What Is Anchor Text

Link Building
Link factors remain one of the strongest signals for search engine ranking algorithms. It is difficult to promote a site without quality links for highly competitive queries. The quality and consistency of link building affect a project’s ranking in Google and its potential.

What Is Anchor Text | SEO Anchor Text Best Practices

When posting links, many webmasters focus on the quality of donors and communication with site owners and forget about the importance of proper integration of backlinks in the content of the donor site.

1. What Is Anchor Text and Why Is It Important for SEO?

Anchor text is a hyperlink text between the <a> HTML tags. It is accessible to users and usually consists of keywords or phrases that show visitors to the site what content they will see after they proceed to an external resource.

Anchor text should be clickable so that users don’t have problems clicking on its active element. Sometimes, errors in JavaScript code block the possibility of click-through, and visitors have to manually copy the URL, but this rarely happens.

In the HTML code of a page, a hyperlink looks like this:

<a href="https://google.com">optimized anchor text</a>

In the browser, users see only the text, which is formatted in accordance with CSS styles. Links are usually highlighted in bold, underlined, or their color changes upon pointing a mouse on them. Sometimes, complex animation effects are used to increase user engagement.

The approach to link text design determines clickability and user experience. Often, you can see poorly designed hyperlinks that do not provoke a desire to click on an external resource or at least look where the URL leads.

Anchor text is important for search crawlers. They analyze the anchor text content, the surrounding text, and the content of the page to get a better idea of what the link is about. If the link does not match the content of the landing page, algorithms may consider it unnatural.

The effectiveness of link building largely depends on the approach to creating anchors. If a webmaster focuses on one type of anchor and uses keywords everywhere, the site may be penalized by Google, and the future of the project will be threatened.

Before 2012, optimizers had complete freedom of action and the possibility to quickly promote pages to the top of search results using over-optimized anchors. It was only necessary to insert the main keywords into the link, post them on popular resources, and the site could gain visibility in a matter of days.

In April 2012, Google released its Penguin algorithm, which was designed to find and analyze pages with spammy anchor texts. If a site comes under the algorithm’s visual field and gets a lot of penalty points, Google Penguin can downgrade it in the rankings or exclude pages from search engine rankings altogether.

Webmasters use keyword anchors even now, but everyone knows that over-optimization can be followed by penalties. The text of the hyperlink should be relevant to the content and not consist of a large number of search phrases in exact match.

Many optimizers know how important anchor text for SEO is. It is one of the signals helping search engines understand text content. If a page is about choosing dog food, and links lead to a car repair shop, the mismatch will attract the attention of Google algorithms.

Updates for Google Penguin are no longer released, but back in 2016, it became part of the «core» of the main ranking algorithm. There is no reason to doubt that even today, search crawlers analyze links, surrounding text, and page content to find unnatural backlinks.

John Mueller’s tweet about link context in connection with anchors

2. Different Types of Anchor Texts with Examples

Optimizers who don’t care much about a site’s search engine ranking usually don’t pay enough attention to composing anchors. They prefer to add keywords wherever they can and do not realize that such hyperlinks can have a negative impact on site visibility.

Not all webmasters understand the importance of developing the right anchors. A high budget for link building becomes useless if you ignore the basic rules of posting links. For example, if the owner of the local project in English actively builds up backlinks from foreign sites, does not keep track of anchors, and disregards checking donor sites, such links are unlikely to be useful.

Anchor text of a link is one of the pillars of successful link building. If you remember that backlinks affect ranking, it is easy to conclude that the quality of anchors partly depends on the effectiveness of site promotion.

There are several types of anchor texts, each of which has its own features. For example, anchors are often used with branded keywords: the name of the project, company, or products. They increase recognition by search crawlers and target users.

2.1. Generic

Generic anchors consist of text without search phrases or product names. They usually motivate the user to click on the link with the help of triggers. In the example below, the hyperlink text conveys a specific action.

<a href="https://google.com">follow the link</a>

If you post only a link on the page and don’t associate it with the text surrounding it, site visitors won’t understand how it’s related to the page content. And few people will want to click on the selected segment to go to an external resource.

Generic anchors are useful because they rarely attract the attention of search algorithms. When anchor text contains no keywords, there is no need to fear penalties. But if the hyperlink should generate traffic, you must make the anchor as relevant to the page content as possible.

2.2. Branded

The importance of anchor text for branded queries lies in the promotion of a specific project or product. Search engine algorithms carefully analyze references and recognize their context. If users often leave negative reviews, this will affect the reputation of the brand.

<a href="https://google.com">Google is the world’s best search engine</a>

Anchors with branded queries increase project or company awareness and protect from search engine penalties. They can be used along with general queries to diversify your anchor list and build up a natural link mass.

Some SEO specialists recommend that companies rely on branded anchor texts and increase their share in the anchor list up to 50%. There are no definite rules about it, but such a ratio can be useful for commercial projects.

2.3. Exact-match

When optimizers talk about backlinks with anchor text, in most cases, they mean hyperlinks with the integration of search phrases in exact match. They help gain high positions on SERPs when used correctly.

<a href="https://google.com">buy flowers in New York</a>

Google algorithms closely monitor all links, but they pay special attention to backlinks without the nofollow attribute, containing anchors with exact-match keywords. They also include commercial anchor texts used by online stores, SaaS services, and other e-commerce projects.

Exact-match anchors are the most effective for SEO, but they are considered dangerous. If the share of such links in the profile of the site will be too high, instead of high positions, the site may be penalized by Google.

2.4. Phrase-match

Phrase-match anchor text is not as effective as an exact-match one, but it is far less problematic for a site ranking in a search engine. Phrase matching is a combination of a keyword and additional words.

<a href="https://google.com">buy our flowers in New York</a>

The text contains a key phrase, for which, the site should rank high, but by diluting the anchor with additional words, you can reduce the vigilance of Google algorithms and make the link appear natural.

2.5. Partial-match

Partial-match anchor text implies the use of keywords in different forms along with words relevant to the content of the text and the site to which the link leads.

<a href="https://google.com">recommend buying flowers in New York here</a>

The anchor includes a keyword and additional words to make the text natural. Partial-match anchors have less impact on SEO than exact-match and phrase-match anchors.

2.6. Anchor text as a link (naked link)

In some cases, it is beneficial to use anchors in the form of URLs. They are a clickable address of the page of an external resource. A click will lead to the site, and users will see its content.

<a href="https://google.com">google.com</a>

The effectiveness of using links with anchor text as URL depends on the approach to creating the text around the link. If the visitor reads the content and understands the context, a link with a «bare» URL will be as effective as a hyperlink with a keyword.

Google treats URL links well because webmasters don’t use them to manipulate ranking algorithms. Nevertheless, even such backlinks increase the site traffic due to passing link juice.

2.7. Images

Experienced webmasters know that the best way to hide a link is to integrate it into an image. The method is actively used by link builders for posting hyperlinks on moderated projects that adhere to a strict policy regarding references to external resources.

<a href="https://google.com"><img src="https://google.com/1.png"></a>

Image links are useful for creating a natural link profile. The more types of anchors a webmaster uses, the less the likelihood of penalties from Google and the greater the chance of gaining high positions in organic search results.

3. Everything You Need to Know About Anchor Text in HTML

You can learn how to create anchor text in HTML in a few minutes. It’s enough to learn the basic rules and practice a little. If you use a ready-made content management system, you don’t even have to open an HTML editor to create links with the right anchors.

For example, in WordPress, there are two formats for displaying content: visual and HTML. To create a link, you don’t have to switch to a code view mode. Just select a piece of text, paste the link via the toolbar, set the necessary attributes — and that’s it.

When posting links to external resources, you need to make sure that the source code does not contain extra characters and that the text is clickable. Search crawlers take into account even inactive links, but users will have to copy the URL manually to read the content.

One more important point is setting nofollow, UGC, and sponsored link attributes. Each of them has a specific task and should be used correctly. For example, you can combine attributes to protect a link from passing juice and mark it as sponsored.

<a href="https://google.com" rel="nofollow sponsored">google.com</a>

It is easy to learn the rules of creating hyperlinks, but you need to pay more attention to optimizing anchors and text surrounding the link to benefit from link building. However, you should not forget about the HTML syntax — for example, when you post a link inside a label, you should make sure that the structure is correct.

4. What Is an Anchor List and How to Create It?

When beginners in search engine optimization already know what anchor text is and have received basic knowledge of working with hyperlinks in SEO, it is time to proceed to the next important step — creating an anchor list.

An anchor list is a list of all anchors that will be used in the link-building process. It is usually compiled at the beginning of link promotion and is adjusted according to the dynamics of the site’s visibility in the organic search results.

The quality of an anchor list depends on the effectiveness of link building and the level of risk. If a webmaster is actively using exact-match anchors, which make up 90% of all links, the risk of penalties is very high.

4.1. Analyze your competitors

The first step on the way to compiling a quality anchor list is to analyze link profiles of sites that occupy the leading positions in the niche. It is best to choose competitors that have long had good visibility and do not lose it.

Optimizers often use the strategy of copying the SEO approaches of projects that have gained good visibility in recent months. Search engine marketing services like Ahrefs or Semrush can help analyze their anchor lists.

4.2. Highlight priority pages

It is not necessary to buy links for all pages of the site, even if a large budget is allocated for promotion. It’s better to increase the link weight of priority pages that should generate traffic in the future. Anchor best practices will help you get more benefits from posting links.

For a commercial project, the list of important pages should include the home page, categories, and product or service pages. For an informational site, the emphasis should be on content pages that contain integrated search phrases.

If the main goal of link building is to attract more users, it is possible to apply Time-sensitive content, which implies a short lifespan of up to 24 hours. The effectiveness of such links for the profile will be low, but with the right choice of donors, a steady flow of referral traffic will increase the audience.

4.3. Find keywords

Finding keywords is one of the basic tasks of website optimization. A list of queries, for which the resource will be promoted in search engines, will also help in the creation of an anchor list. It is necessary to refer to pages using relevant text and add keywords.

It is important to find not only high-frequency search queries but all relevant phrases. Links with anchors consisting of low-frequency keywords are great for generating traffic at the early stages of website promotion. And they are followed by more competitive queries over time.

4.4. Properly distribute different anchor types

Optimizers cannot agree on the distribution of different types of anchor texts on anchor lists. Some recommend focusing on exact-match anchors, while others insist on safe anchors, such as naked links and images.

The optimal ratio of anchors should be determined based on the features of the project and the analysis of the situation in the niche. If the leaders use 80% of commercial anchors, you should not copy their strategy, but if you choose a different format, it will be more difficult to succeed.

5. Best Anchor Text Practices in 2021

Even beginner optimizers know how to create anchor text in HTML code, but they have many gaps in knowledge in terms of SEO. These gaps should be filled at the start of the project promotion, so that after a few months, one will not have to come up with a new link-building strategy.

It is incorrect to assert that anchors must necessarily consist only of keywords. But their impact on page visibility in search engines has long been known. Also, do not forget about the quality of formatting links: the title attribute, the relevance of the anchor to the topic of the page, and anchor update when necessary.

5.1. Make sure anchor text is clickable

If users are supposed to click the link, anchor text should be clickable. Not everyone will want to spend time copying the URL manually and pasting it into the browser’s bar.

Sites occasionally have problems with JS code, and links become non-clickable. To solve the problem, you need to contact the programmer or administrator of the external resource.

5.2. Choose relevant anchors

The anchor text of the internal link or backlink, which refers to an external resource, should correspond to the content of the page. Adhering to the basic rules of security to avoid sanctions is necessary, but you should not sacrifice the convenience for users.

For example, if a page describing the services of search engine optimization has a link to covers for smartphones, this looks suspicious for search engines and users alike. And even if the topics of the donor and recipient sites match overlap, the anchor will not be attractive for clicking on it.

5.3. Don’t use too many keywords

Quality anchor text is a combination of keywords and additional words in a user-friendly format. Even if an optimizer does not want to generate traffic to the site from external resources, one must take care of users.

It is definitely worth using anchors with keywords, but you should know the limit. If such anchors constitute more than half of the anchor list and there will be a lot of over-spammed phrases, both search engine rankings and the trust of the audience of donors sites can be affected.

5.4. Make the text natural

You can use keywords in anchors in different ways, but it’s worth bearing in mind that Google and other search engine algorithms have long learned to understand the context and analyze morphology. The keyword «flowers New York price with discount» looks unnatural, although users may use such phrases for search.

A readable anchor with a keyword can positively affect the ranking of the page under promotion and will not confuse people who will see it on the site when they view the content.

5.5. Make sure the anchor text is concise

There are no definitive requirements for anchor length, but experienced SEO specialists recommend making it concise. Ideally, anchor text should consist of 2-5 words. On some sites, you can find examples of anchor texts consisting of entire sentences, but you should not follow this approach.

Both search engines and users, who can theoretically click the link, treat concise anchors well. Be sure to take into account the length factor when creating the anchor list.

5.6. Diversify the list of anchors

The ratio of different types of anchors in the anchor list must be defined individually for each project. First, you need to analyze the situation in the niche, identify priority types of anchor texts, and fix anomalies.

Some optimizers prefer to use a random ratio in anchor lists, but this does not always work. For example, for a commercial project, you need to focus on branded anchors and anchors with keywords.

As a source of high-quality anchor lists, you can use the data of link exchangers: analyze a few popular resources and see what anchors are allowed to be used by advertisers.

At the PRPosting exchanger, you can solve this problem by using convenient filters for language, region, domain zone, domain link metrics, and other parameters. You should not analyze the entire list of results, but examining only 5-10 options is also not enough.

6. The Optimal Ratio of Anchors for Safe Link Building

There are many recommendations for composing the anchor text of a backlink, but there is no perfect formula for the ratio of different types of anchors. SEO specialists, search engine researchers, and Google representatives often talk about anchors, but this information should be treated carefully.

Effective website promotion is always associated with experimentation, analysis of different approaches, and the search for the ideal development strategy. Do not forget that the situation in the niche can change overnight, and focusing on anchors with diluted keywords will cease to be beneficial.

For a commercial project, the ratio of anchors can be as follows:

  • branded ­ 60%
  • exact-match ­ 5%
  • phrase-match ­ 5%
  • partial-match ­ 10%
  • naked links ­ 10%
  • images ­ 10%

Example for an information project with the exact-match keyword in the domain:

  • branded ­ 15%
  • naked links ­ 50%
  • exact-match ­ 10%
  • partial-match ­ 10%
  • images ­ 15%

An anchor list depends not only on the project characteristics but also on the link-building strategy. If an optimizer focuses on crowd-marketing, links from profiles, and other natural link-building methods, it will not always be possible to use anchors with keywords.

7. Bottom line

Link building is a crucial part of a website promotion strategy, and a lot of attention needs to be paid to anchors. It is necessary to not only take into account anchor text but use a comprehensive strategy.

It is necessary to create non-standard approaches, analyze competitors’ sites, find a balance between naturalness and optimization on Google recommendations. If the project was launched a few months ago, you should not expect rapid progress only thanks to links. SEO is always a long-distance run, not a marathon.

Kyryk Oleksandr
SEO Consultant

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