Most marketers know link building is one of the countless critical factors for boosting your search engine rankings in the eyes of the Google Gods.
However, the words you choose for linking out and into your site matter too – and quite a lot! Those words are called anchor text, and Google’s algorithms pay more attention to them than newbies (and even some marketing veterans) realize.
In the early days, you used to be able to game the Google system by keyword stuffing anchors. Well, Google noticed and now carefully watches not only which words you choose to link, but also how often you use them and the surrounding text.
Yes, the technical details are complicated, but the basics are easy enough for everyone to understand and apply.
By optimizing—but not over-optimizing—your anchor words and learning the best practices, you can fine-tune your SEO and watch your rankings climb. If you break the rules, Google can penalize your site. (Not good.)
Anchor Text And Backlinks
At this point, it is worthwhile to distinguish the difference between no-follow and do-follow links since this post is about anchors in the context of search engine optimization.
On the HTML side, the only difference is that a no-follow link contains an extra piece of code. In the example above, a no-follow link would look like this:
<a href=”https://www.semrush.com/analytics/backlinks/”rel=”nofollow”>Backlink Analytics Tool </a>
In the eyes of the Google algorithms, however, that tiny piece of code makes an enormous difference.
Tells Google NOT to take the backlink into account when determining SEO for either page. UPD: Since 1st March 2020 Google is starting to take No-Follow links as a hint in determining a website’s position in SERP.
Tells Google that this link was obtained through some agreements between you and a publisher;
UGC (User Generated Content): Tells Google that link (and the whole content) was placed on this page by users
Tells Google to give credit to the page you’re linking to and take it into account when scanning your links.
The discussion of no-follow links is really more of a topic for backlinks, but it is worth considering when you choose your anchor words as well (we’ll explain some details further below in the best practices).
Generic Anchor Examples:
About the author
Branded Anchor Examples:
Bill Hartzer of BillHartzer.com
According to Reuters News Agency
Julia McCoy says in The Write Blog
As CT News Junkie reports
Exact Match Anchor Examples:
B2B conversion rate optimization
Use Anchors In Images
Instead of linking from the text, you can create engaging pictures (or download them from free-share sites) and simply hyperlink them. Images are a great way to tell your customer what to do next. A large “Buy Now and Get This for Free!” button will be much more visible than a simple blue, highlighted “Buy Now” piece of text.
Clickable images also add style and beauty to your webpage. If you have a sales page, these buttons can be large and noticeable. If your website wants to advertise a friend’s site, the image can be large and ornate, with both their website name and matching imagery around it.
Don’t Use Naked Links
Don’t create text which is a hyperlinked hyperlink, like linking Amazon to “https://amazon.com” as if anyone wants to look at that.
Google still picks up naked links in their crawl but using naked links can degrade the aesthetics of the page. Naked links also are less helpful in suggesting whats behing the URL link.
Match Anchor Text To Your Article Content
When you are looking for what words you should use for your anchor text, ensure you are using keywords which are similar to your original article topic (and related to the outside link). Do not just pick a random set of words from a sentence.
Example: Let’s say you are using this sentence, “We will read about African tigers, but we will certainly not go visit them.” You will want to hyperlink “African tigers”, not “certainly not go visit them”. Google will be confused by the vague and general expression of the second phrase.
Linking To Your Own Site Using Long Keyword Phrases
If you’re going to put anchor text in your article which will link to another page on your site, you should use keyword phrases and link to an obscure or deep page, not short relevant descriptions. NEVER link to the homepage or one of the main tabs of your site. Google sees this behaviour as manipulative and spammy and will penalise you for it.
Link only to another article which has content which would genuinely help people. When you do this, pick a full phrase from within a sentence to hyperlink, not just a short, descriptive phrase. This will look more natural and organic to all search engines.
The General Rule Of Thumb
You may be eager and ready to get started putting anchor text on all of your website pages. Whoa! Slow down, Nelly! Google will easily and quickly (in real time) penalise that specific webpage for being over-optimised. Google helps readers find new, interesting and informative content, so they penalise site that is deceiving or low quality. Be responsible and only use sparsely and wisely.
Over-Optimisation Or Keyword Cannibalisation
It is real and not just hype. Google penalises for over-optimising for a very justified reason. Imagine that you click on one of the top search results on a Google search page.
Now imagine that the beautiful page you were expecting was filled to the brim with text, a good 20% of which is hyperlinked. It’s heavily distracting, not all of the links work, nothing is high quality, and the page itself looks trashy.
If that was a top search result from a Google search, would you come back to Google to search again? This fantastic company keeps itself in business by delivering massive quality and assistance to its world wide web searchers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find my potentially dangerous anchor texts?
What is a Target URL error?
What is a Google Penalty?
What do all of the Toxic Markers in Backlink Audit mean?
What are Rel attributes?