Anchor text is the bit of clickable text you will find in online articles. It usually appears in a different colour and sometimes it is underlined. When you click on it, it takes you to a different web page that the original site links to. It is generally a page where you can verify claims made in the article you were reading. In other cases, it is a different page from the same site, related to the topic of the article. Today, we will show you how to optimise anchor text for SEO and why it is important to do so.
Is Anchor Text a Google Ranking Factor?
Anchor text per se is not a ranking factor. However, it plays an important role in any SEO strategy. First of all, you must understand the role of anchor text. It has to offer the reader an explanation of sorts on why it is there in the first place. Why should they click on that coloured bit of text?
For this reason, many articles have a perfectly optimised anchor text in every place. It contains a literal description of what the link is about and is rich in keywords. For example, if a site links to another site detailing local SEO strategies for law firms, the anchor text will be “local SEO strategies for law firms”.
However, there is a problem: two Google algorithm updates – Penguin and Panda – penalise over-optimised anchor text. According to data collected by SEO specialists, the 2018 Penguin update resulted in penalties for 3.1% of all websites for over-optimised anchor text. If you think that’s a small percentage, in actual numbers, this means 4.89 million websites (out of a total 1.63 billion websites live online in 2018).
What Are the Main Types of Anchor Texts You Can Use?
Before we start explaining how to optimise anchor text for SEO and to avoid Google penalties, let us show you the choices you have. When deciding how to add a link into an article, you have the following options:
1. Naked Anchor Text
This is the simplest option, but not always the most effective. You simply type in the URL you want people to click on. This means that you don’t have to write the HTML code for anchor text (although WordPress and other user friendly CMS editors offer a quick option to add hyperlink by clicking a button).
This type of anchor text works in two cases:
- The URL is well known and belongs to a highly reputable source
- The URL is short.
In most cases, the source you want to link to does not meet both criteria, so you should generally avoid naked anchor text.
2. Exact Match Anchor Text
As shown in the example above, an exact match anchor text represents the main keyword you are targeting in the content piece. It is useful for SEO, but overdoing it may lead to Google penalties. As a general rule, you should not have an exact match anchor text for the same keyword on more than 2-3 pages of your site.
3. Partial Match Anchor Text
If you still want to target a keyword with anchor text, use variations, such as long tail or LSI keywords. For the example “local SEO strategies for law firms” you can create variations for the anchor text in this way:
- Discover local SEO for law firms
- Google Maps strategies for law firms
- Try local SEO for your law firm
There are many ways in which you can point a reader to a source without overusing the main keyword.
4. Branded Anchor Text
You can use the brand name of the source you link to as anchor text. This is extremely useful when you link to a highly reputable source, such as a top thought leader, a government entity, a university or scientific institution. People will read that well known name and trust implicitly both the source and your content. It is a win-win situation, so don’t shy from using branded anchor text whenever possible.
5. Generic Anchor Text
Generic anchor text is “click here” or “learn more”. It is the most basic type of anchor text and it is meant to draw the user’s attention on the fact that you want them to click on the link. There is no harm in using it a few times, but do not make a habit out of adding generic anchor text in your content.
6. Photo Anchor
Last but not least, the link to a different web page can be added on a photo. This is not very helpful, because not many people know that you can click or tap on photos to open a new link. Usually, they do this expecting to see a larger version of the image and may be confused when, instead, they land on a new web page.
How to Optimise Anchor Text for SEO
Now, let’s see how to create meaningful anchor text, which helps you avoid Google penalties and guide readers to check the source you link to. The basic rules for this type of optimisation are:
Use a Good Mix of All Types of Anchor Text
Variety is good both for Google and for readers. When deciding on a bit of text to use as anchor, consider what is more important in the reason you are linking:
- The topic
- The credibility of the source
- Drawing readers’ attention to the fact that you want them to click.
Once you’ve determined the top priority, you will know which type of anchor text to use. As a general rule, do not use the same type if you have more than one anchor text in the same article.
Match the Anchor Text to the Article Topic
When we speak about how to optimise anchor text for SEO, we refer to the golden rules of content writing for SEO and users. Make sure that the text fits seamlessly in the logic of the article and of the sentence. People must be able to tell it is anchor text by the different colour and underlining, not by the fact that it sticks out and does not belong in the sentence.
Keep It Succinct
You need to optimise anchor text for SEO in terms of length, as well. From the user’s point of view it should be long enough to be able to click or tap on it without doing target practice first. However, anchor text should not be too long, either. From a visual point of view, a long string of words in a different colour is not aesthetically pleasing.
Thus, your anchor texts should never be more than 3-4 words long.
Include Generic Anchor Text in a Relevant Context
Finally, to optimise anchor text for SEO, make sure that “click here”, “learn more” and other types of generic anchors are skilfully added in a sentence and do not stand out on their own. The anchor text is not a CTA, because you generally take users to a different website. Even if you link to another page in your site, you must keep in mind that is it mostly for reference purposes.
Anchor text is something that must naturally occur in written content, helping readers go to relevant sources of information you used in your article. While it does not help your site rank, it may hurt your ranking if you overuse keywords in it. This is why, the golden rule to optimise anchor text for SEO is a good mix of the different types we detailed in this article.