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Anchor Text Optimization: A Primer

When evaluating backlinks, it’s important to consider the relevance of the content containing the link, the strength of the overall site, and the type of anchor text being used. 

What is Anchor Text? 

Anchor text refers to the text that contains the hyperlink to a site. For example: 

Link building is an essential part of your SEO strategy. White hat link building refers to a set of techniques used to obtain high quality links. 

Here, “white hat link building is the anchor text. When Google’s crawlers hit this page and see what https://linkflow.ai/white-hat-link-building/ is linked to when discussing the topic of “white hat link building,” they gain a better understanding of the topic on the linked page. As a result, the page https://linkflow.ai/white-hat-link-building/ is more likely to rank for the keyword “white hat link building.

Does Google understand anchor text?

Google’s own John Mueller has implied that anchor text is a ranking factor.   

In the early days of search, people would build links using as much exact match anchor text as they could. For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword “red hats,” all of the links built to the site would use the anchor text “red hats.”

Google caught on to this strategy and released the Penguin update to make ranking for target keywords more difficult.

Now, using a mix of anchor text types is the best way to avoid a penalty. 

Types of Anchor Text

Let’s say your company, Widgets, Inc., wants to rank for the keyword “red widgets.” Here are some examples of anchor text you could use:

  • Branded – Widgets, Inc. 

Using branded anchor text helps Google understand the relationship between your company and the product you’re selling. For example, if there is a lot of anchor text aligning Wayfair and gray couches, Google may start to promote wayfair.com in searches for “gray couch.” 

  • Naked URL – www.widgets.com

This is one of the most common types of anchor text. The anchor is essentially the URL of the link instead of keywords or a brand name. When probed about the value of naked URLs, John Mueller has said that they count as links, but Google has a more difficult time understanding the context.   

  • Partial Match – demand for red widgets has surged

This is a safe but effective type of anchor text since it contains the target keyword but is not an exact match. Using this type of anchor gives Google context for the page you are trying to rank for and it presents naturally since it’s conversational.

  • CTA – click here

Like the naked URL, this is another commonly used anchor text. While it’s not keyword-optimized, having some CTA anchor text can help your overall link profile look natural. 

  • Exact Match – red widgets

Using this type of anchor thoughtfully can help you rank for the target keyword. When it comes to more competitive keywords, having a higher proportion of exact match anchor text can be a difference maker. It is important not to over-optimize your links with these anchors since it can be a red flag for unnatural linking.

So, how many exact-match anchors should you use? 

We recommend using no more than 10% exact-match anchor texts per destination URL and 30% partial match. We typically only recommend building larger quantities of exact-match anchor text when keywords are ultra-competitive and the targeted website already has a sufficient backlink profile. Without a seasoned and established backlink profile for the website and the page itself, it is easy and very risky to over-optimize your anchor texts.

Bottom Line

When building backlinks, it’s important that your link profile mimics the natural progression of your site’s link growth. Using a variety of anchor text types can help you do this.