The Internet is an overwhelming place to be in.
Imagine going to a restaurant, reaching out for the menu and seeing a variety of food to choose from that looks like this:
Now, after spending about 1 hour pondering at all the options you’re presented with, you often end up going to the first one that caught your eye. Or, if it is stated which ones are the “best choice”, I might choose one of those.
In another way, the Internet is like the restaurant menu – it has millions of clothing store sites, tons of content marketing sites, several thousand food delivery services and the list can go on and on.
So, how is it that anyone ever makes their decision on which site to select?
Well, when you do a Google search for something like “content marketing services,” like most people you will click on the first few sites that appears on the first page of search engine result page. Most people assume that the first sites they see are the most credible.
But why? Because of search engine optimization.
You see, search engines order their database of content based on complex algorithms that take into account hundred of different factors. But of these many factors, one of the important factor is the number of links that a website has to it.
Today, we’re diving into one of the most fundamental aspects of SEO: the anchor text that is used in links. Let’s get started.
Anchor Text is quite simply the visible, clickable text that links to another piece of content or page. In modern browsers, it is often blue and underlined, “such as this link to Rank Reveal’s homepage.” Rank Reveal’s homepage is the anchor text. You can create it using this simple HTML code:
<a href="http://www.example.com">Example Anchor Text</a>
As long as backlinks are an important SEO ranking factor, anchor text is going to play a significant role. It’s added for the benefit of search engines, so that they can determine what the “linked-to-page” is about. In other words, the keywords in an anchor text are one of the many signals search engines use to determine the topic of a web page.
In the earlier days of SEO, a site’s rankings in search results were determined not only by the number of links pointing to that site, but also by the anchor text of those links. Google, being unable to manually check what every page is about, relied on those signals. Later on, just like many other past SEO techniques, this one became abused and resulted in SEO’s creating links, featuring targeted anchor texts on a commercial scale.
Optimizing your anchor texts involves having a clear understanding of the various types of anchors. Here are 6 types of anchor text that you may opt to use:
Branded anchors are those anchor text that includes the actual brand name of the business as the link’s text. It is great for building authority within Google and your anchor text profile should predominantly consist of branded and brand variation anchors.
Sentence Sample: “Over at SEOPressor you can learn more about search engine optimization.”
In other words, if a link from another site points to SEOPressor with the anchor text SEOPressor, that is a branded link. The reason branded anchors are preferable is because they are not seen as an attempt to manipulate Google, especially since most sites easily rank for their brand names already. Moreover, mentioning a brand by name seems very natural as it is commonly done by people when writing reviews, journalists or people citing sources.
Usage Percentage: 50%
A “Generic” is just that: it does not contain keywords, branding, or the URL itself. These anchors are typically calls-to-action (CTAs) like:
Sentence Sample: “Head over to Rank Reveal if you are looking for more SEO information.” – “Head over to” is the generic anchor text.
Usage Percentage: 5%
Any anchor that uses a raw URL is considered a “naked” link. It points directly to your website, but the link itself is the anchor text.
Sentence Example: Remember to check out http://blog.rankreveal.com if you’re interested in SEO.
Like branded and partial brand anchors, naked URL links should make up the majority of your anchor text profile.
Usage Percentage: 20%
Exact match anchor text is what it sounds like: the anchor text matches exactly the keyword you want to rank for.
It is the most important type of anchor text as it has the power to improve your ranking. However, you should always exercise caution when using exact match anchors as they could be the reason on why you get penalized. For instance, trying to rank for “content marketing” and your anchor text is also “content marketing”, you’re running a risk of landing yourself a penalty.
Usage Percentage: 1-2%
This is a much more common type of anchor text. For example, a link with “creative content marketing strategies” as the anchor text linking to a page about content marketing. Note that content marketing is still part of the anchor text, but not the whole phrase.
As with exact match, you want to make sure that you do not abuse the usage of partial match anchors either. For both exact and partial match, no one phrase or term should make up more than 5% of your total links.
Usage Percentage: 1-5%
The use of images in website contents are highly acclaimed today. It is an attribute added to pictures that describes what they portray in words. It also helps to increase the interaction of the use with the content. When you use an image as a link to another location, you also provide a relevant ‘alt’ tag for the image. Search engines read this ‘alt’ attribute as the anchor text.
The alt text appears in a blank box that would normally contain the image.
It is also useful to keep your focal keywords in mind when writing the descriptions.
Usage Percentage: It is recommended to use about 8 words in your alt tag, as being an adequate amount to provide a basic description of your image.
If you are a regular visitor of Rank Reveal, you will notice that I frequently link back to my older posts using anchor text.
So, what is the key to a good anchor text? There are a few and fairly simple to make out from the types above.
SEO friendly anchor text is brief and straight to the point. A long sentence that links to another page does not work well: a couple of keywords or a phrase is the best. Simple and natural is ideal. Page titles are the on exception to this rule as they are often a longer phrase.
If every link to your site contains the same anchor text, search engines might view this as suspicious, since it could be a sign that you’ve paid people to link to you. It’s a good idea to use a variety of different types of anchor text in links to your site, including branded links, generic links, naked URL links, exact match links, or even partial match links.
Ideally, the anchor text you use should be whatever provides the most value to a site’s user and to people who are using search engines to find information. If you can make sure the links you create to your site are helping people find what they need and accomplish their goals, you and Google will be on the same page. At the same time, your search rankings will benefit too.
While including targeted keywords in the anchor text of links to your site can help improve search rankings, that doesn’t mean you should cram in as many keywords as possible. Don’t even think about placing these links on sites or pages that does not make sense.
Always make sure these links are used in a way that is relevant to the content of the pages that are linking to your site, and use natural language rather than unwieldy phrases built around keywords you want to target.
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. This is true in life, and in SEO. Too much SEO can cause over-optimization.
Matt Cutts, the then head of Google’s web spam team once said, “ The objective is not to make your links look natural; the objective is that your links are natural.” Poorly selected anchor texts are a pretty easy way to spot an unnatural link profile, which is not something you want your site to be known for.
Unnatural links, even from high authority sites, can harm your rankings. Due to the abuse by SEO’s and webmasters, Google began penalizing sites that used keywords as anchor texts too often, since it is seen as a clear attempt to manipulate rankings.
One final reminder, focus on building your links organically by using quality contents and a diverse range of anchor texts with proper co-citation and co-occurence. This will help you optimize your link profile and make it almost impossible for Google to penalize you.
Good Luck and Anchor Away!
Do you have any tips or tricks for anchor text? How do you use these links to increase your traffic? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below!
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