We have earlier discussed how to create SEO friendly URL structure and SEO friendly title tags for your website. In this article, we will discuss how to create SEO friendly Anchor texts for internal and external links on your website.
If you are not aware of what Anchor texts are, I highly recommend you go through the SEO glossary where we have explained each SEO concept in detail. The SEO glossary is also a nice reference document to refer to key SEO terms, learn their meanings and then absorb the articles and tutorials described on the website.
In brief, Anchor text is the word which is used to hyperlink an internal or external page on a webpage. So for example, the first link on this webpage has the Anchor text – “SEO friendly URL Structure”. The second Anchor text in this webpage has the anchor text – “SEO friendly title tags”.
I hope you are clear on the idea of Anchor texts.
Now how do you create SEO friendly Anchor texts which search engines love? How do you ensure your anchor texts are optimised for search engines and they pass enough value to the internal or external links where you are creating the link to? How do you ensure that the incoming anchor texts to your pages are optimised as well? We will see some of the best practices with anchor texts in this article.
Different Types of Anchor Texts
Let’s first learn different types of Anchor texts. Different types of Anchor texts can be used in different situations with different objectives and goals. However, overusing the same type and pattern to achieve results is certainly not recommended. Anchor texts should be used as naturally as possible so that it creates a good user experience, and not with the sole intention of optimising a page for higher search rankings.
Exact Match Anchor Text
An Exact match anchor text is an anchor text which contains a keyword which reflects the central theme of the page. Sometimes, people also define an exact match Anchor text as an anchor text which contains a keyword for which the website owner wants to rank that page for.
So let’s say you have a page on your website – www.example.com/men-wallets.html. This page is all about Men’s Wallets and you have some nice wallets and accessories for sale.
If you link to this page from another page on your website with the Anchor text – “Men’s Wallet”, or “Buy Men’s Wallet”, then this Anchor text is called an “Exact match” Anchor text.
You are explicitly defining the central theme or idea or content of the page through the Anchor text. Hence this type of Anchor text will be defined as an “Exact Match” Anchor text.
In another example, let’s say you have another page on the website – www.example.com/women-bags.html. You want this page to rank for ” Stylish Women’s Bags” on the first page of Google. To achieve that objective, you create internal links within your website which use the anchor text – “Stylish Women’s Bags”, “Stylish Women accessories and Handbags” and other variants.
In that case, this is also a good example of using “Exact Match Anchor text” to optimize your site’s landing pages for higher rankings on Google search results.
Exact match Anchor texts can be internal as well as external in nature. You can request the owner of another website or a blogger to place an “Exact match” anchor text on his website with the words – “Buy shoes online”. In that case, you are requesting another website owner to link to your website with an Exact match anchor text, to ensure your website has higher chances of ranking on the first page of Google for that particular keyword.
Such kind of optimization is also known as “off page anchor text optimization” and should be practiced very diligently and carefully. Gaining too many links with the same “Exact match” anchor texts can get your site flagged and penalized in Search engines. Spam sites, low-quality content sites try to game the system with Keyword domains and exact match anchor texts, so you need to be very careful before you put an “Anchor text optimization” strategy in action.
Partial Match Anchor text
The next type of Anchor text is called “Partial match” which contains a phrase or partial words in the hyperlink content.
So let’s say you have a page on your website – www.example.com/products/kids-shoes.html.
You built two internal links on your website to this page with the following anchor texts
- “Kid’s Shoes”
- “Check out the best collection of Kids shoes for children below 7 years age”
The former is an exact match Anchor text while the latter is a “Partial match” or “Phrase match” Anchor text.
Now you may wonder, which one carries more weight – “Exact match or Phrase match?”. The simple answer is – None and Both.
Search engines would love to see a mix of words when looking at your Anchor texts and they would like to see a natural pattern in the anchor texts which link to your website. So if there are 100 websites linking to you, all 100 cannot link back to you with the “Exact match” anchor text. That is not natural.
There has to be a mix of phrase match and a mix of exact match anchor texts which proves that those links are natural in nature and not manually created to game the system.
Partial match anchor texts carry good value and it is recommended to build partial match anchor texts in the internal links of your website to tell search engines what a target page’s content is all about. It also creates a good user experience and we all know that what is good for the user is also good for the search engines.
Branded Anchor texts
Branded anchor texts contain the name of the brand (name of the website) as the content of the Hyperlink.
When a website get’s really popular and famous, most of its audience remember the name of the website or blog and when they want to cite the content of this website, they will often end up linking to the website using the name because they remember that name and it comes out naturally.
So for example, if I have to link to a New York Times article, I might end up linking to the following
— “Check out this article on New York Times which explains the dirty secrets of Search engine optimisation”
In this example, I did not use the exact match anchor text of “Search engine optimization secrets” or a phrase match anchor text like – “Secrets of search engine optimization”. I used the brand name – “New York Times” as the Anchor text and hence, this anchor text is called a “Branded Anchor text”.
Sometimes, it has been observed that Google gives preference to Branded Anchor texts over phrase match or exact anchor texts. This depends on the search history of the user, whether he likes content from a specific brand, visits it often and prefers it over other “generic” search results. That said, using Branded “Anchor texts” is not a bad or Good practice, it is however considered okay to use branded anchor texts to emphasize the brand you are linking to. This is applicable for both internal and external links.
Naked Anchor text (URL Anchor text)
A Naked anchor text is a link created when you simply paste the URL of a webpage in your website and that text of the URL becomes a link.
So the following URL is an example of a Naked Anchor text
— Check out the article on New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/business/13search.html
There is no reason why you should use Naked Anchors in your webpage, it is sometimes not preferred and recommended to use Naked Anchor texts because they make the text look really bad at times, especially when the URL is really big and unreadable. That said, using naked anchor texts is not a demerit but should be used sparingly and if possible, the website owner is better off using exact match or phrase match Anchor texts.
Links found in comment threads, forum posts and user-generated content portals are generally Naked in nature because in some cases, the links in comment threads or forum posts cannot be anchored into a particular word. URL anchor texts do pass a value in some cases if the content or discussion is relevant to the theme of the target page and offers good user experience to readers.
Generic Anchor Text
A generic anchor text is formed when a generic term or phrase is used to link to an internal or external webpage. The following hyperlink is a good example of a generic anchor text
In the above example, the link does not mention what the target page is all about. The link does not have any keywords in it, so the user has no other way to guess the content and theme of the page without visiting it in the first place. Second, the link does not mention the brand that is being linked to, so the user also has no clue about the source where it is being linked to.
Generic anchor texts are considered a bad practice and should be avoided. If you have one or two generic anchor texts on your website, that would not hurt much but it won’t help much either. It’s just that generic anchor texts will not pass as much value as a keyword rich anchor texts would pass. So as far as practicable, avoid generic anchor texts and use meaningful texts as the anchor, especially the exact match or phrase match Anchor texts because they are a lot more useful both to search engines and human visitors.
Image Anchor Text
Sometimes, an image can be hyperlinked to an internal or external page on the website. In these cases, the ALT attribute or ALT text (alternate text) of the image will serve as the anchor text for the hyperlink.
Best Practices for Creating SEO Friendly Anchor Texts
Now that you know all the different types of anchor texts that exist, here are some more tips on creating SEO friendly Anchor texts. By using the phrase “SEO friendly”, I mean creating an anchor text which tells both the user and search engines what the target page is all about and it helps both search engines and human understand and guess what they would get by visiting it.
If an Anchor text reveals the theme and intent of a page to the user and to the search engine, then that anchor text is considered a good one. If an Anchor text does not reveal the theme and intent of a page to search engine and humans, then that Anchor text is considered a bad one.
1. Always use Keyword rich anchor texts.
Never say – “Watch this” or “Click here” or “Visit this link”. Use relevant, meaningful and precise words as the Anchor text to reveal the content and theme of the target page.
2. Keep the Anchor text as short and precise as possible.
Do not use a long sentence as an anchor text because it is not user-friendly and sometimes, the user has to go through the entire phrase in the anchor text to understand what you are trying to say by telling them to visit it, so short anchor texts are better than longer ones. Just like short URL’s are preferred by search engines, the same is true for anchor texts as well. Generally, Anchor texts with 6 words or less are considered short and anything above 6 words is considered long.
3. Use the most important words up front.
Again following the best practice of creating SEO friendly URL’s, you should use the most important words upfront and the lesser important words later in an anchor text. Users process information left to right so if you keep the most important word in the far left, that is generally better than keeping the most important word in the far right of an Anchor text.
4. Look for existing data in Google Search Console.
Google search console has a very nice feature called “Who Links to your site”. You can use this data to understand how people “view” specific pages on your site and what words they use to describe the content of a specific page on the site. This will help you understand how others perceive a page and accordingly, you can make changes to that page and change the perception of potential users if that is needed. In general, your existing data is a good signal on how anchor texts are processed on your website.
5. Do not abuse Anchor texts by Keyword stuffing.
A very important thing to keep in mind is not to overuse the usage of Anchor texts and try to stuff each and every anchor text with the same keyword for which you want to rank on search result pages. It is important to keep a healthy balance and keep your Anchor text portfolio as clean and as natural as possible.
6. Do not ask external sites to link to you with a “Specific Anchor text”.
It is a common practice among webmasters and bloggers to request other websites to link to them with a “Specific anchor text”. While it certainly helps to some extent but overdoing it may backfire on some occasions. Google and other search engines may mark your website for too many spammy anchor texts and it is certainly a grey area which you do not want to risk.
For best results, it is advised to gain links naturally and let the target website decide what kind of anchor text they want to use to link to you. If you leave the decision up to them, your Anchor text portfolio will be natural and clean without the same pattern being repeated over and over again. And you would certainly be in good shape.
7. Do not “buy” Anchor texts from just about anyone.
This is another SEO pitfall you must avoid. Often times, website owners who desperately want to rank for a specific keyword and who want to beat the competition in search results end up buying “Anchor texts” from hundreds of sites with the idea that it will help them achieve better rankings in Search.
This is not true, and your site may get flagged for too many “Paid links” or “Link spam” so watch out and do not spend money in buying Anchor texts from SEO agencies who claim to give you best rankings in Google search results. Keep focussing on the content and usefulness of your website and the links should come naturally in time. You can buy some anchor texts if absolutely needed but don’t go overboard and build hundreds of links with the same anchor text, this will surely get caught in the filter and backfire in time.
8. Be very selective on “who you link to”.
Be very selective to who you are linking to and always audit your external links once in every 4-5 months. The website whom you linked 4 years ago could be a spam site today, you never know. The website with whom you exchanged links 10 years ago may very well be a pornographic website or a gambling domain today, so be very selective on who you are linking to and unless you trust the source with 100% conviction, do not link to them just like that. They could have a useful resource today but it is possible that the useful resource is just a gimmick to attract links and once links have been accumulated, the website owner will show his real colors and end up spamming the web. So be selective and do your thorough research before linking to an external website, blog or even a social media profile.
9. Do not avoid “Deep Links” to internal pages.
While it is a good idea to build links to the home page of the website (since the home page is the most popular page of your website in general), you should also pay attention to building links to internal pages (also known as “Deep links”). A website with links to both home page and links to internal pages will have a higher chance of ranking in search results compared to a website which has links to only the home page and pages higher up in the directory structure.
When building anchor text links to internal pages of your website, pay attention to whether these internal links are “Deep” in nature and if not, it helps to create “Deep links” within the content of your website’s internal pages to other internal pages of your website. It helps search engines better understand the structure, relevance and content priority of your website and it also creates a better user experience for users because you are citing important links of your website within the internal pages and interlinking related content together, providing users with more resources and information.
10. Review Anchor texts once in a while.
Every 4-5 months, perform an SEO audit of your website and carefully review each and every “Anchor text” on your website (both internal and external). Perform a thorough audit of all the links and try to visit each link one by one to see if the link is still relevant to your audience. a link which was relevant one year ago may not be relevant today, so it is highly recommended to re-visit those Anchor texts and check for their relevancy once in a while.
For small websites, it should not take much of their time but if your website is fairly big, it can take weeks (if not months). In these situations, it is worthwhile to hire an SEO agency and perform the Anchor text audit or SEO audit on your website to ensure that all the anchor texts on your website are still relevant and the external links pointing from your website to other websites have not lost their meaning and significance altogether.
Anchor texts play a very important role in search engine optimization of your website and you should be really careful about using anchor texts to link to external sites. If you go wrong on this one, the worst thing that can happen is that you will get penalized in Google or get caught in a Google algorithmic filter and lose a significant portion of your traffic. This could be an outright business disaster and it really helps if you be careful from the very start and learn the correct and recommended usage of anchor texts for both internal and external links.
Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with exampl