Google’s Penguin update in 2012 drastically changed the SEO landscape. Websites with toxic and spammy backlinks were penalized. Google also started considering the anchor text of backlinks and internal links as a parameter to evaluate a website’s relevance and authority. This made anchor text optimization a necessity that can no longer be overlooked.
Gone are the days when website owners could get away with black hat tactics such as using sponsored and spammy links. You can no longer just embed links to any text that you want within your post if you want to gain search engine visibility. Proper anchor text optimization requires that you take a closer look at your link profile and use better, more relevant anchor texts.
This will help search engines associate your website and web pages with the most relevant topics. And with proper anchor text optimization, you should be able to rank higher in relevant search results.
That is why it’s crucial for today’s marketers and website owners to focus on anchor text optimization. Before we discuss this further, let’s first take a look at what anchor text is.
Understanding Anchor Text
Simply put, anchor text is the clickable and visible portion of a hyperlink. It is the text that you use to link to pages on your own website or other websites. It can be used to help a user navigate through your website or direct them to another credible source of information.
Image via Expert Photography
In the above screenshot, the terms, “wedding photography,” and “photography niches” have been used as anchor text. It is important to note that the subheading, "25 Tips for the Amateur Wedding Photographer," is also being used as an anchor text here.
Types of Anchor Text
Knowing the different types of anchor text makes it easier for you to develop an anchor text optimization strategy.
As the name suggests, it uses the same words and phrases as the target keyword of a particular web page. You can use as many of these anchor texts as you’d like for your internal links and Google wouldn’t penalize you for it.
However, if all or too many backlinks to your site have only exact match anchor texts when linking to you, it may raise suspicion. This could land your website with a penalty for over-optimization.
This uses the target keyword along with other terms and phrases. Using partial match anchor text enables you to use your keywords more seamlessly and naturally. It is an effective way of establishing the authority and relevance of a web page.
It helps your audience understand where the link might lead them to.Also, it enables search engine bots to understand what your web page is about. At the same time, it doesn’t come across as spammy and suspicious.
The following screenshot is from a blog post titled, "Local SEO: A Complete Guide to Outrank Your Competitors.” As you can see, the anchor text is, "extremely important for local SEO." But the target keyword for this page is "local SEO." So this anchor text is a partial match.
Image via Spyfu
This is similar to partial match anchor text, except that it contains more words. It allows you to utilize your keywords without raising any suspicion. It also makes your links more contextual by describing what type of information they are linking to.
Image via SpyFu
LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing refers to the different variations of your target keyword. A simple way of retrieving LSI keywords is to run a Google search using your keyword. The “searches related to” shows you the variations that people use in their searches.
For instance, when you run a Google search for, “influencer marketing ROI,” it reveals the following LSI keywords:
Image via Google
Using LSI keywords in your anchor text enhances the relevance of your web page and makes it more search-friendly. However, this will only work when you select the LSI keywords that can be seamlessly integrated into your content.
Branded Anchor Text
This type of anchor text uses a brand name. It can be instrumental in strengthening brand authority and credibility.
Image via SpyFu
When your website attracts several backlinks using branded anchor text, search engines perceive it as a sign of quality and authority. However, over-linking to a particular brand might come across as suspicious.
Naked Anchor Text
This involves using a website’s URL as anchor text. This is largely unhelpful and interrupts the flow of your content.
It can be off-putting for website visitors and positions you as a brand that is not very technically adept. So it shouldn’t be a part of your anchor text optimization strategy.
Generic Anchor Text
This type uses simple phrases such as, “see more,” “click here,” “read more,” etc. These types of anchor text are very frequently used to maintain the flow of content.Also, when positioned correctly, they can be used as calls-to-action (CTAs).
However, it makes no contribution to your inbound link profile or your anchor text optimization strategy. This is because they don’t help search engines understand what type of content you are linking to.
To build a diverse anchor text profile, it is recommended that you use image anchors as well. Visual-based anchors such as images and buttons can also be used as CTAs. However, make sure it is evident to the reader that the image is clickable.
When you use image anchors, search engines will treat the alt text of the image as the anchor text. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize the image alt text to optimize your anchor text. In the absence of alt text, Google reads it as a noText anchor.
By now, you have a good understanding of the different types of anchor text. So it’s time to take a closer look at the strategies involved in anchor text optimization.
Understanding Anchor Text Optimization
The selection and distribution of anchor text determines the relevance and authority of a particular web page. It is evident that anchor text optimization has a significant impact on your website’s search engine rankings. Therefore, an excellent SEO strategy should focus on anchor text optimization as well.
The words and phrases you use should be consistent with the topic of the embedded link. It helps search engine bots understand where the anchor text is pointing to. This, in turn, enables these bots to determine the relevance of the web page.
It is also equally important from your audience’s point of view. If you want website visitors to click on a particular link, you have to indicate where it is going to take them.
Let’s say you are writing a blog post on the topic, “content marketing best practices.” If you want to link this article to an SEO guide, you have to use a relevant anchor text. In this case, embedding the link with terms like “influencer marketing,” or “PPC advertising,” will mislead both your readers and search engines.
If a reader clicks on anchor text that says, “ultimate SEO guide,” they expect to get more information on that particular topic. Any discrepancy in this regard can drive your audience away.
Select and Distribute Judiciously
A critical aspect of anchor text optimization is distributing different anchor text in your content in a natural and unsuspicious manner. Overusing exact match anchor text may trigger Google’s spam filter and get your website penalized.
Therefore, you should use different variations of your target keyword to craft anchor text and disperse it optimally in your content. As discussed previously, you can choose from a wide range of branded, LSI, long-tail, generic, and partial match keywords.
When it comes to anchor text distribution, there is no ideal ratio. It depends on the type of content you create and the niche in which you operate. The key is to use all the different types of anchor text naturally in your content.
An effective way of determining the optimal distribution ratio is to run a Google search for your target keyword. You can use a backlink checker tool like SpyFu to view the anchor text profile of the top five search results.
Determine the anchor text distribution for each one of these results and compute the average. This will give you the niche-specific optimal anchor text distribution.
Keep It Natural
It might be tempting to use your target keywords and their variations in your anchor text. However, it is more important to craft one in a language and tone that is easily understood by your audience.
Let’s say your target keyword is, “oncologist New Jersey.” Using this phrase in your anchor text can be detrimental to the overall flow of your content. It will also affect the quality and credibility of your content.
Instead, you can optimize your anchor text by tweaking your keyword slightly to form a meaningful phrase that your readers can understand. For instance, you can use terms like, “best oncologists in New Jersey,” or “oncologist clinics in New Jersey.”
Monitor Performance and Quality
Your anchor text optimization strategy will fail to yield any results unless you track and test your anchor text. This will help you avoid over-optimization and detect any problems quickly.
Perhaps you might even come across websites that are linking back to you and using unacceptable anchor text. In this case, you’ll need to reach out to them and request that they make changes that will fit your anchor text optimization strategy.
In addition, you should also check the quality of the websites linking to you. Make sure they aren’t linking to any suspicious website, which could negatively affect your backlink profile.
It is high-time that digital marketers and website owners recognize the impact of anchor text optimization on search engine rankings. Over-optimizing your anchor text can get your website penalized. On the other hand, not optimizing it at all prohibits you from leveraging the various benefits of anchor text optimization.
The first step is to learn about the various types of anchor text and integrate them naturally into your content. It is also crucial to use terms that are relevant to the content of the embedded link.