Anchor Text 101: What Are They & How To Optimise Them

SEO Content , SEO

We previously discussed what are backlinks and how important they are for your website’s rankings. However, it doesn’t stop there.

With every backlink your website acquires, there is an anchor text attached with it pointing to your website.

Anchor text optimisation is something that can be easily overlooked but is a crucial factor when it comes it ranking high on Google.

Don’t edit all your anchor texts just yet!

We’ve created this blog to help you better understand what is an anchor text and how you should optimise it.

You’ll also discover the different types of anchors and the importance of surrounding text. And how your anchors should directly relate to your backlinking strategies.

So read this simple guide to anchor texts before diving into editing.

What Is an Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the clickable hyperlink you would see when reading a page on the web that directs a user to another page or website.

How it looks like on the backend of a website:

<a href=”https://www.w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp”> clickable hyperlink </a>

They’re usually 1-5 words in length and give the visitor an indication of where the link will take them. For example, just like the below, if we want users to read our website’s privacy policy before they jump on your website.

Read our privacy policy for more info’

The underlined blue phrase is the anchor text and relates directly to the link destination.

Wikipedia is famous for having anchor texts all over their pages, just like the below.

A Brief History

Back in the early internet era, SEO specialists got away with manipulating rankings by ‘over optimising’ their anchor texts by stuffing their anchor text with highly searched keywords they wanted to rank for.

Back then, sites ranked well if they used keyword-rich (aka exact match) text and their variations in anchors. Even if they looked like spam.

Google Penguin Updates

Then came Google with its Penguin update back in 2012.

Google wanted to get rid of spam on the web. And if your site was a keyword-stuffed effort built for search engines and not humans your ranking dropped down.

Way

down.

It taught many so-called ‘white-hat SEO specialists’ a valuable lesson.

So how does anchor text optimisation fit into SEO in 2020?

Why Is Anchor Text Important?

Choosing the right text for your anchor links can give Google a strong indicator of your website’s niche.

Google values content above all. That means every word on your pages counts. And Google sees anchor links as a vital indicator relating to your website’s content.

Google also penalises websites that link to unrelated content. Anchor links must have something to do with the pages they link with otherwise they’re flagged as spam.

For example, if your website is in the fashion niche and you start acquiring backlinks from websites in the baking niche, Google will flag that as spam.

What Are the Different Types of Anchor Texts?

Thankfully strategies have emerged making anchor text optimisation more of a science than an art.

We’ve broken down the different types of anchors you can use on your site.

Each anchor tag example relates to the same SEO keywords/phrase: search engine optimisation.

1. Exact Match

The anchor text is exactly the same as your keywords that you want to rank for. For example:

StudioHawk offers SEO Courses for those who want to learn.

2. Phrase Match

The anchor text can overlap words so things make sense to your website visitor. And it can provide better context for Google. For Example:

StudioHawk’s SEO courses are a great way to start learning more about SEO.

3. Partial Match

Anchor text can include part or all of your SEO keywords or a slight variation. Notice the difference in the example below and the ones above.

StudioHawk’s SEO learning course is a great guide for fresh starters.

4. Branded Anchor

The anchor relates to your company’s brand in some way. This can be your business name or your products and services.

StudioHawk’s learning courses can be found on our website.

5. Naked Web Link

The naked term relates to the actual weblink shown in the address bar. It usually sits alongside your keywords.

StudioHawk offers strategies for search engine optimisation (https://sh.chrdev.co/services/) in Australia.

6. Generic or Random

Can be any text but especially the classic ‘click here’ link.

Click here to see how StudioHawk offers SEO courses for free.

7. Image Anchors

Images can contain anchor text too. Keywords and phrases should be added to an image tag’s alt attribute. For example:

<a href=”target.html”><img src=”image.png” alt=”Search Engine Strategies” /></a>

Can you recognize any of these types of anchor links in your own website content? Or is it just a free-for-all? Do links appear at random with no real strategy in mind?

You’ll notice how some types work better than others but each depends on the situation.

Next, we look at the relationship between your site backlinks and how anchor text affects their success.

The Relationship Between Backlinks and Anchor Text Optimisation

Backlinks are also known as inbound links to your website. They refer to a link stemming from one website pointing to another.

The importance of backlinking goes back to Google’s PageRank algorithm in 1998.

Google’s founders gave websites a ranking score. When sites with a high authoritative score linked to a site of a lower score they passed on link equity, more commonly known as ‘link juice’. That meant Google recognized the link as important and awarded the low authoritative site accordingly.

Backlinks work like a polling or voting system. The more votes you have the higher your prestige.

However, as we mentioned previously, acquiring backlinks doesn’t stop there. You must think of a strategy of optimising your anchor text since it is ultimately what Google will associate your website with.

If your anchor text contains ‘baking lessons in Melbourne’ then Google will associate those keywords with your website’s niche (e.g. baking).

Ask yourself the following when optimising your anchor texts:

Question 1: What keyword do we want our website to rank for? Is it ‘SEO courses’?

Then maybe your anchor text strategy should be a partial match – best SEO learning courses in Melbourne

Question 2: Do you want to include your brand name in the anchor text if it’s not ranking in #1? (Yes, that can happen sometimes). See the below example.

In this case, Beyond Blue is ranking in the top position for ‘life supports counselling’. A good strategy to boost the ‘life supports counselling’ domain from #2 to #1 would be to integrate their domain name + their desired keyword in the anchor texts.

Question 3: What page do we want to boost on our website? Is it a category page? a product page?

If you want a backlink to point to a certain page, optimise your anchor text according to the content of the page. If we want a backlink to point towards a recliner category page, a good anchor text would be branded + keyword. ‘Amart’s range of electric recliners‘ come in different colours and prices to match your budget and living style.

Once you have asked yourself the right question and what is the objective, it is much easier to choose which type of anchor text you want to optimise for to boost your rankings.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Optimizing Anchor Texts:

Now that we have explained the different types of anchor texts and what questions to ask yourself before you start optimising. It’s also important to remember some best practices when optimising. Below are some important ones to note down:

  1. Over-optimising your anchor texts: Google cracks down on exact match anchor texts as it looks spammy and manipulative. You need to keep it as natural as possible. Try using a variation of keywords that resemble the same meaning.
  2. Targeting anchor texts at one page: As we mentioned previously, it’s always a good idea to change up your strategy and optimise anchor text for different pages on your website that might be slipping in rankings.
  3. Position your anchors properly: When reaching out to bloggers, make sure to place your anchor texts where it’s most likely to make sense for readers and entice them to engage/click. Don’t stuff it in there!
  4. Internal Linking Anchor Texts: Since you have full control over them, treat your internal linking anchor texts just how you would with backlinks. Don’t over optimise, keep in simple, and let it fit naturally in your text. John Mueller recently gave an example for this one.
  5. Change up Your Anchor Text Strategy: Every few months, review your anchor texts and see what can be changed. We gave a guide below on the right anchor text distribution ratio.

How Does Anchor Text Influence Search Rankings?

Everyone might have their own opinion on this. Anchor texts help Google associate what the page’s content is about, but a comprehensive study conducted by Ahrefs didn’t show any direct correlation between a specific anchor text with rankings.

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller (Twitter handle:@JohnMu) tweeted about anchor text in 2017.

We know, we are just as confused as whoever is reading this now…

How to Optimise Your Anchor Texts for Your Website?

You’ve already read some optimisation lessons in this article. But we’ve gathered some tips to bring everything together.

Keyword Research

Start with the firm foundation of keyword research.

All your SEO relies on optimising for the right phrases. And that’s essential when creating your anchor text.

Anchor Text Distribution Ratio

There’s no magical formula for SEO. But there is a general consensus for the types of anchors you should use on one page.

  • Branded and Naked = 50-70%
  • Vague but On-Topic = 10-25%
  • Generic = 5-15%
  • Partial Match = 2-5%
  • Exact Match = <1%

So don’t stuff your anchors with exact matches!

No Spammy Backlinks

Don’t pay for spam websites to link to you.

Google knows who they are and their tricks. And they’ll penalize anyone related to them. Remember, quality over quantity every time.

Surrounding Text

Don’t forget about the surrounding text.

Anchor links should never be taken in isolation. Make sure that the text around them makes sense and relates to the link.

Don’t stuff it with keywords either. Write for humans and not for robots.

No anchor? No problem

Now you understand the importance of anchor text optimisation it’s time to boost your SEO site-wide.

But who can you trust to build the best anchors?

StudioHawk won the SEMRush Search Award for Best Agency in 2019. We were also given the Marketing Innovation prize in the Australian Business Awards.

Contact StudioHawk and see if your business is eligible for a complimentary SEO audit of your site. We’ll chat about your unique requirements then start on the right SEO strategy to see you succeed.

Soar with the Hawks today!