Everything You Need To Know About Anchor Text
What is anchor text?
A hyperlink is a URL or address that takes you to a different location on the web. The words that appear as that hyperlink is called anchor text. A hyperlink is often shown in blue or underlined to tell you that it’s a clickable link. The anchor text tells you what that link is about.
For example, if I say click here to learn more about the basics of SEO then the visible part of this link is the anchor text.
If you look at the code for the link it’ll look like this:
Why we care about anchor text?
Anchor text has two main purposes. First, it tells the reader that there is more information available relevant to what they are currently reading. Second, it tells search engines that your content is linked to other relevant content, which enhances the quality and importance of your page in the eyes of the search engine.
Types of anchor text
If the anchor text is an exact match to the keyword for the location the link is going, then it’s called an exact match! For example, if the anchor text is SEO services and links to our page about SEO services, that’s an exact match. Exact matches are very helpful to the reader as it’s very clear what the linked information is about.
This is when you have all the keywords but the phrase is not exactly the same. For example, if your key phrase for ranking is “air conditioning installation,” a partial match would be a linked phrase in your content such as “best air conditioner installation company.”
A branded match is when the anchor text is the business name or some sort of variation. This is usually used to direct readers to the brand’s to the home page.
A naked link is when the anchor text is just the URL, as in https://iias.ca/search-engine-optimization/.
This is when the anchor text says something like “click here” or “website.”
You can also use an image as a clickable link, however, search engines pay attention to the words you’ve used to describe the image, also known as the alt text. (This article discusses SEO best practices for using images.
History of anchor text
In the early years of Google, anchor text was a very big factor in their algorithm for ranking websites. Sergey Brin and Larry Page made that decision and explained in their 1998 paper:
“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. This has several advantages. First, anchors often provide more accurate descriptions of web pages than the pages themselves.”
The reason they relied so heavily on anchor text is that Google could then determine the topical relevance of the sites. It was a complete revolution and definitely made Google stand out amongst their competitors.
The problem was that anchor text was easily manipulated. People doing SEO found out that they just had to point links at their web page with the exact keyword for their anchor text.
This led to Google’s first big algorithm update: Penguin.
The websites that were overly aggressive with their anchor text saw their rankings drop overnight.
Best Practices for SEO
Two points to keep in mind for anchor texts:
You want it to have a good ratio between the types of anchor texts. If you look at major websites, their anchors will have the majority of links (50%+ on major brand sites like besbuy.com or nike.com) coming in as variations of their brand or naked URL.
The words you use for your anchor text should be relevant to the page you’re linking to. This helps users understand the context of the link. At the same time, you want to keep the anchor text as short as possible while being descriptive enough so that a user will have the right expectation before clicking through.
Remember, well-optimized anchor text can significantly improve your website’s SEO performance and user experience.
Over-optimized and under-optimized anchor text
Google has rolled out major updates in their algorithm to stop spammy anchor text manipulation.
Even though Google has taken steps to prevent manipulation, you don’t want to have under-optimized anchor text either.
The general rule for keyword density is to have exact match/phrase match anchor text at one to ten percent of your total content.
A good way to dilute your anchor text is to incorporate slight variations in phrases, long tail keywords, and generic links like “click here.”
Adding more relevance to your backlinks
Google also looks at the on-page SEO of the pages that link to your website.
So Google looks at how relevant that site is to yours. The only way Google can understand what that website is about is by reading what’s on the website. The most important parts are the URL/permalink, the Meta-Title and Description, and the H1 tag. If you have your target keyword and variations of your keywords in those locations when you’re building backlinks to your site then it looks really good to Google.
Anchor text help both search engines and readers know what information that link goes to and what that webpage is about. The basic rule of thumb is to keep links and their anchor text natural and relevant, otherwise Google can penalize your site.