Anchor text is the descriptive text used to form an outbound link. It is both clickable and readable to users and search engines.
Search engines see all links that come to a website as signs of endorsement from the original linking website. When search engines see a site get more endorsements (links), they assume the site is more trustworthy and relevant, which will help rank it higher in search results. How these links are described within anchor text is a top factor in ranking, making it essential for SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Anchor text serves as a hyperlink going to specific information sources. They usually appear underlined in browsers:
Anchor text doesn’t always show the URL (as above) and will more typically describe what and where it’s directing users to:
It would appear in the code like this:
<a href=”http://www.samplesite.com”>Chosen Anchor Text</a>
There are several things to consider when choosing anchor text, as one of the main goals is to optimise inbound links, so they impact SEO positively. As well as impacting SEO and helping search engines it also encourages users to click on a link by providing them with greater context on where they are being taken to.
How is anchor text used?
Search engines use anchor text as a way to help understand the subject of the linked destination page. This plays a significant role in ranking, as search engines typically consider the anchor text as unbiased and natural user-generated information. Due to one-page having the ability to have many links directed to it alongside many anchor text versions, search engines receive different opinions on what the topic of the page’s content is.
It also works both ways: anchor text has SEO benefits for the intended page and the page it links from.
However, since Google introduced the Penguin algorithm, any anchor text that is aggressive and lacks relevance and diversity may penalise the linked site’s rankings.
How to choose the appropriate keywords?
Websites can also use anchor text to help entice users to click links without wasting SEO opportunities with terms like “more information” or “click here.” These terms do not give any information about the site to search engines. Proper anchor text utilises the targeted keywords and helps indicate critical topics on the page mentioned and linked to, rather than just generic text.
With SEO, everything starts with thorough keyword research. It’s crucial to comprehend the terms to target, the competition surrounding the keywords, and the terms’ overall popularity and search volume. The goal is to have the incoming links to the site containing anchor text relevant to your target keywords that search engines associate with your content.
For example, good SEO anchor text practices for a link to the Calibre9 homepage would look like:
… if you need a bespoke service that specialises in SEO, check out this local SEO Agency based in Melbourne.
Whenever terms such as ‘bespoke service’ and ‘SEO agency’ are searched on Google, the page linked to (calibrenine.com.au) will have a better chance of ranking higher in search engine results since the inbound link determines it as a source of authority.
There is a fine line with anchor text, however. Some content writers occasionally attempt to keyword stuff (adding too many instances of the keyword to the point users cannot read it naturally) to increase branded or exact match keyword visibility. Search engines can then see this as compromising the site’s user experience, resulting in penalties. If the goal for the anchor text is to be relevant to its target page, keywords can no longer just be the main foundation of the anchor text; they must also be appropriate.
Optimising anchor text to help relevance
Mentioning brand names in anchor text is a fundamental metric to search engines. Having numerous mentions from brand names through any incoming links helps improve rankings. If you happen to be the authority of a subject, you can safely add anchor text that’s a branded link to your homepage.
The push-on brand by Google goes farther than just considering any brand mentions within the anchor text. Now there is a significant emphasis placed on the overall mentions by brands across the web, including social media.
It is still vital to avoid over-optimising branded links, since Google has started finding and penalising websites with too many over-optimised links. If there are too many links that contain perfect match anchor text, it is usually a clue that manipulative link behaviour has occurred. The simple way to avoid this issue is to have links that appear to be organic.
Organic links usually refer to links made by an independent party. These are considered more natural as they don’t necessarily use a branded name and are not elicited. Content strategists and good SEO agencies can directly mimic these ‘organic’ links to a relevant and critical service while avoiding link penalties for over-optimisation.
For example, let’s assume we’re writing a post about SEO agencies, but this time, for a fictional coffee company –
… if you need an SEO company, there’s a great local agency in Collingwood near our café.
Google is not as likely to place a coffee company as a source of authority on SEO agencies, so it would be more likely to determine the link as spam. Since the company is based in the same neighbourhood, the link would be considered more relevant. In this case, the anchor text needs to have more descriptive content than the page focus. Here, anchor text is targeting a search query “local agency in Collingwood.” Search engines can associate that term with Calibre Nine, and the site could benefit from the endorsement.
Blog & page title links
Page titles and blog titles are the bridge between branded and organic links. Links like these are often thought to help boost SEO. These linked pages already rank for the targeted keywords, especially when pages are linked to articles or blog posts related to the targeted service page you’re trying to boost.
These links appear organic, similar to if they had referenced news articles by using headlines as your targeted anchor text. If linked content has been optimised well, it will also contain some of the relevant keywords you’re targeting.
Are the links that are located on your page relevant to the content where it’s placed? Does it make sense contextually, or does it feel misplaced? Content that is correctly implemented should use indexing that is phrase-based to help strengthen the focus of the topic and enable search engines to help determine the relevance semantically to your link. You should avoid placing links that do not have any context, as they are a red flag and can result in penalties.
This is the point that researching secondary keywords comes into play: making sure search engines can ‘read’ content by ensuring it has been properly optimised. When popular phrases or terms are used, it builds signals that help suggest that your link is appropriate and relevant to your page’s content. Therefore, search engines will determine the link is reliable, relevant and boost your rankings.
For example, if you’re a coffee shop and get linked to by a coffee supply company, ideal content would look similar to:
Melbourne is a hive of cafés that each offer a wide array of experiences and services. This makes it a very competitive market for one coffee shop to stand out from the crowd. Such visionaries like Generic Coffee Co, a bespoke local café, challenge the status quo by offering premium roasts, sustainable practices, excellent service and an unparalleled experience.
The surrounding text speaks about their core values and the competitive market they work in.
Alongside keywords and anchor text, a determining factor for content quality would be link metrics. Like how you would only cite sources verifiable in the news or an academic piece, any content published online should be treated the same and reference only other content considered reputable and authoritative.
An ideal link comes from a relevant page with topical niche content to a related page on your site with anchor text that makes sense contextually.
All pages will have their individual PageRank, also known as ranking capacity, each particular page being governed by associated link metrics. Internal links can also be handy tools for ranking. Links that are page to page in a domain can improve site navigation, establish a hierarchy system on the site and help add link juice, a.k.a. ranking power, around parts of the site.
How to ensure search engines can crawl your anchor text?
To read a link, search engines must be able to crawl it and perform other content analyses, which means you must structure the content effectively.
Make sure to structure content on your page appropriately. All items from headers, copy, lists, to tables all participate in providing the structure for site content, helping search engines better understand the topic that is being targeted. You can improve visibility by having links that contain keyword anchor text within subheadings and headings. If you have put in the effort at optimising your site’s anchor text, avoid hiding it within sidebars and footers while thinking about the related terms to help promote any target phrases and links built within lists.
Some other essential things to consider:
If a link appears multiple times on the same page, search engines only count the first link for anchor text. If it’s necessary to link twice on a page, make sure to front load your higher importance keywords.
Using a URL shortener can heighten the risk of the link becoming corrupted and does not accurately reflect the site structure.
If linking internally, you should ensure the site structure is as direct as possible. Poor site structure means that your link more likely leads to dead ends.
Make sure to check and keep your links updated often. Links that are either dead or broken may cause web crawlers to dismiss any relevance your content has.