anchor text definitive guide

This is an anchor text guide for beginners and advanced practitioners of SEO and link building. If you want to skip the first few sections and go to the meat part of it, you can click here to go to the anchor text optimization best practices section.

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WHAT IS ANCHOR TEXT

Anchor text is the visible and clickable text in a link.

ahrefs anchor text

TYPES OF ANCHOR TEXT

To make things simple, let’s say I want to rank for the term, “link building” and I’m publishing a post for another link building blog with a link to my page.

If I’d use these types of anchor text, here’s what the link with each type of anchor text looks like.


Exact match anchors – the anchor text is the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.


Partial match anchors – the anchor text contains the target keyword or keyphrase you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about actionable link building tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.


Branded anchors – the anchor text is the name of the brand.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.


Naked URLs anchors – the anchor text is not a word or phrase but the URL of the page or domain itself.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about actionable link building tips. See it here: http://sharprocket.com.ph/link-building


Descriptive anchors – the anchor text is a description of what the page or URL is all about, it may or may not include the target keyword.

This post at SharpRocket explains what link building is all about and 101 link building tips that includes the exact step by step processes to apply each of those tips.


Generic anchors – the anchor text is a generic phrase that does not include the target keyword.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about link building that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website. If you want to check it out, click here.


LSI anchors – the anchor text is a synonym or related word or phrase of the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.

I’ve shared at SharpRocket a post about off-page SEO that includes all actionable tips you need to get quality backlinks for your website.


Image anchors – the anchor text is the alt text of the image.

image alt text

GOOGLE PENGUIN IN 2012 AND IN 2016 FORWARD

Before the Google Penguin update, websites can build massive article directory and guest post links with ~100% exact match anchor texts. This was not a problem for SEOs as they can literally automate everything, from prospecting link opportunities to putting these links into their desired pages, not considering the relevance between linking pages.

Private blog networks wasn’t a big option for link builders at that time too, since the usual massive spammy link building tactics is already enough in getting ranking results for websites.

But then Google Penguin came in 2012, which affect websites in different industries. As you can see in the image below, it shows a few statistics of niche websites that were hit back then.

inbound links anchor text graph

ANCHOR TEXT USAGE

Anchor text usage on all inbound links is one factor Google considers in determining if a page should be penalized and be demoted in its organic rankings.

Aggressive anchor text or too much usage of exact match anchor text on all inbound links for a certain page isn’t a normal activity to think about. Websites with all backlinks that have more than 50% exact match anchor texts, “payday loans” for example is questionable to be natural in its backlinking method.

SOURCE SITE

Google’s Gary Ilyes has been tweeted/asked questions on Penguiin 4.0 since its launched last September 23, 2016. One point he made is how Google Penguin targets a specific page. He clarified that it’s not just about the link, but rather the “source site” where the link comes from is what they also considers.

Questionable or penalized websites have much more risks to give to you when acquiring links.

To ensure you’re only building high-quality sites, you should check out the site’s organic traffic data if the linking site has a history of organic drop. This organic drop is a possible sign of Google penalty/ies.

SEMRush can aid you with this task, so be sure to have someone checking the site’s estimated organic data.

semrush organic traffic

MORE GRANULAR

Granular attack of Penguin to pages need to be demoted in its rankings isn’t any more new to the SEO community (in Penguin 2.0, it seemed to be on page-level and keyword-level concerns already). The only thing that becomes clearer here is the word, “more”, which we should all consider as we work on the website’s link acquisition campaigns.

It’s just that Google is taking on account page-to-page or a few website parts as its consideration for penalties. In that sense, you shouldn’t be confident enough to think that spammy link building tactics you are doing right now won’t have a negative effect to your website’s health in the future.

More Google Penguin 4.0 Resources:

9 ANCHOR TEXT OPTMIZATION BEST PRACTICES

1. AVOID ACQUIRING TOO MANY EXACT MATCH ANCHORS

I’ve worked with a lot of SEO agencies and digital marketing agencies all over the world, catering 100+ clients throughout my SEO corporate experience and there’s one thing people are still confused about:

Are exact match anchors good for my rankings?

When you answer them “YES” right away, they’ll defend you with their “NO”s and just tell you to use generic anchor texts, like click here and go to this site because they think this is the best anchor text strategy.

Wrong.

Exact match anchor texts aren’t bad all.

In fact, Ryan Stewart had an interesting short case study of how he was able to rank for Miami SEO after he published a guest post on Ahrefs with the exact match anchor text: “Miami SEO”.

ahrefs guest post webris

You don’t have to think about the anchor text distribution percentage in your backlink profile – say 3 percent or 5 percent.

You can test for yourself building one or two backlinks to your page with an exact match anchor text.

Don’t be afraid. Your site won’t get penalized with 1 or 2 backlinks. After all, if you have hundreds or thousands of backlinks, those 2 exact match anchor text links accounts to less than 1%.

Check how the site will react to those two backlinks and see what movements your page will take you (e.g. from position 40 to position 12). You’ll then also see how tight the competition is for the target keyword you’re trying to rank for.

2. FOCUS ON LINK TYPE

It’s so easy to be stuck with the idea of anchor text ratios. While having to run other SEO activities like technical audit, content creation and outreach, you still have to think about how to establish a natural backlink profile.

Instead of getting a headache with that issue, focus on link type. After all, why do you need to create a list of anchor texts with exact/estimate percentage if you’re aiming for a natural link profile.

That itself is unnatural.

A natural link profile is composed of backlinks with different link types.

Here are some examples of different link types.

1. Community-based link

inbound org community backlink

2. Referential link

reference backlink

3. Blog comment link
blog comment backlink

Don’t focus too much on anchor text diversity, but ensure that you are getting a variety of backlink types for your website.

Note: There’s one exception here, I’ve seen websites that focus only on contextual (both earned and built) and resource types of links and they didn’t acquired directory or citation links, but are still dominating SERPs. But if you’re into local SEO, it’s a must to combine those contextual and resource links with local-centric profiles/association/directory links.

But if your site is plainly getting directory and citation links, with a few to zero contextual backlinks, that looks unnatural.

3. OPTIMIZE CLICKS USING VALUE-CENTRIC ANCHOR TEXTS

If you are still thinking what anchor text strategy to use for your link building campaign, let me give you one simple tip.

If you are reaching out to bloggers in your industry (assuming it is a linker outreach approach), let them choose what anchor texts to use.

As a matter of fact, they wouldn’t tell you what anchor texts they choose. They’d only give you a heads-up if they have linked to your page and you’ll see the anchor texts for yourself.

Most of the time, backlinks built using linker outreach method are in descriptive anchor texts. The advantage of that type of anchor text is that they encourage clicks from users.

While links can help increase rankings, their other purpose is to drive referral traffic.

Letting bloggers choose how and in what section of the linking pages they’ll add anchor texts with backlinks to your webpage has an effect to the number of visitors those referring sites will drive back to your site. Backlinks placed on the higher position of the content have high chances of more clicks.

more clicks more referral visits

One good example of this is the number of conversions (email subs) I’ve got from my guest post on GotchSEO. That post itself drove 100+ impression with 60+ converted email subscribers. That backlink is aimed to be clicked given that it was placed under the bonuses section.

gotchseo email subs graph

In cases where you have a control over anchor text usage, i.e. content distribution on other blogs, it’s imperative to understand LSI and Co-occurrence as part of your overall anchor text strategy.

4. UNDERSTAND AND USE CO-OCCURENCES

Co-occurrence s the frequency and proximity of similar keywords across one context in a content. These are topically relevant keywords but not exactly the same with your ranking keyword.

Instead of frequently using your ranking keyword as your anchor text to be exact match, what you can do is to place your target keyword near descriptive anchor texts.

One good example of this are co-occurrences within links to Kaiserthesage. Here are a few examples:

co occurence kaiserthesage 1

co occurence kaiserthesage moz

co occurence kaiserthesage reddit

co occurence kaiserthesage searchenginejournal

Google understands the relevance of a link without having to use exact match anchor texts all the time. Adding co-occurrences to linking pages can help search engines fully identify the context theme of your website with its linking webpages.

5.  FIND NEW ORGANIC RANKING KEYWORDS

When a linkable asset has been ranking for several long tail keywords, it’d be strategic too find untapped keywords your content isn’t primarily catering to.

These are keywords you tend to rank (or had some impressions on SERPs) because your content has been highly perceived by search engines as worthy to rank for pages 3 or so.. (may not be visible on the first two SERPs pages).

The advantage when monitoring new keywords is that you’ll be able to upgrade your own content to cater new audiences or be more desirable to rank for newly found organic ranking keywords by adding some topical sections to your piece.

What’s the implication of this to your anchor text link strategy?

If you’ve added a new section in your content piece to service to those new organic keywords, it’d be additional anchor texts to use for internal and external manual link building. This will add more trust and authority to your content and help it dominate searches for those newly found organic keywords.

6. SEARCH FOR RELATED PHRASES AND INSTAGRAM TRENDS

There is no such activity of finding new ranking keywords to add to your current list of target anchor texts, as you don’t want to use them all for exact match link strategy.

However, when trying to add descriptive anchor texts to internal linking pages and to manually build linking pages (i.e. guest posts), you have to know what keyphrases are thematically relevant to your target keyword. Thus, it’d be easy for you to write robust content with LSI keywords and strategically do co-occurrences on links.

Two simple ways to find related search phrases of your target keywords.

First, do a straight Google search for the exact keyword or keyphrase you’re trying to rank for. You can try two different searches, one is with quotes, second is without. See at the bottom of search pages related search phrases Google provides based on the keyword you entered.

Second, just type in your keyword and wait for Google to suggest more specific/relevant search phrases. You’ll find out that some of them aren’t included in your keyword list from Google Keyword Planner or other common keyword research tools you use. They don’t need to always have high search volume to decide whether or not they are good to target for content pieces.

Watch this video from Ryan Stewart on how he was able to drive thousands of organic visits to his eCommerce blog without solely relying on keyword research tools. He was able to gather new topics even from Instagram observation.

If you ask me, where is this going to? The answer is adding more keyphrases for your anchor text link strategy to be used for LSI keywords for internal and external content assets and to be better at co-occurrences on backlinks.

7. OPTIMIZING CONTENT USING CONTENT GAP MONITORING

I’ve been discussing how to find new organic keywords ranking in your content, plainly because these are useful for you to upgrade your content to its next version (or to 10x content if it hasn’t achieve yet).

While you can simply just focus on your content’s search performance alone, you’d want to try seeing new organic keywords of similar content pieces, which is normally produced by your competitors.

The only difference of this process, which I’d like to label as “Content Gap Monitoring” with the typical, “content gap analysis” is that you’re doing it regularly – as if part of your monthly SEO or content marketing activity.

SEO agencies that want to test this process out doesn’t have to worry about the time it’ll consume to run the entire process, as it is scalable through the use of Ahrefs, as our primary content gap monitoring tool.

First step is to find similar competing content, only choose content assets that are specifically ranking for your target keyword. If you’ve done a robust competitor keyword research analysis as your first SEO initiatives, you can skip this part already.

Second step is to monitor new organic keywords of competing similar content assets. Go to Ahrefs, then click into Alerts – New Keywords.

ahref new keywords

Click add alert button at the right section.

ahrefs add alerts

Choose URL as its mode, so you’ll only receive list of new organic keywords that specific page has been acquiring, not the whole domain. For volume, the default, “All” is good so you can also see low volume keywords.

For email frequency, it’s your decision whether to receive those organic keyword-centric emails weekly or monthly, but I highly recommend you go with weekly, to upgrade your existing content for potential ranking keywords as sooner as possible.

add alert ahrefs anchor text

8. LINK AUDIT ON EXACT MATCH ANCHOR TEXT LINKS

With the recent Google Penguin update (most SEOs believe that it is indeed real-time), our activity to continuously monitor our site’s incoming links and make sure there aren’t any negative SEO isn’t anymore a tedious task for us (SEOs/link builders).

If you have read posts on Google Penguin’s specific effects on SEO activities, there’s no need to take some serious efforts in removing existing bad/toxic links to your website, as Google tends to devalue them anyway. So if site has been receiving new low-quality links from a Negative SEO attack for example, the efforts now shouldn’t be focused on removing those types of links, but on continuously acquiring new high-quality backlinks for your site (this posts of mine on how to get backlinks and actionable link building tips will help you a lot).

What’s the implication of this to my anchor text diversification?

In cases where those incoming toxic links are on exact match anchor texts, you don’t have to focus your efforts on removing them from your backlink profile, but in driving new high-quality backlinks to your site. Since websites are dealt on a granular basis, those bad links won’t be affecting your site as a whole, only on parts where it should be affected.

Nonetheless, link audit is still a must. Google states that bad links are simply being devalued, the possibility of needing to disavow more links is unlikely. However, if you have a lot of unnatural links and never disavowed them, you need to disavow them. It may be the reason why you’re still not recovering from the penalty.

You still have to do some ground work of disavowing bad links. But keep in mind that while doing it, the focus shouldn’t just be there, but more on helping your site continuously acquire good links to boost your site’s health over time.

If it’s actually real time, your site can easily get recovered (and some have proven this to happen to some fully/partially-recovered sites) and there’s a lot more work now to be put into a higher-level link acquisition.

9. CONVERT HIGH-QUALITY EXACT MATCH ANCHOR TEXTS TO BRANDED LINKS

Other posts on link audit (which I highly suggest need to be updated) talks about managing existing exact anchor text links by converting them into branded links.

In my own experience, filtering your exact match anchor texts based on their quality should be every one’s link builders/SEOs’ first initiative.

Don’t spend time converting low-quality exact match anchor texts to branded links, as these will be devalued (if it’s negative SEO attack) or if they’ve been built by your past SEOs (do link audit and link removal/link disavow).

What you have to focus now is checking on only existing high-quality exact match anchor text links. These links shouldn’t just be any type, i.e. directory or any massive link types, but only editorial links that are manually built, i.e. guest posts.

Whether or not these high-quality exact match links are affecting parts of your website, you should still be converting them into branded links (as possible as you can), by manually reaching out to webmasters where you’ve contributed guest posts in the past. Ask them if they are capable of changing those exact match to branded types of links. This should help some parts of your site not to be negatively affected by real-time Penguin.

Bring this HUGE guide anywhere…

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Free PDF Guide Checklist

Learn how to outsmart your competitors by applying these 9 anchor text optimization best practices. (Easy to implement!)
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Now It’s Your Turn…

How do you diversity your backlinks’ anchor texts?

Or maybe you have a question on how to implement any of the insights in our above list?

Either way, leave a comment quick below.

I’ll be more than happy to reply to comments and answer questions.

So if you have a question, insight or new tactic, leave a comment right now.

Venchito Tampon is the CEO and Co-Founder of SharpRocket,. Also a Filipino motivational speaker who inspired thousands of youth and young professionals across the Philippines.
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Free PDF Guide Checklist

Learn how to outsmart your competitors by applying these 9 anchor text optimization best practices. (Easy to implement!)
DOWNLOAD PDF