What Is Anchor Text? Why It’s Important & How to Optimize It.

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of using anchor text correctly, highlight seven different types of anchor text, and help you optimize your anchor text strategy internally and externally.

June 1, 2023
Written by
Nate Matherson
Reviewed by
Charles Purdy

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Anchor text is the clickable text that changes bare URLs like https://positional.com into better-looking, more helpful, and contextual hyperlinks like this link to Positional’s homepage.

Anchor text has a number of other names, like link label, link text, and link title. But no matter what you call it, know that anchor text is critically important for proper on-page and off-page SEO. Whether you’re improving internal links across your website or building backlinks from external websites, you should pay special attention to anchor text.

Google uses anchor text to determine what the linked webpage is about. By adding additional context and keywords to a hyperlink, descriptive anchor text gives readers and search engines a better idea of where they’re going and why the link is placed on the page. Anchor text impacts where and how well your pages rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of using anchor text correctly, highlight seven different types of anchor text, and help you optimize your anchor text strategy internally and externally.

Why Is Anchor Text Important for SEO?

Links are helpful for search engines and for visitors to your website. Both internal and external links need rich anchor text to provide context and explain the link’s purpose. For readers, anchor text tells them where they’re going and helps them find other relevant resources. For search engines, anchor text explains the topic and value of the linked page.

For search engines like Google, anchor text makes the crawler’s job easier. When you hyperlink to another page and provide anchor text that describes where the link is going, the crawlers can understand that the source of information you’re linking to is a good resource on that topic. In other words, search engines understand how the link is going to help searchers or readers.

Google’s crawlers learn best from descriptive anchor text. For example, “here” is not as valuable for a search engine crawler as a more specific anchor text like “a tutorial on search engine optimization best practices” or “improving keyword density.”

When it comes to internal links, anchor text gives Google a better understanding of how your site is organized and of each page’s purpose. Internal links help Google understand how your content is topically related but different. For example, if you have a number of pages on similar but slightly different topics, you can use internal links with expressive anchor text to communicate how these pages are different. Moreover, by improving and optimizing internal link anchor text, you can reduce the likelihood of keyword cannibalization.

As you may know, internal links can be used to distribute domain and page authority across your website. By linking with keyword-targeted anchor text from high-authority pages to other pages on your site, you can improve the rankings and performance of those other pages.

With external backlinks, anchor text provides context on what the linked page is about and the reasoning behind the link. Google, of course, uses PageRank, also known as domain authority or link juice, to determine the value of an external link, but the context of the linked page is also important. Using keyword-targeted anchor text can improve the value of backlinks from relevant pages and positively influence which keywords your site’s pages rank for.

How to Create Anchor Text

Creating anchor text is fairly simple, even when you’re working with raw HTML. At the HTML code level, anchor text is the text between two anchor tags, <a>, in HTML. 

For example, <a href="https://google.com">Google’s Homepage</a> renders the anchor text like so: Google’s Homepage

Most text editors and content management systems (CMSs) make this even easier by allowing you to attach links to a specific piece of text, usually by highlighting the text and clicking on a link icon or some sort of Insert Link button. When you do this, the highlighted text automatically becomes the anchor text, and that formatting will follow the text when it’s copied and pasted.

In Google Docs, you can add anchor text to a link by clicking on the link icon when highlighting text:

7 Types of Anchor Text | Examples

When internally linking or building external backlinks, you should use a variety of different types of anchor text. There are different kinds of anchor text, each with specific advantages and disadvantages. 

1. Exact Match Anchor Text

Exact matching your anchor text to the primary keyword of the piece of content you’re linking to is effective for telling both readers and search engines exactly what the page is about.

For example, if I were trying to rank for the keyword “title tags SEO,” I might include an internal link to our page on this topic with the anchor text “title tags SEO.”

In other words, exact match anchor text directly addresses the target keywords of the page it’s linking to. The exact match anchor text is extremely clear — you’re telling Google that the linked page exactly matches a very specific keyword or search. 

If a webpage has multiple primary keywords, you should consider using a variety of different exact match anchor text. 

As a quick warning, if you’re building a large number of external backlinks, you should be careful not to overuse exact match anchor text too often. More on this later!

2. Partial Match Anchor Text

Similar to exact match anchor text, partial match anchor text is effective for communicating a link’s purpose. Partial match anchor text uses closely related terms to add context for the reader without explicitly using the exact targeted keyword.

For example, if I were trying to rank for the keyword “thin content,” I might include an internal link with partial match anchor text such as “content that is thin” to our page on this topic.

I suggest using partial match anchors if that will feel more natural to the reader. Alternatively, use partial match anchors if you’re trying to avoid overdoing it with exact match anchors.

3. Naked Links

A naked link is the text of the URL itself, hyperlinked. Naked links aren’t as helpful for readers or for search engines, but they do often occur on resource pages or in a piece of content’s sourcing section. 

Here is an example of a naked link to our article on 301 redirects: https://www.positional.com/blog/301-redirects

Without additional context as to the meaning or purpose of the link, it’s harder for search engines and readers to know where they’re going. When you’re internally linking, you should very rarely use naked links, if at all.

As a general rule, you should use naked links only when you’re specifically communicating a web address itself.

4. Generic Anchor Text

Generic anchor text is, well, generic. Terms like “learn more” or “click here” are examples of this kind of anchor text.

If your readers are getting these links in context, they might understand where the link will take them. Search engines can also gather some context by looking at the surrounding text to understand what the sentence or paragraph is about.

You should generally avoid using generic anchor text internally unless it’s helpful for user navigation. Externally, generic anchor text can be used alongside other forms of anchor text.

5. Branded Anchor Text

Branded anchor text has only the name of a company, organization, or product and is meant for linking to the homepage or a product page of that company.

For Positional, hyperlinks with the anchor text “Positional” or “Positional.com” would be considered branded. In addition, anchor text with the name of one of our products, like Optimize or AutoDetect, would also be considered branded.

Search engines will understand this type of anchor link. When building external backlinks, it does make sense to incorporate branded anchor text, as these are very natural-feeling anchors.

6. Branded Anchor Text with a Keyword

This type of anchor text represents an enhanced version of the previously mentioned branded anchor text. 

For example, a link going to the Positional homepage with the anchor text “Positional’s SEO toolswould be considered branded with a keyword.

The keywords add more context about the destination for both readers and Google’s crawlers. These links improve the user experience and help build the website’s topical relevance and authority.

7. Image Alt Text

Images can also act as hyperlinks. Since Google can’t perfectly parse images (yet), Google’s algorithms rely on a hyperlinked image’s alt text to understand what the image is and where the link is going. The image’s alt text acts as the image anchor text for a hyperlinked image.

By writing good alt text, you can convey both the purpose of the image and rank better in Google’s image search engine.

Anchor Text Mistakes

Google views anchor text as generally positive for searchers but recognizes that it has a high potential for abuse. There are several ways you might inadvertently use anchor text incorrectly and end up looking suspicious to Google. Some of the most common anchor text mistakes include keyword stuffing, non-descriptive anchor text, overused exact match anchor text, and anchor text with unnatural wording.

Overusing Keywords

According to John Mueller, a member of Google’s Search team, using too many keyword-packed exact match links can be a red flag for Google and may result in penalties. In other words, when internally linking or building backlinks, you should aim to use a variety of different types of anchor text, so the content feels natural to the reader. 

When building backlinks, you should diversify your anchor text profile so that it looks entirely organic. That would include using all of the aforementioned anchor text types.

Don’t be afraid to use exact match anchor text; after all, it is helpful for readers. But don’t artificially use exact match anchor text in a way that would mislead a reader but be helpful for ranking your page in search engines. If I were writing a guest blog, I might include two or three links back to my website, and I would likely use a combination of branded, exact match, and partial match anchor text.

Making Your Anchor Text Too Long

Anchor text should typically be two to five words — anything longer than that might be disruptive for a reader and confusing for a search engine crawler. Long anchor text is more difficult to read, less “punchy,” and worse at communicating a link’s purpose.

Friendly anchor text is informative and summarizes the linked page. This prepares the reader for what they’ll see once they click on the link. 

Using Irrelevant Anchor Text

Anchor text should be relevant not just to where it’s going but also to the page on which it’s used. Ensure your webpage’s content supports using the link in the first place. 

If a reader clicks on an anchor and finds that the linked page isn’t actually helpful, that might be a negative signal that your linked page isn’t actually helpful, and that may negatively impact page performance and rankings.

Linking Too Much, Too Closely

If you’re using external links in an effort to distribute the authority of a high-authority page, it may be tempting to add a large number of internal links to weaker pages. As a best practice, include the internal link if it’s valuable for readers, but don’t include it if it would be disruptive to a user's journey.

If you have a large number of internal links in a paragraph — for example, an intro — you might want to consider spreading those internal links throughout the content. Otherwise, your content might end up looking like a blue wall of links, and that might feel unnatural to the reader.

However, there are valid use cases for pages with a lot of different links. A resource page that’s meant to direct readers to relevant pages requires a high number of links. 

Backlink Anchor Text Best Practices

When you’re building backlinks, you may be able to influence their anchor text. For example, if you’re guest posting or creating contributed content, you’ll likely have control over your hyperlinks’ anchor text.

In these cases, you might use your anchor text to target the primary or related keywords that you’d like your page to rank for. For example, if we were trying to rank for a competitive term like “best SEO tools,” we might include a backlink with that exact match anchor text. This is a positive signal to Google that your page should rank for this keyword and would likely lead to better rankings for that keyword. You could also target longer-tail but related keywords like “SEO tools for beginners” if you’d like to improve rankings for that different keyword.

As part of your link building strategy, you should diversify the sources of your backlinks through a number of different methods — like guest posting, resource pages, data-driven or statistical content, and link bait. The same goes for your anchor text.

Similarly, as you build backlinks to your website, you should use different types of anchor text and variations of each type. A natural-looking link profile wouldn’t, for example, have only one type of anchor text or one variation thereof. If you have too many backlinks with very similar or identical anchor text, there’s a higher likelihood that Google will deem your backlink profile unnatural. And if Google sees an unnatural link profile, they may take an algorithmic or manual action.

As just one example, keyword-stuffed anchor text is the biggest red flag for Google when it comes to identifying bad link-building behavior. If you’re building backlinks through guest posting and using the same exact match anchor text for each link, that may signal to Google that something unnatural is occurring.

As you diversify the types of backlinks you build, you’ll naturally pick up other types of anchor text. For example, if you’re building backlinks through resource page outreach, you may accumulate a large number of naked or branded links. If you are using link building services, make sure that they are thinking about your anchor text ratios, that they create a natural link profile, and that they use relevant anchor text.

Final Thoughts

Friendly anchor text is helpful for readers, search engines, and website owners.

Anchor text helps readers find other relevant and useful resources. The anchor text for internal and external links gives search engines information about the topic and purpose of the linked page.

Anchor text optimization is especially important for websites in highly competitive industries. And effective use of anchor text can improve your webpages’ search engine rankings.

By using relevant keywords in your anchor text, you can clearly communicate what your pages are about and what they should rank for. Exact match anchors are extremely helpful, but they should be used alongside the other anchor text types highlighted in this article.

As with most things in SEO, don’t overdo it. Use anchor text naturally, and diversify the types of anchors you’re using when internally linking and when link building.

At Positional, we offer a number of tools for content marketing and SEO teams — including our Internals toolset, which is helpful for internal linking. If you’d like access to our private beta, you can fill out the form on the Positional homepage (and this is well-placed branded anchor text, just as a final word).

Nate Matherson
Co-founder & CEO of Positional

Nate Matherson is the Co-founder & CEO of Positional. An experienced entrepreneur and technologist, he has founded multiple venture-backed companies and is a two-time Y Combinator Alum. Throughout Nate's career, he has built and scaled content marketing channels to hundreds of thousands of visitors per month for companies in both B2C (ex financial products, insurance) as well as B2B SaaS. Nate is also an active angel investor with investments in 45+ companies.

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