Anchor text is the part of a link that is visible to users and it is important for SEO for many reasons. What you write as anchor text, for both internal and external links, can positively or negatively influence your rankings.
In this post, you’ll learn what is anchor text and how to optimize it correctly by avoiding over optimization that can lead to Google penalties.
We’ll also examine the differences between creating anchor text for internal and external links and what to consider when building incoming links for your website.
- What is anchor text?
- Different Types of Anchor Text
- Best SEO Practices for Anchor text
- Anchor text and Google Penalties
- Anchor Text best practices for Internal links
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is the part of the link that is clickable and visible to users. It is placed between the opening <a href> and closing anchor tag </a>. Here is an example of an anchor text:
<a href="https://example.com">This is an anchor text</a>
Here is another example of anchor text in Google Search results.
Google is using the pagetitle value as the anchor text for their search snippets.
What does the anchor text do?
The anchor text gives a strong indication to both search engines and users about the page you’re linking to.
A hyperlink that you add to your site can either point to other pages on your site (that’s an internal link) or to pages on other websites (that’s an external link).
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In both cases, by providing for a meaningful anchor text, you help search engine crawlers and users understand what the target page is all about.
Here is another example of an anchor text used for an internal link. By looking at the value “on-page SEO”, you know that if you click the link, you will read more about the topic.
Different Types of Anchor Text
There are different types of anchor text you can use when creating a hyperlink.
If you are new to SEO, you first need to understand the terminology so that you can follow the guidelines outlined below.
- Branded – using your brand name as anchor text, for example: Reliablesoft
- URL – using the permalink of a page without text, for example: https://www.reliablesoft.net/seo-strategy/
- Domain name – using your domain name as anchor texts, for example: reliablesoft.net
- Generic – used very often, for example: read more, or click here
- Exact match keywords – using keywords for the link, for example: “You can learn more about SEO Keywords and…”
- Partial match – using keywords with additional text, for example: “You can download our SEO checklist.”
- Page Title – using the page title as is, for example: “The Ultimate DIY SEO Tutorial (Step by Step) For Beginners”
Best SEO Practices for Anchor text
Although anchor texts have been around since the beginning of the Internet, still a lot of webmasters don’t follow best practices when writing them.
Writing optimized anchor text for both your internal and external links can help your SEO in a number of ways.
- Optimized anchor text in internal links can help search engines understand the site structure
- Anchor text in incoming links can help you rank higher for specific search terms.
- Good anchor text in external links helps users understand if this is a link they want to click.
Choose meaningful text
Try to use meaningful anchor text in your links. A meaningful anchor text in this case, gives an idea of what to expect to find in terms of content, when clicking the link.
When choosing an anchor text:
- Avoid using generic words like ‘click here’, ‘this’, ‘read this’, ‘read more’ etc. These words don’t give enough clue to search engines on what the linked page is about.
- Avoid using text that is not related to the content of the linked page.
Avoid using the URL of a page as the anchor text
In many cases webmasters may use the URL of a page (also known as Naked URL) as the anchor text.
Although it will not create any problems, it’s not the best practice, so use it when really necessary. A better alternative is to use the page title as the anchor text.
Write short anchor text
Write short anchor text that is concise and without too many words. If it has a lot of words, it’s more difficult for search engines to understand it.
Example of a good anchor text:
<a href="https://example.com">What is anchor text</a>
Example of a ‘bad’ anchor text:
<a href="https://example.com">Anchor text is defined as the link that is clickable</a>
Format links differently from normal text
Links should be easy for users to spot. Best practices include making the link color different than the text color.
See in this article how easy is to differentiate my links from the rest of the text.
Anchor text and Google Penalties
One of the reasons that anchor text is important for SEO has to do with links. Here is a simple explanation of how these two are related.
Incoming links are still one of the most critical search engine ranking factors.
Links pointing from one website to another are considered by search engine algorithms as ‘votes of trust’. A website with links from other websites is likely to rank higher in the SERPS than a website with no backlinks.
The process of promoting your website to get more backlinks is called off-page SEO.
One of the factors that play a role on how valuable a link is, is the anchor text.
The reason is that the anchor of an incoming link, gives search engines a big clue as to which keywords the particular page should rank.
Recommended Reading: What are backlinks
Let me give you an example to understand this better:
Website A links to Website B as follows:
<a href=https://www.websiteB.com/courses >SEO Courses</a>
When search engine crawlers find this link, they understand two things:
- That website A trusts website B, that’s why it’s referencing it by adding a link
- That the particular page on website B is about SEO Courses
So far so good. Everything was done according to the guidelines (as explained above).
The problems begin when:
- Website A received a monetary compensation to add the link
- The content on website A is not related to SEO courses or training
- Website A constantly links out to other websites using optimized anchor text
- Website A and Website B agreed to exchange links
When Google finds out that the link was not placed naturally it will impose a penalty on both websites or devalue and ignore the links.
Recommended Reading: How do I know if Google Penalized my site
Here is the exact quote from Google guidelines related to anchor text over optimization:
In the SEO World, the algorithm that particularly targeted optimized anchor text is known as Penguin.
How to avoid anchor text over optimization
If you’re confused by now as to whether you should optimize your anchor text or not, don’t worry you are not alone.
Here is what you should do.
When linking out, follow these three simple rules:
#1. Link out to websites that you trust. If you don’t trust a website make the links nofollow.
This will instruct search engines not to pass any link juice or pagerank from your website to the linked website. When a link has the nofollow attribute, the anchor text is ignored as well.
#2. Avoid using exact match keywords as the anchor text but still keep it short and relevant.
For example instead of doing this
<a href="example.com">SEO Strategy</a> do this
<a href="example.com">follow this SEO strategy</a>
#3. You can link to website using their brand name. For example, if you would like to link to this article without using keywords, you could say “According to Reliablesoft….”. (Reliablesoft in the anchor text for the link). This is always a safe practice to follow.
When building incoming links for your website:
When running link building campaigns and you’re in position to control the anchor text used for the links, follow the guidelines below:
#1. Use a variety of anchor text types – Don’t use exact match keywords but use a variety of anchor text types. You can use partial match, page title, brand name and still give Google the right signals.
#2. Review your link profile – A ‘normal’ link profile should have all types of anchor text in the incoming links. Review your link profile and make sure that it looks natural. A profile with only exact match keywords is not the normal.
#3. Avoid building low quality links – Anchor text is just one of the factors that determine how valuable a link is. Other factors include the website that is placed, authority of the domain and relevancy of the content. Don’t go out and start building any kind of links but concentrate on the links that matter, without worrying too much about getting exact match links.
Recommended Reading: What is a natural link
Anchor Text best practices for Internal links
When it comes to creating anchor text for internal links, it’s a totally different story.
You should follow all the guidelines explained above without worrying about over optimization.
Google repeatedly mentioned that there is no anchor text over-optimization penalty for internal links.
If you take a closer look at the article you’re reading now, I have used different types of anchor text for the internal links. Most of them are exact match and others are page title.
What you should avoid is:
- Adding internal links for search engines only. The primary role of internal links is to help users find out more about a specific topic so add links when it makes sense.
- You can use generic anchor text like ‘read more’, ‘click here’ but don’t overdo it. Try to stick to the guidelines of making your links meaningful and concise.
Recommended Reading: Internal Linking Best Practices
Anchor text is the clickable part of a link that users see. It is important for SEO because it gives search engines a big clue about the content of the linked page.
It is true that the Google guidelines about anchor text usage are contradicting. They first instruct us to use short and concise values and then, they might penalize a website for doing so.
You can save yourself from trouble by using a variety of values for both your external and incoming links. Keeping a balance and avoid exaggerations is always a good SEO practice.
Finally, don’t worry about over optimizing the anchor text of your internal links. There is no such penalty.