the page you’ve linked to in the same way it gives context for users.
Anchor Text HTML
Understanding anchor text HTML is quite easy. Here is what it looks like in WordPress:
The visual editor displays how your anchor text will look to users once your blog is live:
Backlinks and Anchor Text
As we’re examining the impact anchor text has on SEO, we should touch upon the difference between no-follow and do-follow links.
For Google Algorithms, the use of each code makes a big difference:
- No-follow: A no-follow link tells Google to not take the backlink into account when measuring SEO for either page. From the 1st March 2020, Google takes no-follow link as a hint when deciding where to rank a site in SERPs.
- Sponsored: This lets Google know that the link was generated from an agreement between yourself and a publisher
- UGC (User Generated Content): Informs Google that the link (and the content as a whole) was placed on the page by users.
- Do-follow: This lets Google give credit to the page you’re linking to and take it into account when scanning links on your page.
Types of Anchor Text
Google has identified 10 types of anchor text that websites use. If you’re interested to see the anchor text you use most, SEMRush can give you a complete overview:
1. Generic Anchor Text
A generic anchor doesn’t include text that references a keyword. Instead, the reader must rely on the copy surrounding it for clues for context. These anchors typically include actionable language, a Call to Action, or draws users to the link in question.
Examples of Generic Anchor Text:
- Click here
- Download this
- Read more
- About the author
- This page
- More info
2. Branded Anchor Text
Branded anchors mention your brand name and are great for building brand recognition – Ricemedia, for example. Google can also attribute public figures such as a CEO, journalist, author or influencer as a branded anchor as well.
3. Exact Match Link Text
Exact match anchor text uses the precise target keyword for the page you are linking to. If you were to link to this blog using the text “anchor text”, this earns the blog an exact match link because we have targeted that keyword.
4. Partial Match Anchor Text
Partial match anchors include the keyword phrase along with other random, generic or stop words. For example:
- Useful Competitive Analysis Tools when targeting “Competitive Analysis Tools”
- Buy Engagement Rings here targeting “engagement rings”
- Informative guide to New Search Console when targeting “new search console”
5. Related Anchor Text
A related anchor words link takes users to a page using a variation of the target keyword. They are similar to partial match keywords, but related anchor text doesn’t use a precise keyword phrase. This type adds diversity to your link profile, leaving you less likely to get penalised for spammy links.
- Google marketing targeting “SEO marketing”
- Buy Swarovski Tennis Bracelet targeting “buy diamond bracelet”
6. Random Anchor Text
While some link analysis tools put generic and random anchors in the same category, this isn’t necessarily correct. Random anchor words could include phrases that aren’t as generic as “click here”, but they aren’t related to your target keyword either. It’s hard to give an example of a random anchor text because they could be anything at all.
7. Naked Link Text
A naked anchor text is a URL that has been put into the copy that is clickable, without the use of anchor text – example: https://www.ricemedia.co.uk/ppc-agency/. You might have seen these placed as references at the bottom of the article, where a link is included as a source.
This type of anchor text isn’t pretty to look at, but Google is unlikely to imply that someone is deploying spammy tactics.
8. Brand & Anchor Keywords
This type includes your brand name (or branded phrase) and the keyword. They can help you optimise for a target keyword which doesn’t appear spammy and simultaneously builds brand recognition.
- Ricemedia for SEO services
- Running shoes at Nike
- TVs at Currys
9. Image Anchor Links
You may already know that ALT text in images is important. If an image is part of a link, Google uses the ALT text in images to get the context about the link.
Image anchors are a great way to diversify your anchor text link profile while importing you SEO for Google images. Just make sure that you write a descriptive ALT text for the image link.
10. Long-tail Anchor Text
Long-tail anchors are like partial anchors, but contain a lot more words. You can use these to include your target keyword alongside branded, descriptive and generic keywords.
Common long-tail anchors are subheadings or headlines acting as a link. Sometimes an entire sentence will be written as an anchor link. It’s not something that is used often, but they can be useful for SEO.
How Does Anchor Text Affect SEO?
Google uses anchor words to understand what web pages are about, so it can rank sites correctly for the right keywords. When Google was first pitched as a concept, an entire section of their paper focused on anchor text:
The text of links is treated in a special way in our search engine. Most search engines associate the text of a link with the page that the link is on. In addition, we associate it with the page the link points to.
For Google, the use of anchors provides an objective description of a link than the pages can provide themselves through metadata. The use of anchors for backlinks should be from neutral third-party sources.
Using anchors helps Google algorithms crawl pieces of content that do not or cannot be copied on the internet for indexing. This includes:
When anchor text had a bigger role in search rankings, it was open for manipulation.
Before 2012, marketers would use a lot of exact match anchor keywords which manipulated Google algorithms. By adding lots of keyword-rich anchors that point to your site, you could be ranked first for your target keywords, even if your site wasn’t relevant to the topic of the anchor text.
Google fixed this problem and started punishing websites for using manipulative tactics with the Penguin algorithm update in April 2012. This meant marketers had to quickly change their anchor text strategy.
How to Optimise Anchor Text for SEO
Current advice for optimising anchor text follows Google’s best practices for ranking on Google.
In 2019, Google released the BERT update, which uses natural language to gain a better understanding to rank pages. This likely means that Google is paying closer attention to all the context clues written around the anchor text, rather than just the anchor text. This places user experience at the forefront of its thinking as it looks to provide users with the right answers to search queries.
To fully optimise your anchor text for SEO, you should also do the following:
- Don’t link to or earn links from toxic sites:
Google cares about which site you link to as much as it cares which sites links to you. If you link to a site that spreads misinformation or uses spammy practices, you will be penalised for it – unless you make it a no-follow link.
- Ensure your anchor text is relevant:
Relevancy is vital, and Google is judging whether the keywords are using add value to user search queries. Always pick anchors that make sense and are relevant to what service you provide.
- Avoid keyword rich anchors for internal linking:
Google knows you’re in control of your keywords, so if they see a huge amount of exact match anchors they can perceive you’re trying to manipulate rankings. Flesh out your internal link profile with generic, long-tail and related anchors.
- Pay attention to your content:
Ensure your content surrounding anchor text uses natural language, as Google algorithms will analyse paragraphs and sentences when judging where to rank you.
- Keep on top of your Image ALT tags:
You should have ALT tags on all your images, which will help support your images that are being used as links.
- Keep Guest Blogging:
Guest blogging should remain a part of your anchor and link building strategy. Getting a link with well optimised anchor text from a site Google considers being authoritative will help see your rankings grow.
In summary, anchor text is a vital part of ensuring the SEO health of your site is strong. If you’re looking at all the above and you’re unsure of how to optimise anchor text on your website, alongside other SEO strategies, get in touch with the expert team at Ricemedia today.