Anchor Text Guide – How to Get the Most Out of Your Links

by Zarko Zivkovic September 23rd, 2011 

anchor texts

Our ranks and keywords we rank for heavily depends on anchor texts we use in link building. Some ranks are there because of low competition, some because we have quality content or we are unique, others due to heavy social media influence, but most ranks, especially the ones in tough competition, are there because of link building.

Since Google is advancing their algorithms more and more it can be hard to keep track of things, one thing we know for sure is that exact anchor texts are not that beneficial as they were two years ago. A more appropriate strategy is needed in order to rank for a certain keyword now, so let's talk about anchor texts and everything that influences our rankings trough anchor text links.

General Influencers

  1. Words used – the words we use are probably the most important aspect of the anchor text link. If we link to a certain page with "running shoes", search engines will know that the page is about running shoes and probably sports equipment or similar, there is no chance they will think that page is about flowers, it is simple as that.
  2. Text surrounding the link – text surrounding the link also greatly influences the relevance and importance of the link. We can look at the whole content on the page as well as the sentence where the link is placed. The more relevance in the content and the sentence where the link is placed the better. We will have little use to link "running shoes" from a post talking about lost and found if we want to promote a sports shop, it would be different if we were running a bulletin for lost and found or ad site.
  3. Page it links to – Logically, the location of the link gives relevance, but the page it links to needs to be relevant to the content and the anchor text of the link itself to empower the link and make it stronger and more beneficial for us. There are also other factors that influence the value and importance of a link; mostly they are tied to the page where the link is placed.
  4. Website url – yes, even the url of the page is important, just like it is one of the factors that adds to total relevance of the page, it has the same effect on the link the same goes for:
  • Domain name
  • Domain authority
  • Page authority
  • Title tag

And also for every other factor that helps the page have more relevance. So the basic premise behind placing a link should be- is this the right place to link from and is the content supporting the link and the page it links to?

Exact Vs Partial Match

Exact or partial match, the question many SEOs disagree with and have different opinions. But since last updates Google had more and more SEOs are siding with partial match philosophy and ditching the exact match link building.

There is nothing wrong with exact anchor match, in fact they can give the most relevance and push the link and your ranks higher, but overusing it has its downside. For one, when people buy links they always use exact anchors, and Google knows that, so if they find that you have a great percentage of exact match anchors they will get suspicion and think you are trying to game the system, which you probably are.

Partial match anchors have great benefits, first of all you push the main keyword up, the relevance of your pages rises even more by adding more anchor variants, and you can also rank for more keywords faster, which can bring some decent amount of traffic your way even though you don't rank for your main keyword. But you have to be careful with long tail anchors containing partial matches, a wrong structure can change the meaning of the link and give search engines the wrong idea, example from above is perfect and if used for a sport shopping site it could go something like:

  • Running shoes (obviously the page is about running shoes, but it is broad so it can be used for anything, blog, store, review…)
  • Buy running shoes online (same here, but it is clearer that the link leads to a sports store)
  • Nike/Adidas/Reebok running shoes (same, but they know what brand to expect)

Examples that can change the meaning and dilute the relevance of the link:

  • Running with Nike shoes (the page it links to is about shoes, but in what way? A blog post, a review, a comment, image? )
  • Best running shoes (again, could be anything, a blog, review, video or a store, but no way to tell)

There was probably a better example, but you get the picture, when doing partial match anchor texts, make sure that the anchor clearly states what the page it links to is about, along with the content and the page it links from.

How To Vary Your Anchor

Here are some nice examples of how to vary anchor text for full effect, some of the combinations you can use:

  1. 'keyword'
  2. buy 'keyword'
  3. 'keyword' buy
  4. buy 'keyword' online
  5. 'keyword 1' 'keyword 2'
  6. for more information on 'keyword' visit: URL
  7. 'keyword': URL
  8. image link alt="keyword"

The proximity of the keyword to your link is also an important factor; you can have a simple URL link with no anchor text, but if the keyword is next to it or very close it will influence the relevance and your rankings. The same goes for alt tags and images.

In the end you want to vary your links not just by anchor, we need a diverse link profile, so using brand names to strengthen your authority, simple URL links as well as partial match anchors coming from all sorts of domains and types of website will help you achieve the goal behind your link building campaign. Remember; carefully choose the anchor text depending on the content of the page where your link is and to where you are linking. In some cases a URL link is the best choice, so don't force anchors everywhere, Google will see the relevance between the linking content and the linked content.

Zarko Zivkovic

Zarko works as SEO strategist and link builder. He is the founder of Practical SEO Company and advanced SEO Strategist at Dejan SEO. He is also the chief editor and writer for Practical SEO blog.

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8 Responses to “Anchor Text Guide – How to Get the Most Out of Your Links”

  1. Brian Maher says:

    Great post. I think SEO is no longer about playing the "game" and more about offering quality content to web users. The old school boy shortcuts are getting thinner and thinner on the ground. Now its about focusing on what would be better for people – that's whay Google is focusing on

  2. Nice solid tips on anchor text. I never known Google can slap you because of using exact anchor texts over and over again. But now that I think about it, its pure logic, G had improved so much in the last years, making harder and harder for webmasters to influence the search engine's results.

  3. Thanks for this post. Your reminder not to be too rigid about anchor link strategies reminded me of someone I used to work with. This was a client who was adamant that I analyze his site for optimization. He's a programmer himself and created the site from the bottom up (41k pages) all by himself. It's a product listing site with a lot of links and sparse content on its pages that got hit hard by the updates. When I told him about providing quality content for his users he was skeptical. He still thinks that there's a push-button technique that I was keeping from him for him to regain lost traffic from Google.

  4. Content is King…do your due diligence and write quality content to educate your readers and they will return to your site. Vary the keywords in your anchor text to achieve a more organic look for your site.

  5. [...] detail in this post, for a better explanation you can check out my post on Search Engine People, Anchor Text Guide. Combined with this post and the reasoning behind it I hope I can persuade more people to lay off [...]

  6. There are some great examples here; and YES Cristian Google have this in the algo I am pretty sure as two of my sites with rarther rigid anchor text have been SLAPPED! ugh…Thanks again!

  7. Good post. The only point I would 'partly' disagree with (although the principle of variety I completely concur with), is your point about links coming from "all sorts of domains and types of website". I agree – domain diversity should be perceived as being important. All links coming from the same domain on the same server would be badly deprecated; but not sure about why the 'type of website' is particularly relevant. All websites are documents – irrespective of whether the website is a directory, a blog, a forum or whatever. I think Googlebot is clever, but it doesn't have the ability to think along abstract lines – so could not know the difference between one type of website/document and another. My approach is as follows:
    1/ Vary domains (which means ISPs too). This should happen naturally anyway – so wouldn't research as such.
    2/ Vary anchor content (write some sentences containing landing page relevant keywords for one style, create a list of relevant landing page keywords for another style, add some branded oriented anchors too for another style)
    3/ Make sure the landing page is relevant to those keywords. i.e. is Google already ranking that page for that term? If it is – it is the relevant page for that term. This is why the on page SEO should be done before link building is commenced i.e. give Google the chance to rank a page so that relevance can be determined before we try to 'push' particular terms onto pages.

  8. These are some exceptional tips for creating quality backlinks. Nothing is more frustrating than creating quality content that's relevant to your service/product, and not seeing results in search engines.

    I think one of the most important and influential things an SEO can do is create good, relevant content with strong anchor text and titles. Good content means researching what people are asking on the web and then answering those questions within your content. You'll get nothing but positive results if you do this.

    I also think SEO's should consider the titles of the pages they're trying to link to. The title of a website/page is the MOST important thing when it comes to SEO. I think we all knew that. :)