Jul 11

Anchor Text – A Complete Guide To Anchor Text Optimisation

We all love writing content that works and that works well. We want our website pages to be seen by people, which means that we must make search engines like us, too. An easy way to do that? Use anchor text. Anchor text may make or mar your SEO and if you rely on SEO to improve your sales branding than ensuring that your anchor texts are varied is key.

What is an Anchor Text?

When you are reading along, and you see a link of several words within a normal text sentence, this is anchor text. It is text which is linked to an outside source.

Anchor text example

Anchor text can show up in a phrase within a sentence, be the full sentence itself, or even be put in a title or a subheading. No matter how you use anchor text, remember that it must be used sparingly and it must be relevant to the text that you are highlighting.

If the link of the anchor text and the phrase that you hyperlinked are two entirely different things, your readers will get a nasty shock if they try to follow the link out to get more information.

Avoid Exact Match Words

Don’t abuse exact match linking. You need to avoid all abuse of exact matching of the phrase you are linking and the text of the link itself. The only exception to this is branding, mentioned below.

However, even branding can be overused, and we recommend that you only use one branded link per page of your website and no more, regardless of if you are writing a very long article.

Avoid Generic Anchor Text

When you are linking out, make sure that it’s not just a hyperlinked “click here” or “on this page” link. Why? It’s boring, Google will not know what it means, and it takes some of the power out of your anchor links.

You want your readers not to have to think about your writing as they are browsing your webpage. Content maybe seldom used on your site, but it should be of very high quality.

Use Anchors In Images

Instead of linking from the text, you can create engaging pictures (or download them from free-share sites) and simply hyperlink them. Images are a great way to tell your customer what to do next. A large “Buy Now and Get This for Free!” button will be much more visible than a simple blue, highlighted “Buy Now” piece of text.

Clickable images also add style and beauty to your webpage. If you have a sales page, these buttons can be large and noticeable. If your website wants to advertise a friend’s site, the image can be large and ornate, with both their website name and matching imagery around it.

Clickable images

Use Similar Words Or Phrases

Similar, but not Exact. Keep anchor text using similar words or phrases to the link provided. Again, we want to entirely avoid exact phrases and matches to the words of the link itself. Linking exact words looks spammy to Google, and every other search engine and the effect will be a penalised web page. Instead, use similar wording to the wording of your link. It will seem more legitimate.

Examples: Match “blue argyle sweater” to a listing to a clothing site. Match “pink headphones” to a rainbow-coloured electronics site. If you want to link “custom personal computers” to a build-your-own-PC website, do you see how the text of the anchor text is similar to the link, but not identical to the website name in the link? That’s what you’re looking for.

Unnatural anchor text links

Don’t Use Naked Links

Don’t create text which is a hyperlinked hyperlink, like linking Amazon to “https://amazon.com” as if anyone wants to look at that.

Google still picks up naked links in their crawl but using naked links can degrade the aesthetics of the page. Naked links also are less helpful in suggesting whats behing the URL link.

Authoritative Sites versus Similar Sites

If you’re selling gym equipment, is it better to link to a New York Times article on gym equipment or link to another gym equipment site? Answer: The New York Times article about gym equipment. Reason? Google rankbrain evaluate the quality of the website to which you are linking.

You will want to start general and high quality (WebMD, Amazon product pages with at least 4 stars, The New York Times, and actual medical research in a real medical journal) and then move to more specific pages within these general, high-quality sites.

Are you linking to “yellow daffodil seeds”? First, search Google for that, and you will learn that daffodils don’t have seeds. They have bulbs. Modify your search and try again. You will find a lot of daffodil bulbs for sale, but if you want to link to a high-quality article about them, go to Huffington Post or the New York Times and type “daffodil bulbs” into their search bar at the top of the page. Pick an article which lines up with the subject of your own material. This is the best choice, not a place to buy daffodils (unless, again, it is an Amazon product page with at least 4 stars).

Latent Semantic Indexing

The beautiful LSI (sounds hard, but it isn’t!). Synonyms and similar keywords are part of LSI but, if you’re having problems finding related keywords, start to search for your site keywords on Google. It will have a convenient drop-down menu from which you can find other LSI matches. Easy and simple.

Example: Searching for “Ford Engine Re” into Google brings up “Ford Engine Rebuild Kits”, “Ford Engine Recall”, “Ford Engine Reviews”, “Ford Engine Repair”, “Ford Engine Replacement”, “Ford Engine Red Paint”, and “Ford Engine Rotation”. Do you think that you can come up with some ways to generate synonyms for your anchor text?

Match Anchor Text to Your Article Content

When you are looking for what words you should use for your anchor text, ensure you are using keywords which are similar to your original article topic (and related to the outside link). Do not just pick a random set of words from a sentence.

Example: Let’s say you are using this sentence, “We will read about African tigers, but we will certainly not go visit them.” You will want to hyperlink “African tigers”, not “certainly not go visit them”. Google will be confused by the vague and general expression of the second phrase.

Bad Sites degrade Your SEO

If Google looks at the quality of the sites to which you are linking, can you also go in the other direction? Can you link to bad sites which are toxic to your page? Yes, you can. You can quite easily link to poorly or seldom read websites, sites which are way over-optimised, and sites which keep being penalised by Google. Always use relevant, scholarly, and authoritative sites for your anchor text. Bad sites will poison anchor text, site rankings, and everything else! Ensure you perform an audit on your site to maintain anchor text consistency.

Even as a joke, avoid all porn sites, all sketchy sites, and any sites which are not visited by many people. Start with large product selling stores, well-known newspapers, authoritative advice and medical websites, scholarly journals, and research institutes. If you need more specific results than you are getting, search within these sites for generic phrases from your anchor text topic.

Linking to Your Own Site: Use Long Keyword Phrases

If you’re going to put anchor text in your article which will link to another page on your site,  you should use keyword phrases and link to an obscure or deep page, not short relevant descriptions. NEVER link to the homepage or one of the main tabs of your site. Google sees this behaviour as manipulative and spammy and will penalise you for it.

Link only to another article which has content which would genuinely help people. When you do this, pick a full phrase from within a sentence to hyperlink, not just a short, descriptive phrase. This will look more natural and organic to all search engines.

The general rule of thumb

You may be eager and ready to get started putting anchor text on all of your website pages. Whoa! Slow down, Nelly! Google will easily and quickly (in real time) penalise that specific webpage for being over-optimised. Google helps readers find new, interesting and informative content, so they penalise site that is deceiving or low quality. Be responsible and only use sparsely and wisely.

Google penaltyDilbert

Branded Links

Knowing whether or not to use branded links can be tricky. You can use branded links, using the brand name in the anchor text, but don’t use more than 2 per page. Brand links are quite popular and can link to a brand’s website or a specific article of clothing on their website or a product page for buying it on Amazon. Any of these things are relevant and supported by search engines.

However, only use 2 of these for every page of your website. It’s important not to oversell your links, and anchor text and if you are only allowed three links per 1,000 words of content you have written, you will want to make other sites count and only use brands sparsely within your already sparse anchor text.

Pick the most relevant clothing items, web page ideas, or product pages and use branding on them. Everything else can be without a brand.

Branded link example

Over-optimisation or Keyword Cannibalisation

It is real and not just hype. Google penalises for over-optimising for a very justified reason. Imagine that you click on one of the top search results on a Google search page.

Now imagine that the beautiful page you were expecting was filled to the brim with text, a good 20% of which is hyperlinked. It’s heavily distracting, not all of the links work, nothing is high quality, and the page itself looks trashy.

If that was a top search result from a Google search, would you come back to Google to search again? This fantastic company keeps itself in business by delivering massive quality and assistance to its world wide web searchers.

Linking Subheadings

I Want to Make Subheadings Throughout My Article Linked. Is It Better to Put Anchor Links in the Paragraph Text?

It depends. You can get a lot of use out of product description subheadings if you are linking to an Amazon page for those products. But only this is obviously a link to those things. You want to make it very clear that links are links and people might not notice that your subheadings are blue and underlined. Play it safe and put anchor links within the paragraph.

Anchor links are highly useful tools. However, it can be easy to get carried away or think that more is better. Google actually penalises overuse so use the “salt test” in your recipe. It’s better to underuse than overuse. Happy Anchoring!

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers and has been involved with SEO for over 12 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

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