When you’re adding links to your website’s content, you’re probably more focused on the links themselves than the anchor text visitors will click on. But if you want to get the best possible search rankings and provide a superior user experience, you need to take anchor text into consideration too.
With seven effective tips for anchor text SEO, you’ll be able to create anchor text that both users and search engines will love.
- What Is Anchor Text?
- 1. Don’t Be Generic
- 2. Keep It Natural
- 3. Consider Keywords
- 4. Remember Relevance
- 5. Don’t Go Overboard
- 6. Take Advantage of Useful Tools
- 7. Heed Google’s Advice
What Is Anchor Text?
Even if you aren’t sure of the official definition of anchor text, you’ve probably seen it before—it’s the clickable text that’s visible on web pages and documents of all sorts, usually indicated by a different color (typically blue) and perhaps an underline.
You can see a prime example right in Google’s SERPs:
After being clicked, most anchor text will then appear purple until the browser’s search history is cleared:
But that’s far from the only type of anchor text—in fact, there are several varieties:
- Exact match: Anchor text that precisely matches the linked page’s primary keyword (i.e. chocolate chip cookies recipe for a page targeting that same phrase).
- Broad match: Anchor text that partially matches the linked page’s primary keyword (i.e. cookie recipe for a page targeting the phrase chocolate chip cookies recipe).
- Branded: Anchor text that consists solely of the linked page’s brand (i.e. Betty Crocker for a page on the Betty Crocker website).
- Generic: Anchor text that gives no indication of the linked page’s content (i.e. click here for a page on any topic).
- Naked: Anchor text that’s made up of the linked page’s URL and nothing more (i.e. www.example.com).
For users, the primary benefit of anchor text is that it allows for a seamless reading experience: Since it hides the linked page’s URL, it’s almost entirely unobtrusive.
For SEO practitioners, though, anchor text has even greater value. That’s because depending on the keywords it does (or doesn’t) contain, anchor text can help boost the linked page’s search engine ranking, and possibly even the ranking of the page it’s included on.
Here’s how: Search engine algorithms like Google’s consider both keywords and links when determining how a page should rank. Since anchor text contains both, it can be a particularly useful tool for SEO pros looking to give a competitive edge to the pages they’re optimizing.
1. Don’t Be Generic
One of the most fundamental rules of anchor text SEO is to avoid generic wording whenever possible. This includes commonly used phrases such as:
- click here;
- this website;
- this article;
- read more; and
You should refrain from using such wording because both users and search engine bots will have a hard time figuring out exactly what kind of page the anchor text is linking to. After all, there are over six billion Google results for the phrase click here alone:
So when you use such run-of-the-mill anchor text, you’re helping your links blend in rather than stand out.
Luckily, the solution to this problem is simple: Use descriptive, unique anchor text that clues readers and search engine bots in on the type of content the linked page contains.
2. Keep It Natural
Trust us, we get it: Sometimes you need to add an internal link to a page that looks awkward no matter what you do. Perhaps you can’t find a snippet of text that would work as the link’s anchor text, or maybe the linked page is just off-topic enough that linking to it wouldn’t make sense.
Whatever the case, always keep in mind that natural-sounding anchor text should be one of your top priorities.
Sometimes this means you’ll have to rewrite some of a page’s text to create appropriate anchor text for your link.
For instance, let’s say the website you’re optimizing just published some new research about social media use. To give it some link equity, you plan to link to it from one of the site’s other articles about social media. But when looking for a place to add the link, you’re stumped: None of the site’s other articles mention social media statistics specifically.
The answer is not to simply add some awkward wording, slap on a link and call it a day. Instead, take a little extra time to create anchor text that sounds natural and fluid. This is increasingly crucial as search engine algorithms become better and better at AI-driven natural language processing (NLP).
If you’re having trouble coming up with organic-sounding text, we recommend approaching the problem from a different angle: Rather than trying to find a place where your chosen link will fit, consider the type of content the linked page contains and determine what kind of anchor text would match it best.
Using the example above, you could analyze the new research and identify its most important finding—let’s say it’s that 100 percent of kittens are shockingly cute. That finding is what you should model the link’s anchor text after. Ensure the anchor text flows with the text surrounding it and you’re good to go.
3. Consider Keywords
In keeping with our first tip about avoiding generic anchor text, if you want to get any SEO benefits from your embedded links then you’ll need to include optimized keywords in their anchor text.
If you’re creating internal links, then strive to use each page’s primary keyword (or a close variation of it) in the anchor text, provided it sounds natural.
But if you’re creating external links, it’s actually polite to avoid using a page’s primary keyword in the anchor text, especially if you’re frequently linking to the same site. That’s because the more third-party sites that link to a page using its primary keyword, the more likely it is that Google will view those links as inauthentic or spammy.
So to help preserve the authority and trustworthiness of the sites you’re linking to, it’s best practice to use a secondary keyword in the anchor text or simply use branded anchor text instead.
4. Remember Relevance
Google—and all other modern search engines, for that matter—function by providing users with results that are as relevant to their queries as possible. If they didn’t, it would take a great deal of time for users to sift through a sea of uncurated results.
As such, it’s just as important for anchor text to be relevant as it is for it to be unique and natural.
To keep your anchor text relevant, try to only:
- add links when they point toward pages directly related to the topic at hand;
- link to pages which provide readers with valuable information; and
- link to sites known to be reliable, secure and truthful.
5. Don’t Go Overboard
As important as it is to include plenty of links in the interest of improving the user experience, passing link equity and eliminating orphan pages (pages without any incoming internal links), it’s equally important to avoid adding too many links to your site.
You’ve got unscrupulous webmasters to thank for this: In order to artificially boost their site’s rankings, some have been known to engage in link schemes. What are link schemes, exactly? As per Google’s guidelines, they can include:
- buying and/or selling links that pass equity and authority;
- excessive link exchanges (also known as reciprocal links);
- extensive article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-stuffed anchor text;
- automatically generated links; and
- links that are required as part of a terms of service or other contract.
While link schemes were especially prevalent in the early days of the internet, they still exist today and should be actively avoided for the sake of protecting your rankings.
Google also discourages links that may not necessarily be part of a link scheme but are nonetheless low-quality. These can include:
- any types of advertisements which pass link equity;
- links with keyword-rich anchor text embedded in press releases or news articles on third-party sites;
- substandard directory or bookmark site links;
- keyword-stuffed, concealed or low-quality links embedded in widely-distributed widgets;
- links repeatedly included in the headers or footers of various sites; and
- forum comments containing keyword-stuffed links.
So as a general rule of thumb, don’t include more than one link to a given URL on any single page, and certainly don’t add keyword-stuffed links to any portion of your site or its content.
6. Take Advantage of Useful Tools
You’re far from alone when it comes to mastering the art of anchor text SEO: There are several tools designed to make anchor text optimization easier, quicker and more effective. If you’re not at least experimenting with some of them then you’re surely missing out.
Take for example Linkio’s Anchor Text Suggestion Tool. This nifty tool allows you to receive SEO-friendly anchor text ideas by inputting your brand name, targeted keywords, page type and desired anchor text type:
If you’d like to instantly see what anchor text your site is already ranking for, you can also try using Seobility’s Anchor Text Checker. This one requires even less effort on your part—simply paste in a URL and click the green button:
7. Heed Google’s Advice
At the end of the day, Google holds a lot of sway over all things SEO—with a consistent global market share of about 90 percent, its dominance is undeniable.
As a result, it’s imperative for SEO professionals to consider the company’s input when shaping their anchor text SEO strategy. Fortunately, Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller offered some clear advice in a Google Search Central office hours video call on March 5, 2021.
During the call, one viewer asked: “What’s the best practice for anchor text wording on internal links as well as external links? For example, using the website name, the blog post title, exact match or LSI keywords?”
John first responded by clarifying the role of LSI keywords in SEO (or lack thereof):
He then went on to explain how SEO practitioners should approach anchor text for internal links:
Next, he addressed anchor text best practices for external links:
As for inbound links, John said that:
In summary, properly optimized anchor text is all about context, and if you make a link’s value clear to readers then you’ll also make it clear to search engines.
If you’d like to see John’s responses for yourself, you can watch the original office hours video below:
Don’t Let Anchor Text SEO Be an Afterthought
But if you take the time to address seemingly small elements like anchor text, then you’ll be able to make a big difference in your site’s SERP performance.
Screenshots by author / June 2021