Anchor text is the name given to the clickable text of a hyperlink. Google uses it when determining how contextual a link is and treat it like a description of the link target.
Before 2012, SEOs were able to exploit the amount of weight Google gave to anchor texts by placing exact match keywords in as many backlinks as possible. It worked well. People were ranking easily. But it was also easy for Google to find SEOs who were gaming their algorithm this way which often lead to a manual penalty.
A natural link profile will have a mixture of a few highly targeted, keyword rich anchor text links, alongside a large amount other more natural anchors.
So, if you are trying to rank for the keyword “Best Laptops”, and 90% of your anchor texts are “Best Laptops” it will be a huge red flag.
By detecting this Google have all the proof they need to determine that you are trying to rank for “Best Laptops”, and (more importantly) that you are gaming their algorithm to do so.
Google’s Algorithm on Anchors
Google responded to this anchor text abuse by releasing their Penguin update in 2012. One of the main things it targeted was over optimized anchor text – SEOs had to adapt or die. It was a brutal update, and many webmasters websites dropped out of the SERPS overnight.
Today, correctly optimized anchor text can still give your site a powerful boost in the SERPS (when used correctly). It’s much more nuanced and delicate than pre-penguin days, so it’s essential to understand the concepts behind it properly. If Google catches you misusing it, you can get your site penalized without mercy.
While the actual link behind all anchors is the same, there are several different types of anchor texts. A natural link profile will have a mixture of all of them in different ratios.
Let’s take a look at a few of the different anchor text definitions.
Different Anchor Texts
To help us explain, we will be trying to rank for the hypothetical keyword “Best Dog Gurus”
Exact Match Anchor Text
Exact match anchor text is the most powerful type of anchor text, but it is also the most dangerous. It is the exact keyword you are trying to rank for. In this example, it would be “Best Dog Gurus”. Use exact match anchor text sparingly, keep it at 1% or 2% of your overall link profile.
A good practice is to keep exact match keywords reserved for your most high quality links. By doing so you will get the maximum benefit out of them.
Partial Match Anchor Text
Partial match anchor text is probably the second most powerful type. Like exact match, it is easy to use too much – but you get a little bit more leeway. For our hypothetical keyword it would be things like:
- “Who are the best dog gurus?”
- “The best dog gurus 2017”
- “Best dog gurus in the world”
LSI Anchor Text
Latent semantic index keywords are a complex subject that requires its own topic to be fully understood. But basically, they are semantically related keywords to your main keyword. They can be used roughly the same as amount as partial match keywords, and are reasonably safe. Some examples of LSI anchor text are:
- “Top canine experts”
- “awesome dog professionals”
- “expert dog teachers”
Exact Match, Partial, and LSI are the three kinds of anchor texts that give relevancy.
Overusing them will result in a penalty – so you need to add other kinds of anchors into your link profile to make things look natural. These non targeted anchor text types should make up the bulk of your link profile. They have no relevancy benefit but will pass link juice and might stop your website from getting penalized.
Branded Anchor Text
Branded anchor text uses the name of your website or brand. It can be used in a partial or exact format. If our website was dansdogworld.com we would use things like:
- “dans dog world”
Naked Anchor Text
Naked anchor text is simply the URL of the page the link is going to. To keep it natural make sure you use several of the different possible variations of your URL when linking, for example:
Generic Anchor Text
Generic anchor text is (as you might expect) generic. They provide no context at all, but a natural link profile will have a large number of them. Use things like:
- “Click Here”
- “Read More”
- “Learn More”
- “This Website”
The bottom line is that it’s always better to be cautious when using anchor text. Don’t get tempted to over optimize, and always diversify. Anchor texts are your easiest way to penalties but most lucrative way to rank. Use them with caution and common sense.