A complete guide to building effective SEO anchor text [quick win strategy]
SEO is king when it comes to the visibility of your website and understanding what anchor text is and building a strategy to address it can be one of the quickest wins to better rankings.
61% of marketers consider SEO strategy to be their most important strategy for inbound marketing, according to Hubspot.
And when it comes to your website’s SEO, high-quality links are one of the best ways to ensure high search engine rankings. However, not every link is created alike, and creating links the wrong way may actually hurt your website.
Here are the key components of SEO anchor text to use for effective links within your website.
Understanding Anchor Text
Anchor text is the visible text you see that’s part of a hyperlink. When readers click on the anchor text, they’ll be redirected to that link, which will often open in a new tab. Essentially, the anchor text acts as a connection between two separate web pages, whether that page is on your site or not.
You can recognize anchor texts on the front end of any webpage due to their appearance. Anchor texts usually look different from the rest of the text by showing up in a different color. The computer will automatically generate a blue, underlined text when you create a hyperlink.
Anchor text factors heavily into your Google search engine results because it affects how users interact with your site. Anchor texts pointing to relevant links improve your user experience and give the search engine more information on your site.
Google founders even wrote a research paper that explained the logic behind using anchor text for ranking.
Titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” the paper discusses how Google uses keywords to derive the credibility and ranking of a webpage, emphasizing the importance of a varied anchor text strategy. (We’ll explain that later).
Standard Anchor Text Format
Proper anchor text format will look the same on any website. The code would read as follows:
< a href=“http://www.productlink.com”>Name of Product</a>
This entire line of code is the part Google is going to see. The second part of the line is the anchor text. Anchor texts, or title tag anchors, are the part of the complete anchor code that users will see.
The code consists of three parts.
- The “a” tag represents the entire link
- The “href” attribute” tells Google where the URL points to
- The link text (in this case, it is the Name of Product) is the surrounding text and also the anchor text and
For your anchor links to function properly, each one needs all three components.
Anchor text has come a long way since it first became popular. In the SEO strategy’s early days, websites often use anchor texts to link to spam websites or misleading pages.
In 2012, Google introduced the Google Penguin Update. Penguin held websites accountable for their linking practices, and punished websites that were previously manipulating search engines.
The Penguin update used a sophisticated algorithm to track anchor text on a website and identify legitimate uses of links. Certain kinds of anchor text were specifically targeted to reduce their misuse.
Because anchor text was required to become more credible, it became one of the best ways to determine if a website was trustworthy.
Google continues to update its Penguin algorithm to hold websites accountable. Penguin 4.0 was released in 2016, and new updates will come out as Google sees fit.
Internal Vs External Links
Anchor text can link both externally and internally onto different pages.
Internal links are ones that take viewers to different pages on your website. They enhance your website in a few ways.
First, they draw readers’ attention to spend more time on your website. Instead of spending just 60 seconds scanning through your blog post, they’ll spend a few more minutes reading another one.
Search engines will also be able to index and understand site content that uses internal linking, because they’ll have a better context of which links are the most relevant. A webpage on your site with 20 internal links guiding users to view it will rank higher than one with 3 internal links.
An internal link’s URL will read something like the following:
Good anchor text for the URL listed above would be something like “Contact our Experts” or “Get in touch.”
External links take viewers to websites outside of your organization. Also known as backlinks, external links give credibility to your website by showing Google that you want to give viewers as much information as possible.
Google experts have explained in a video interview that links are a key to higher SEO ratings.
An external link’s URL to a marketing blog will read something like this:
In the beginning, it’s smart to focus more on creating anchor text to links within your website, rather than outbound links. You have control over the content of the pages within your website, whereas outside information can change or become outdated.
Types of Anchor Text
Anchor text has a variety of choices that you can use to embed pages within your website. While some are great for Google, others are ineffective.
1. Exact Match Anchor Text
Using exact match anchor text means you use the same word as the targeted keywords for your page.
For instance, if your target keyword is “affordable marketing strategies,” you’d use those words on your page and link them directly to another webpage.
In the early days of SEO strategy, using exact matches on your page would generate more traffic and help your rankings. Over time, though, websites began to overuse and misuse exact match anchor text, so much so that Google started to punish websites who used it too much.
While it’s not the most effective anchor text strategy, exact match anchor text can still be used to increase your SEO standings. If you use only a few exact match anchor texts, you’re on the right track.
2. Partial Match Anchor Text
Partial match anchor text involves using your keyword along with other words.
Take your keyword “affordable marketing strategies,” for instance. If you link the phrase “finding affordable marketing strategies” to a blog post that discusses 5 ways to find marketing strategies that are cost-effective, you have created a successful partial hyperlink.
Using partial match anchor texts helps your SEO because it uses contextual links that inform your readers of what they can expect to find while keeping the information relevant to your website.
Google will also appreciate the use of partial links. It will be able to follow the link and better understand your page without viewing the link as a manipulation of the algorithm.
Because these links are informative and don’t set off Google’s alarms, partial match anchor texts are one of the most effective SEO strategies to raise your page’s authority.
3. Branded Anchor Text
Branded anchor text uses a brand’s name to create authority with the link.
A great way to use branded anchor text within your website page would require two components. First, you would reference the brand of choice within the header of a section. Then, a few sentences later, you would link to that brand using a branded anchor text.
Let’s say we’re using this strategy to recommend a product on an outbound website.
If you’re want to link your website to a study conducted by a well-reputed organization, you can include the name of that organization in your text. Think “McKinsey productivity study.”
Google will appreciate outbound branded anchor text, as it signals that you want to educate readers on other high-quality websites and sources.
Branded anchor text is also great for calls-to-action that will redirect viewers to another page on your website.
For instance, say we want readers of this article to try our free trial. For the conclusion header, we could write something like “Master SEO Anchor Text with Productivity Labs.”
Then, we could write the sentence, “To get started, try the Productivity Labs free trial,” and link “Productivity Labs free trial” to the corresponding web page.
As with all SEO practices, keep in mind that moderation is key. Google won’t rank your page well if you overuse branded anchor text.
4. Naked Anchor Text
Naked anchor text is just the website name. It would read as “www.productname.com” and be placed within the rest of your text.
Imagine that you’re reading a website, and a naked link that advertises a product suddenly appears within the middle of a sentence.
As you can imagine, this would disrupt your flow of reading and be unhelpful as the reader. While naked links give you an exact understanding of the page you’ll be visiting, the link won’t be directly embedded within the text that you’re reading. This may give you difficulty understanding its context.
For the most effective anchor text strategy, don’t use make anchor text at all. It doesn’t benefit the reader or help Google understand your site’s content better.
5. Generic Anchor Text
Generic anchor text uses words and phrases that aren’t specific to a keyword or brand. Since they’re common words, they don’t disrupt the flow of your readers.
Generic anchors can be helpful with you’re using anchors in CTAs. You’ve likely seen the following anchors often on web pages.
- Click here
- Sign up here
- Learn more
- Try a free trial
- Get in touch
- Contact us
Phrases like these are effective after you’ve provided the reader with information and want them to take the next step. Often, you’ll see generic anchor text at the end of headings or in the last sentence of blog posts.
While generic anchors will encourage the reader to pursue a given action, they can get old if they’re overused. A “sign up here” or “click here” more than once or twice on a page will distract viewers.
As for Google, using generic anchor text doesn’t give search engines any context about the information that you’re sending users to look at.
Generic anchor text is solely meant to drive viewers to action. Keep this in mind every time you embed a link into generic anchor text. Ask yourself if you would be motivated to click the link if you were viewing the page for the first time.
Another potential issue with using generic anchor text too frequently is that it may cause your readers to become skeptical of your technological knowledge. It’s important to mix more specific names and brands into your keywords so that you appear more credible.
6. Latent Semantic Index Keywords
Latent Semantic Index keywords, or LSI keywords, incorporate the methods used by search engines into your anchor text.
When you type in the phrase, “What is marketing” in Google, you’ll see a long list of popular terms. Phrases will range from “what is marketing research,” and “what is marketing in business,” to “what is marketing mix” and “what is marketing automation.”
You can use these keywords to form the basis of your anchor text to make your website more search-friendly. Google will recognize LSI keywords as relevant to a specific search, and direct traffic to your page as a result.
LSI keywords may be difficult if you type in keyword phrases that are questions. For example, the phrase “what is marketing mix” may be difficult to use naturally in your text, as it misses the descriptive article “the” and can’t be used in a sentence.
If you do want to use LSI keywords that are in the form of a question, you may be able to do so naturally by including a FAQs section at the bottom of your page.
You could also make the words the first line within a heading, then answer the question within the following text.
Keep in mind that the question should be just a few words long, as anchor texts over five words are distracting to the reader.
7. Image Anchor
Image anchor text has the same effect as a CTA created by generic anchor text. Your anchor text will be created on an image in this case. The image will be clickable, like an ad.
When you hyperlink images, search engines will find an alt tag instead of anchor text.
This method mixes up the traditional anchor text approaches and gives your website more visual flair. It’s also an effective image SEO method to make your site stand out.
They’re great to include within a blog post or adjacent to content, so long as your users are aware that the image is clickable.
Image anchors are also effective to display products within your website and to search engines.
Say you’re a brand called CASE Inc. advertising a blue computer case. The code for an image anchor will look like this:
<img src=”CASEt.gif” alt=”Blue CASE Inc. Computer Case”></a>
A picture of the case will then be displayed. Google will then infer that the content is about a blue CASE Inc. computer case.
When using this strategy, make sure that the alt tag is optimized for the image. If not, Google will see it as a noText anchor, and your rankings may be affected.
8. Natural Anchor Text
Natural anchor text has two meanings. First, it refers to the effect that the anchor text has on the reader.
If the words used in the anchor text are found in common speech, it’s said to be using natural anchor text. Generic anchor text is considered to be natural anchor text.
Partial match anchor text like “SEO checklist” could also be considered natural anchor text, as it’s a term that isn’t technical or full of jargon, but still contains “SEO” as the keyword.
Natural anchor text is also a type of anchor text that refers to anchor text without any keywords at all. Unlike generic anchor text, they’re not typically CTAs.
Instead, natural anchor text uses phrases within the sentence as anchor text to create flow for the reader.
Say that you want your readers to click your blog post about building an effective marketing strategy. Consider the following sentences.
A Go-To Marketing Strategy is a plan explaining how to reach an unfamiliar market. In order to create one, you’ll need to think about your target audience.
In this case, the words “in order to create one” are the natural anchor text linking your viewer to the page. It can be a refreshing break from your viewer to make the anchor text here instead of the obvious choice “Go-To Marketing Strategy.”
How to Optimize Anchor Text
As you become more familiar with anchors, you’ll be able to develop more nuanced strategies over time, helpful when you run a smart SEO optimization project.
Until then, it’s especially wise to keep in mind the following practices for adding anchor text within your website.
These guidelines work both by making your anchor text more effective and by integrating your hyperlinks seamlessly with the rest of your web page’s content.
One of the most important factors that Google takes into mind for your anchor text selection is relevancy. It explains the importance of anchor text on its SEO best practices guide.
This means that your anchors should contain words and phrases that accurately reflect the content of its link.
For instance, say your anchor text reads “tips for Google ads.” The text “tips for Google ads” is the concept that you want your reader to learn more about by clicking the text.
Upon clicking the link, readers would be taken to a page titled “5 tips for maximizing Google Ads.”
The words are similar to the ones you used in your anchor text, which is a good sign.
The content of the article then provides useful information on Google ads. Readers will stay to read the information, another good sign that you have provided a relevant link.
If, however, your anchor text instead takes uses to a product page to buy unrelated software, your anchor text is irrelevant. If you do this, Google will view the hyperlink as manipulative and may punish your site.
Remember that anchor text isn’t automatically relevant if similar words appear on the embedded page.
Say the “5 tips for maximizing Google Ads” page contains all of the same keywords as before, but is full of unhelpful information. Readers will exit the page and make your website look less credible by association.
Try Different Kinds
Incorporate different types of anchor text into your SEO for your web page to have the best ranking.
If you use exact keywords for all of your anchor text, Google will think that you’re trying to take advantage of its algorithm.
But if you only link to brand names, your content will seem like a long advertisement rather than an informative guide.
And using too many generic keywords will have a similar effect.
Use a varied approach for your anchor text distribution, using exact matches, partial matches, branded anchors, generic anchors, and image anchors.
When it comes to the amount that you should use, that depends on each website.
A general rule of thumb would be to use about 5% of your anchor texts for exact matches and about 15% for LSI. When it comes to the other kinds of anchor texts, every website will have different results.
Your site can rank well, whether 20% of its links are branded or 40% are. There’s no promise that what will work for another brand will work for you.
A study from Standford shows that 75% of website visitors make judgments about a company’s credibility based on its web design. This goes for your website too. If you send visitors to links that aren’t of high quality, they’ll think less of your website’s credibility too.
Consider how often changes on your website occur. Sometimes you’ll update a webpage and discover that it generates less traffic because it’s not as appealing to readers. A page may go down and display a 404 error.
This also happens for the websites that are the target links for your anchor text.
Some web pages may become unavailable or be re-formatted in a way that is unpleasant for readers. When this happens, it’s important to be on top of your website’s outbound links, so your anchor texts don’t become a source for toxic links.
Make sure that all of your links are running smoothly, and take the reader to the promised source.
Follow Readability Guidelines
Even if your anchor text takes readers to an authoritative source, it will not be clicked on if it is formatted poorly. Keep in mind these readability guidelines to make sure that your website users click on your anchor text.
1. Keep Fonts Consistent
While you may want to ensure that your anchor text draws attention, never use a different font style for your anchor text. Readers will already be aware of your anchor text since it will be a different color than the surrounding text.
On that note, don’t change the size of your anchor text either.
If you want more emphasis, underline the anchor text. Bold color and underlined text will be more than enough to attract the reader.
And following the best practices of web design, make sure that your font is simple and easy to read. Good choices include Open Sans, Roboto, and Lato.
Along those lines, don’t capitalize your anchor text. A phrase written in all-caps jolts the reader from the flow of reading.
2. Remember That Shorter Is Better
A common mistake made by websites that aren’t familiar with the proper use of anchor text is creating a link out of an entire sentence.
Anchor text should never be more than a few words long, but it shouldn’t be so short that it could be missed by the reader.
The optimal length for anchor text is three to five words. Anchor text that is only a word or two may not seem urgent to the reader, while anchor text that is too long is difficult on the eye.
This practice extends beyond just your anchor text to all of the text on your website. Make writing easy to read by keeping paragraphs to only a few sentences. The Baymard Institute found lines of 50-60 characters, including spaces, are optimal to keep readers engaged.
3. Use Natural Anchor Text
Since anchors often appear at the middle or end of your sentences, it’s important to make your anchor text as natural as possible. Readers will click the link if they’re interested, or can keep reading without missing a beat if they would rather continue.
Using natural anchor text is easier depending on the type of anchor text you use. Generic anchors like “learn more” can be included in sentences without difficulty.
Others, like branded anchors, may be more difficult. Keep your anchor text flexible so that you don’t interrupt the reader.
For instance, say you want to use branding anchor text to link a CRM product for the company Branding Team of Expert Solutions. Consider the following two paragraphs.
“Branding Team of Expert Solutions offers numerous systems to enhance organizational efficiency. The Branding Team CRM allows you to view all clients in one place.”
“Branding Team of Expert Solutions offers numerous systems to enhance organizational efficiency. Branding Team of Expert Solution’s CRM allows you to view all clients in one place.”
In both cases, the company name in the second sentence would contain the branded anchors.
However, notice that linking “Branding Team CRM” is a lot more pleasant for the reader than “Branding Team of Expert Solution’s CRM.” Although the first link doesn’t contain the full company name, it contains enough information to give context about the company brand to the reader and Google.
4. Create a Contrast
Both your standard text and your anchor text need to be visible. The most traditional way to ensure contrast would be to use a white background with black standard text and blue anchor text.
Remember that your anchor text will often display a different color once the viewer has clicked on it. The standard for websites is for blue anchor text to turn purple after the user has visited the website.
Therefore, choosing a light purple background won’t be ideal for your website if you don’t alter the default setting. If you use dark greens and blues, your readers will be able to see all of the text at all times.
Track Your Anchor Text, and How to Check for Anchor Text
It takes time to see how anchor text will affect your website in the long run. This makes it crucial to track how anchor text works within your web pages.
If you want to track your anchor text on your own, you’ll want to find out which text is used the most frequently.
Linkio has a tool called the Anchor Text Categorizer tool.
It asks you to fill in details about your content, like the URL, page title, brand name, and your exact keywords. Also, be sure to fill in the exact anchor texts that appear in your content.
On the side of your screen, there will be a calculator to tell you which anchor types fall under which categories.
For instance, say you have 10 keywords on your web page. 3 keywords include natural phrases, 4 are branded, and 3 links to the homepage.
The tool will give you the exact percentages for these pages, and will let you know if an anchor text is coming up as No Text.
From here, you can alter anchor text types to match your strategy. It will also give you a baseline with visitor tracking tools that can tell you which anchor text links generate the most clicks.
Getting Started With SEO Anchor Text
When used correctly, SEO anchor text can help to generate the results you need to outrank your competitors.
You’re now equipped with the knowledge you need to use anchor text as effectively as possible, but we’re also happy to help!
Contact our team to learn more about how you implement anchor text into your website, along with more SEO practices to generate leads and scale your business.
Anna Tymoshchuk is a seasoned business leader and strategist with over eight years of experience in B2B marketing and programmatic campaign management. She is currently serving as our Chief Operating Officer (COO), where she oversees operational improvement and project management at our company. She leads our PMO team and is committed to ensuring that all projects are delivered on time, within budget, and to the highest quality standards. Anna's expertise lies in designing and executing data-driven advertising campaigns and web builds that help businesses achieve their marketing goals. She has a deep understanding of the advertising ecosystem, and her ability to leverage data analytics to optimize campaigns has helped many clients achieve significant ROI. Anna's passion for continuous improvement and innovation is evident in her work. She is always looking for ways to streamline processes, reduce costs and improve the overall customer experience. Her ability to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions has helped our company stay ahead of the competition. Aside from her work, Anna is an avid foodie and loves starting her day with a latte and an almond croissant. Her colleagues often joke that her love for pastries fuels her energy to drive operational efficiencies and deliver exceptional results.