Anchor Text 101: Definitions, Types, Best SEO Practices and More ⬇️
What is Anchor Text
Anchor text, also called the link label or link title, is the only visible part of a link on a page. This hyperlinked excerpt of the sentence leads to another online source once you click on it.
The anchor is usually made up of one or a few clickable words, underlined and colored blue (this can be any other color as well, but blue is the most popular one). These words act as keywords and should accurately describe the referring (target) link.
Just to keep things clear, there is a hidden backlink under an anchor text, and it’s an essential part of off-page SEO we’re going to talk about today.
Anchor Text Definition
If I had to quote one anchor text definition, it would be the one from the Google Knowledge Graph. It’s concise and correct:
The role of this on-page element is to connect two topically related sources with each other in order to supplement a specific page with extra information and finish the topic up. Search engines count anchor text as a relevancy factor, and use it to categorize both linking and linked-to websites.
Anchor Text Example
In this sentence:
“Capsaicin stimulates the release of endorphins in your body.”
The part “stimulates the release of endorphins” is an anchor text and leads to this blog post → https://helix.northwestern.edu/blog/2014/07/your-brain-capsaicin. The linked source talks about food science and the medical influence of spicy food, especially chili peppers, on your health.
Anchor Text Code Sample:
On the HTML side of a page, the link looks like this:
<a href=https://helix.northwestern.edu/blog/2014/07/your-brain-capsaicin>stimulates the release of endorphins</a>
The anchor given in my example above is relevant to the source; in other words, it accurately describes the linked-to document. This anchor also makes a good keyword, which is vital for establishing a high-ranking page for this topic.
The SEO Power of The Anchor Text
Search engines look at elements that determine relevance of content in order to categorize online assets and determine their search ranking. Namely, anchor text is one of these elements as it helps to indicate the relevancy score of a specific page for a given topic or category.
The anchor text is a very objective and trustworthy sign of relevancy to search engines because – if a link is acquired organically – it is usually unrelated to the doings of a webmaster that owns a liking-to website. Users usually choose an anchor text based on what they think would describe a link best.
Types of Anchor Texts
Let’s specify the types of anchors that can be found on the web. Some of them can be good for a website’s SEO, but others are spammy and should be limited to keep search engines from becoming suspicious.
In the case of a naked URL, there is no textual anchor at all, but a bare link instead that is visible on a page.
URLs anchors don’t carry any SEO benefit to your site; so the next time you notice one pointing to your site, reach out to a webmaster, and request to have it changed.
2. Zero or Generic Anchor Text
Zero or generic anchor texts refer to completely unrelated (to a linked page) phrases which are a link label. These may include read this, click here, here or other random words that imply scarcity or provoke action. These anchors don’t provide any added SEO value either.
3. Exact Match Anchor Text
This is the most important anchor type for your SEO ranking. It represents exact core keywords and money keywords that a page was meant to target, usually enriched by the localization factor.
For instance, for the Unamo SEO homepage, the exact anchor text is US SEO Software.
This is a very strong anchor text that adds serious SEO value and drives a page’s ranking up. However, exact match anchors shouldn’t be used excessively.
An instant and massive influx of exact match anchors could look spammy in the eyes of search engines. It just doesn’t seem likely that all sites linking to your page would use the same – exact match – anchor. A little variety is very welcome as it looks way more natural.
Of course, it’s best when your anchors correspond to your targeted, high-volume keywords; but they should be differential.
The partial or phrase match anchor type also includes a keyword for a specific page, but this time without any localization. It also covers some other words that make up long tail versions of keywords.
5. Branded Anchor Text
These are all anchors that include your brand name. They anchors can also appear as brand name with a keyword.
6. Hybrid Anchor Texts
Hybrid anchors target various branded and non-branded keywords that are still important to a website.
Let’s look at an example of a hybrid anchor text in one of Positionly’s blog posts: Everything You Need to Know About Meta Descriptions. And a hybrid anchor text for this post would be “what is a meta description?,” “types of meta descriptions,” “Is a meta description necessary for my on-page SEO?,” “meta description SEO best practices” and so on.
7. Other types of anchors
Anchor text also occurs in the form of LSI Keywords (LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing). Such keywords basically refer to the indirect variations of your main keyword and synonyms for a target phrase… or in the case of blog posts, anchors can be an author’s name or a title tag. You can explore your anchors using Unamo’s backlinks tool.
Once you log in, click on the backlink section located in the left margin of the dashboard to view a table with all your links and their specific anchor texts:
Anchor Text Manipulation
As the anchor text is an important element of content relevancy valuation, some SEOs try to abuse link building by featuring one targeted anchor texts on a commercial scale and acquiring links with the same anchors. We call it anchor text manipulation.
When It Comes to Excessive Anchor Text Usage
A) Excessive anchor text usage refers to SEOs targeting one anchor text on an extreme scale. You should minimize keyword-rich anchors as they could negatively impact your backlink profile if used repetitively.
I’ve found Dr. Peter J. Meyers’ response to such an occurrence:
If you’re targeting one phrase over and over, most of your links are built/paid (not “natural”) and that phrase is keyword-loaded without reflecting your brand, you’re probably pushing too hard. Diversification is very important. I think targeting is important, to a point, but it’s really easy to overthink it. – source
B) Excessive anchor text usage also happens when there are too many anchors on a page. This is similar to keywords stuffing as both are based on pretty much the same idea. You should limit the number of external links within one page.
Natural Anchor Text
Natural anchor texts are created organically by users without any interference and control of a webmaster who owns or manages a linked-to site. These anchors usually differ between each other – which is good – and they are always relevant to a source.
People tend to link to content using the anchor of either the domain name or the title of the page. That’s good for your website’s SEO. However, naturally acquired anchors can be useless to SEO too. For instance, when a user adds a naked URL pointing to your page, no SEO value is obtained.
The Most Important Anchor Text
Lately, I’ve spotted a very interesting article on Search Engine Journal written by Adam White who is a great SEO expert and founder of SEOJet. Adam tells the story of working on SEO for a big customer and a research that he has conducted in order to identify the most powerful anchor text for SEO, to build a natural backlink profile and improve site’s rankings.
According to what he discovered, the most important anchor text type was Page Title/Blog Post Title! And this finding is awesome because using a Page Title/Blog Post Title as an anchor text for a blog post is a very natural and straightforward way to refer to a resource.
Feel free to dive into deets: The Single Best Anchor Text for SEO That No One Is Talking About
Anchor Text SEO Best Practices
Trying to determine what a page is about and what queries it answers, search engines look for whether particular content is relevant to a buyer’s intent. They evaluate content relevancy that’s based on many contributing metrics in their algorithms.
These parameters cover on-page factors, behavioral factors and off-page factors such as the number of backlinks, quality of backlinks, the number of referring domains, quality of referring domains and anchors. To be specific, Google Penguin is an algorithm responsible for anchor evaluation. Penguin tries to determine if anchors were acquired naturally or manipulated.
Another SEO rule regarding anchors that should be remembered refers to the prior importance of the first anchor text on a page. If you link the same URL on one page twice, Google will only consider the first anchor text. This thesis is based on various experiments and described by Marta Gryszko.
Be careful naming your anchors. Diversify them and always add a link to a naturally related part of the sentence in your copy. Minimize the use of exact-match anchors to 1% or even less.
Be sure that you link to high-quality websites only, as the quality of your on-page links affects the SEO quality of your website. In other words, if you link to spammy sites you will be seen as spam too.
Track upcoming anchors which your website receives, and react if any actions seem unnatural to you. You should be on the alert and ensure you are not over-optimizing, nor using particular anchors extensively.
Write guest articles for relevant websites to create new and high-quality backlinks with beneficial anchors to improve your SEO results. And most importantly, build links and anchors organically.
Also published on Medium.