As we have written about on many occasions before, link building is an essential practice for digital marketing professionals to get to grips with.
Not only will link building allow you to increase your profile online by building up a network of internal and external links, but it will also help to increase your brand authority and the wider public awareness of your company or business.
For this reason, it is important to ensure that any of the links you do include in any marketing content you publish are kept up to date and in working order.
An often overlooked aspect of link-building practice, however, is the anchor text itself.
This is all the more surprising because the anchor text is essentially the gateway to what lies on the other side of the link, and will, more often than not, entice the reader to click on it in the first place.
Despite the importance of the anchor text to the entire link-building enterprise, however, it is often overlooked.
With that said, in this short blog post, we will give you a quick overview of the different types of anchor text, the function it serves, and the benefits of avoiding exact match anchor text.
What is anchor text, and why is it useful?
Anchor text essentially refers to the clickable words you use to link one webpage to another one. When you want to include a link to an external or internal webpage in a particular piece of writing, you need to embed this into the text itself. This is known as the ‘anchor text’, because the text acts as a way of ‘anchoring’ the website link in the piece.
Anchor text serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it lets the reader know what is on the other side of the link that is being embedded. For example, if you want to link to a webpage about dogs, the anchor text you use might be the exact word ‘dog’ or a closely related keyword or phrase.
Secondly, anchor text is also taken into consideration by search engines themselves. Anchor text will provide contextual information to the search engine to give it a sense of what is on the other side of the link and whether it is useful to the user. For this reason, search engines generally like to see anchor text that is useful, descriptive and relevant – though as we will see, there is a bit more complexity to what this actually means in practice.
What are the different types of anchor text?
There are different types of anchor text, however, each of which has distinct characteristics. Here is a rundown of the different types of anchor text:
- Exact match: An ‘exact match’ anchor text is a direct match of the keyword or phrase you want to get ranked. For example, use the phrase ‘dogs’ if you want to link to a page about dogs!
- Partial match: A ‘partial match’ anchor text is a variation of the keyword on the page you want to link to. If you want to link to a page about dog groomers, you could include anchor text such as ‘how to find the best dog groomers’.
- Branded: You can also use the brand, website or company name as the anchor text.
- Naked link: This is when you use the URL of the webpage you want to link to itself as anchor text.
- Generic phrase: You can also use a generic phrase such as ‘click here’ to embed the link into. This is common in a call to action.
- Images: You can also embed links in images that, when clicked, will take you through to a webpage.
What makes for good anchor text?
In line with SEO best practice, the best anchor text from an SEO perspective will usually have the following characteristics:
- Succinct: Although there is no word limit, try to keep it as succinct and concise as possible. Readers tend to be sceptical of longer links. Think of the shortest way of summarising what is contained on the page you are linking to.
- Relevant to the page: Link relevancy is always important from an SEO perspective. However, it is equally important from a reader perspective. Always keep links relevant to both the article they are contained in, as well as the webpage being linked to.
- Not keyword heavy: Recent updates to Google’s SEO algorithms have made the search engine suspicious of anchor text that is too keyword heavy, as this gives the impression that they are just being used to game the system. Use keywords that are not overly reliant on exact keyword matches.
- Not too generic: Avoid using bland, generic anchor text phrases or words. Make them descriptive, enticing and useful. Generic phrases are considered bad SEO practice.
Readers can often be quite reluctant to click a link included in a post, which is often for good reason. You never know what will be on the other side of a clickable link, so it is always wise to exercise caution as a reader. With that said, you don’t want to abuse the trust that your reader has in you by including an irrelevant link that doesn’t serve their best interests.
Should I always use exact match anchor text?
Although you should have anchor text that is descriptive, relevant, and gives you a sense of what is contained on the other side of the link, simply having an exact match of your keyword might not be the best approach.
Here are some reasons why you might want to avoid relying on exact match anchor text:
- Exact match anchors signal link building: Although link building is important, Google does not rate pages highly that look like they exist purely for link-building purposes. With that said, use links and anchor text in a natural, truly functional and helpful manner.
- Avoid the ‘penguin penalty’: Following the ‘penguin’ update to the Google SEO algorithms, Google will no longer award you points in the search engine rankings based purely on the how closely the anchor text matches the context on the linked-to page. Following the penguin update, Google will now penalise websites if it looks like they are manipulating these link-building and anchor text practices. To calculate this, the search engine will look at the percentage of exact match anchor text to websites as an entire domain and as individual pages.
- Exact match anchors are awkward and don’t encourage click-throughs: From a reader’s perspective, exact match anchor text often reads awkwardly. Given that you are trying to create a positive reading experience and to build up trust with the reader, if you use exact match anchor text too frequently, it might work against this. Furthermore, if a reader does become suspicious of a link based on the anchor text, it might actively discourage a click-through – which is the exact opposite impact you are trying to have.
Although this has been a relatively brief introduction to what anchor text is as well as the different types and usages, you may have also gained a sense that they can be difficult to use in practice. Link building and using anchor text correctly and in a manner that doesn’t work against your SEO goals is a delicate balance to strike.
With that said, if you do want some help in figuring out what would work best for your goals, feel free to reach out to a member of the Purecontent team today. By getting in touch, we can get you on track to meeting your content creation needs!