2. On Page SEO for Beginners
Article #2.13

Are your Anchor Texts optimized?

Anchor text might look like a scaring activity to you, but trust me if you understand it thoroughly, it can be a great way of attracting the users as well as impressing the Search Engine. It’s crazy because, it can potentially become the reason for either making or breaking your SEO campaign.
Is it important, you may ask? Well, a simple answer to this would be that, the importance of backlinks and anchor texts will always go hand in hand. In the pre-penguin scenario, anchor texts were the simplest approach for Google, to judge the relevancy of websites. However, in the post-penguin scenario, anchor texts has become the easiest and the best ways for Google to penalize sites for spamming and over-optimization.

Diving into the details of Anchor text 

What is anchor text? Why do we need it? Is it necessary? These questions often strike me.
Anchor text is simply, the clickable text underlined and highlighted in blue (which is hyperlinked) on the page. Once that text is clicked, it automatically directs you to another page. 
Let’s understand this through an example:
The above text has been hyperlinked, and when you will click on this underlined blue text you will be automatically redirected to “https://www.rankwatch.com/”
So RankWatch is basically an anchor text. A typical anchor text tag would be like this:

<a href="http://www.rankwatch.com/>RankWatch</a>

  • “<a>” is the opening tag of anchor text.
  • ​“href=”http://www.rankwatch.com/”> is the refferal link. This is the link which redirects you to another page.
  • “RankWatch” is the Anchor text.
  • “</a>” is the closing tag of anchor text.

Let’s go in a more detailed perspective of anchor text.

Types of Anchor texts:

  • Zero anchor texts: These types of anchor texts carry little link value but they add variety to the link profile and thus, make your links appear natural. Again, don’t use them in the most important links you have, but the ones with lesser value.
    For example: Some websites might use Click here to buy cheap bags and they might hyperlink “Click here”.
  • Naked URL anchors: These types of anchors do not contain any anchor ‘text’. They simply have the link (URL) to the page, where the redirection has to take place. Example: Putting just “http://www.rankwatch.com” in the content,
  • Exact Match Anchors: This is the king of all anchors. It has the potential to increase your rankings effectively and, at the same time, the power to bring you down at one go. To put it simply, these types of anchors use the same anchor texts as the keywords they want to target.
    For example, if a website has a blog on Search Engine Optimization, then linking that blog and providing the anchor text as “Search Engine Optimization”. 
  • Partial match anchors: This is the most recommended type. Instead of targeting the exact keyword, a more understandable phrase is used.
    For example the above website can instead use the anchor text as “learning Search Engine Optimization” or maybe “quality Search Engine Optimization guide”
  • Branded anchors: Branded anchors basically use your brand name. It’s a safe way to use anchors unless, your brand name is an exact match domain.
  • Generic anchors: These are the most “general or normal” kinds of anchor texts. Some examples of this would be ”Click here” “Know more” “Go here”.
  • Image Anchors: Image anchors are basically links on the images that explain and justify the images.The alt text of linked images is indexed in the same way as the text is done.
  • LSI anchors: LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. It just implies using variations of the main keyword you plan on targeting. It would be like using laptop deals instead of laptop prices.

So if you want to target “Search Engine Optimization”, using anchor texts like “what is Search Engine Optimization” or "define Search Engine Optimization” is an example of LSI anchors.

Importance of anchor texts for SEO 

Penguin Update- The Update which gave birth to the importance of anchor texts.
As Search Engines are becoming increasingly advanced, they have started identifying new parameters and metrics to determine rankings. One such set of metrics that stood out was the Google Penguin update, that completely shook the SEO world. Before the penguin update, webmasters were going crazy over using keyword rich anchor texts; using 100% exact anchors for all the backlinks so as to cheat the Search Engines and rank well. This update, therefore, started targeting all those websites which were doing low-quality, artificial spammy backlinking and excessively using promotional keywords as anchor texts, in an attempt to gain higher rankings.
This is how the anchor text diversity, mixing of anchor texts and backlinking quality became important.
Broadly speaking, anchor texts increase the relevance of a page and thus increases the time the user spends on a page. This effectively reduces the bounce rate. But not everyone gets it right.

How to optimize anchor texts?

You need to understand the basic fact that when you provide a backlink to some URL, say your previous blog, you need to answer the question- what are you wanting/trying to link to and why! Once you are thorough with the answer to the above question, you can provide an SEO friendly anchor text.
So, the anchor text you are providing should be descriptive enough with respect to the link you are linking with.

  • Avoid using “Click here or here”:

This is a common lapse committed by almost everybody. For example, if you need to backlink your previous blog on SEO in the text- Read all about SEO here. So you should preferably hyperlink with the anchor text as “SEO” instead of using “here” as the anchor text.

  • Prefer using partially matching, long tail keywords:

Exact match domains make the Search Engines susceptible to spams. So to be on the safer side, go for partially matching keywords for your anchor text. Using long tail keywords would always be a plus point.
For example: Instead of using just ‘weight loss’, try going for ‘healthier and quicker ways for instant weight loss’.

  • Use synonyms in anchors:

If you want to rank for ‘cheap laptops’, use ‘cheap laptop deals’, ‘cheap laptops pricings’, etc. This shows to the Search Engines, that you are not trying to spam.

  • Anchors in different languages (if applicable):

If your content serves people of different languages, then using multi lingual anchors would serve you good. 

  • ALWAYS use natural anchor texts:

You don’t want people to click on the link and go to someplace, where they do not intend to go. Search Engines might punish you if your activities compromise with user experience. So make sure if you are backlinking to a URL, that URL explains your anchor texts (relevancy)

  • Use Naked URLs sometimes:

Google doesn’t punish you for naked URLs. In fact, to your surprise lack of naked URLs, too much of anchor texts or a high number of targeted one way anchor texts display unnatural anchor texts and may invite Google’s dislike. It is recommended to sometimes use, just the URLs as the anchor texts.

  • Use brand/domain names: 

Brand hybrid anchors are also a safe way to use anchors. This directly would give a link value as branding still remains an important parameters for judging the authenticity in the eyes of the Search Engines.

Optimizing is ok, but over-optimization is not - It might backfire!

Preaching optimization is a good thing, but overdoing is not! 
Over Optimization of anchors can destroy your website! An important point to be noted is that internal linking is good, but doing that through keyword enriched anchor text is not!
Go through the following examples:
Check out the awesome cheap laptops page. 
We give top rated and affordable laptops prices/deals.
The first example uses the same keyword, which can be bad in terms of SEO. 
Sure, the anchor matching exactly with the URL occasionally is good, but too much of it would invite a PENALTY BY GOOGLE! Yes you heard it right- Google penalizes you for using keyword rich anchor text too much. 
An alternative to this would be to spread the anchor text across a sentence. For example if you want to link on blog on anchor text, you could write Anchor text’s relevance in SEO cannot be understated.

Adobe Acrobat- Going against all odds!

I have something, which could definitely come as a surprise to you. Have a good look at the screenshot below:

If you are still not getting it, let me help you with it.
Adobe.com is ranking on the first position at the Google’s SERPs with such a generic term as ‘click here’. The thing to get surprised is that, neither does it’s URL, nor does its Title contain the keyword ‘click here’, but it still manages to get the top most position on the SERPs.
I know what you might be thinking right now, that the possible keywords that Adobe would be ranking on should be adobe flash player, graphic design programs, create printable documents, etc and you are not wrong! Adobe does rank on these keywords. But here the question is that why does Adobe rank on such a generic keyword ‘click here’?
The first and foremost reason of this is that, the sites which link to Adobe Acrobat are quality websites (have a high Google Page Rank) and come from highly authentic, trusted and aged domains like.edu and .gov., and these websites link to Adobe using keywords as ‘click here’ for the anchor texts.
This is the reason that Adobe ranks on the first place of SERPs with click here.
Do you now understand the power of anchor text? This example clearly shows the importance of anchors, as a parameters that Google uses in its ranking algorithm.

What should a good anchor text profile look like?

Just for the sake of an example, if we taken a site which sells furniture online, say (hypothetically) BuyFurniture.co.uk. who wants to rank for the term ‘buy furniture’, it could/should have the following anchors:

  • BuyFurniture.co.uk
  • http://www.buyfurniture.co.uk
  • Click here
  • buyfurniture.com
  • Buying Furniture
  • This site
  • Where to buy furniture
  • Furniture store
  • Click here to buy furniture
  • Buying furniture online

A Live example:
If you take an example of a website that sells used cars in UK: motors.co.uk, it has the following anchors (only some of them have been cited here):

  • used car website
  • buy cheap cars safely
  • click here
  • This site
  • buy cheap used cars online
  • Login
  • Register
  • motors
  • view all motors 
  • http://www.motors.co.uk
  • motors.co.uk
  • used cars for sale
  • www.motors.co.uk
    I hope this gives you quite a picture about how a good anchor text profile looks like.

Addressing some of the most asked questions!

Does the text surrounding the anchor text have any value?
Well, yes it does. This works best especially in the cases when the anchor itself doesn’t have much value/context. Whenever these types of generic anchors are there on the webpage, the Search Engine crawls through the surrounding text to get an idea of what the anchored text is about- which page is it referring to. It is then from this surrounding content that the Search Engines judges the relevance of the anchor text and the backlink.For example: When a web page says, Click here to find an awesome blog on irish cuisines. The Search Engine would probably scan the preceding/succeeding line, or maybe the paragraph to analyse what exactly is being talked about here? Is it relevant enough and then it ranks backlink.

Why zero links should not be used as anchor text in internal linking within the site?
Internal linking is a very good option of backlinking because of the simple reason that it is under your control. Undoubtedly, some of your pages have more link popularity than the others, whose credibility or the link juice could be passed on to the pages with less credibility or popularity. If you get to know which of your pages has the highest link juice , you can be deliberate with your internal linking process and  help some of the important pages to rank higher.Zero anchor texts should be avoided in internal link building as it has no link value at all, so that brings down/ends the entire purpose of the activity. Anchors with closely related key phrases that is descriptive enough for the link should be used in internal linking. If you can’t find key phrases, it’s better to go with Related Links/Related posts.

How to get rid of penguin penalty by correction of your anchor text profile?
Too high on exact match anchor texts? Then definitely you would be a victim to the Google Penguin Update!
Here’s the solution:
1. Use only few exact match anchors for the links that come from really relevant pages from highly relevant sites.
2. You can use the partial matching anchors and maybe some naked anchors instead of exact keywords.
3. If you have included another backlink, wait for it to index. Don’t be too impatient if your rankings drop after you have included the backlink.


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