What is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is simply the visible and clickable text in a link. For example, you may be reading an article and see something like: “the SEO strategies over at H Cube Web Solutions” – “H Cube Web Solutions” is the anchor text.
To create anchor text, you’ll need to memorize a very simple HTML code:
<a href=“”></a> – this is how you create any link in HTML.
Why Does It Matter?
Anchor text will always “matter” as long as backlinks matter. Prior to the Penguin update in 2012, anchor text was one of the easiest ways for Google to understand the relevancy of any given website.
Now in 2014, anchor text is one of the best ways for Google to penalize spam and over-optimization.
Does this mean anchor text is becoming meaningless?
Not even in the slightest.
I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it’s even stronger than it was before (when used the way I’m going to show you).
Pre-Penguin Anchor Text
Before the first Penguin update, you could go absolutely buck wild with your anchor text. You could literally use 100% exact match anchors for all of your backlinks and you would rank. It was like stealing candy from a baby, and Google obviously had to make a change.
That change was the Penguin update.
Google Penguin 1.0: The Update That Changed It ALL
The first Penguin update in 2012 literally changed the link building game forever.
Penguin targeted any website that was blatantly doing low-quality, artificial, or spammy link building in an effort to “game” the search engine.
How did they determine if a website is building links artificially or using spam to rank?
Why, might you ask?
Because a normal website would not have 100% of its backlinks with the anchor text “SEO Services ”. And at the time, many people doing SEO were using these crazy high percentages.
In 2014, you really need to understand how Penguin analyzes anchor text and determines whether a site should be penalized or not.
I promise, it’s not complicated, but it is CRITICAL that you understand to
keep your site safe.
Here’s exactly how Penguin works:
- You build a backlink
- Google indexes the backlink
- Google places this new backlink into its database for your specific website, also known as your “link profile”
- Steps 1-3 are repeated over-and-over, and now you have a “link profile” that the algorithm can analyze
Now, this is where the real magic happens:
The algorithm analyzes your link profile and compares it to the on-page factors for your website or target page.
So, if your on-page content is optimized for “SEO Services ” and 100% of your anchor text is about SEO Services, then you will get a penalty because it’s very easy for Google’s algorithm to see that you’re:
- A) trying to rank for “SEO Services ”
- B) you’re building links artificially
They can dish out penalties to sites that make this mistake simply based on the amount of exact match anchor text + the on-page keywords being used. It’s really that simple.
So, how do you avoid getting penalized?
You need to understand HOW, and WHEN to use your keyword-rich anchors.
Different Types of Anchor Text
Before, I get into strategy, it’s critical that you understand all the different forms of anchor text so that you’ll be able to create a diverse and “natural” link / anchor profile.
Branded Anchors – any anchor text that uses your brand in it.
Sentence sample: “Over at <anchor>H Cube Web Solutions<anchor> you can learn search engine optimization.”
Branded anchors are by far the safest as long as your site is not an exact match domain (more on this later). Simply take a look at any big brand and look at the percentages of branded anchors in their link profile.
Generic Anchors – the most “normal” form of anchor text such as:
- “click here”
- “go here”
- “check this site out”
In a sentence: “<anchor>Go here<anchor> if you’re looking for SEO information.”
Naked Link Anchors – simply linking back to a website with your URL.
- www. Hcubewebsolutions.com
No Anchor Trick – this is a tricky little strategy I see big brands doing.
Whether purposefully or not, it’s a good idea.
Go back to the previous images under “branded anchors”. You’ll see that these brands have “noText” anchors.
What’s a better way to diversify your anchor profile, then not having ANY words at all?
The easiest way to building “noText” anchors is through images or you can simply “forget” to include an anchor within an article, which will have a similar effect.
Image Anchors – I always throw in image links with every campaign because I think it’s a great way to diversify. Some SEOs claim that the anchor text isn’t counted in images, but in my experience it does count.
Google uses the “ALT” tag as the anchor text in an image.
If you leave this blank, you’ll get a “noText” anchor like I mentioned above.
Brand + Keyword Anchor – this is another great way to stay “safe” and for building a diverse, natural anchor profile.
I’ll use “H Cube Web Solutions” as the brand and my target keyword as “anchor text”.
The anchor text would look like this:
- “anchor text strategies by H Cube Web Solutions”
- “H Cube Web Solutions anchor text strategies”
You’re simply combining your target keyword with your brand.
LSI Anchors – “LSI” is the acronym for “Latent Semantic Indexing”. Don’t be freaked out by this nerdy terminology.
It really just means variations of your main keyword.
So, if I’m targeting “anchor text”, then some LSI keywords would be:
- “what is anchor text”
- “anchor text backlinks”
- “anchor text example”
- “define anchor text”
Finding LSI keywords is super easy. You can either use Google’s suggest options in the search bar, “Searched related to ___” at the bottom of the search results, or for more extensive keywords, you can use the Keyword Planner.
Related Searches Options
Google Suggest Options
Google Keyword Planner
Partial-Match Anchors – partial matches are very similar to LSI’s, but the biggest difference is that you’re making it up as opposed to using Google’s suggestions or using keywords that have search volume.
Here are some examples for target keyword “anchor text”:
- “learn about anchor text”
- “quality anchor text guide”
- “this anchor text article”
I use partial-match anchors quite a lot because it’s a very natural way of linking to another website.
Long Anchors – long anchors are really just an extension of partial-match except they are a little longer.
Here are a few examples for “anchor text”:
- “anchor text is the key to link building”
- “I used anchor text to get these rankings”
Exact Match Anchors – the king of all anchor text. It has the power to increase your rankings, but also has the power to penalize your website.
To simply put it, an exact match anchor is the exact match of whatever your target keyword is.
Example: if “anchor text” is my target keyword, then my exact match
anchor would be “anchor text”.
Place Your Anchor Text in Super Relevant Content
Below, I’ve given you a few different examples of the types of content I would use for link building purposes. The better the relevancy of your article to your target keyword, the higher you will rank.
Keyword: “anchor text”
- Instead of writing a broader article about link building, I would actually write articles specifically about anchor text. The tighter the relevancy of the linking article, the stronger your link.
Keyword: “New York personal injury lawyer”
- I would write an article like “How to Find a Reputable Personal Injury Lawyer in New York” instead of a generic article about personal injury.
Keyword: garcinia cambogia
- Instead of writing an article about health or weight loss, I would write an article like “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Garcinia Cambogia”.
Anchor Text Percentages
So now that you have a firm understanding of all the different anchor text you can use, I’m going to show you the anchor text percentages that have kept my websites safe through every Penguin update.
These percentages are not the law, and you can change these if you want.
But keep in mind… I’ve spent thousands of hours + testing this stuff, analyzing the link profiles of thousands of websites, and successfully ranking client’s websites in the most competitive industries online.
I’m not telling you this to brag, but I want to you know that you’re not reading some theory or generalization. This is what works!
Branded Anchor Text: 50%
Google wants you to create a brand. Not a fly-by-night website. One of the easiest ways for them to differentiate between a “brand” and a SEO-driven website is to look at the amount of branded anchor text hitting the site.
Naked Links: 25%
As I mentioned above, naked links are a very safe and a very natural anchor text. A bulk of your backlinks should be using naked links.
Generic Anchors: 20%
Generic anchors keep your link profile looking “natural” and are a necessity. Try not to use “click here” for every single one. You can pretty much use any word in the English language that isn’t related to your keyword, and it will be considered generic.
I’ll have a nice list of generic anchors in the excel file that you can start using.
LSI, Partial Match Anchors: 1-5%
Okay, so after branded, naked, and generic anchors, you’re left with around 5% leeway for keyword-rich anchors. The majority of the last 5% anchors should be variations of your main keyword.
Exact Match Anchors: Less Than 1%
I use exact match anchor text as a LAST resort, not a first option. Keep in mind, the less you use it, the more powerful it becomes.
Assigning a percentage to exact match anchors is very, very, VERY dangerous!
Think about this for a second:
If we take the agreed upon percentage in the SEO community that says around 5% exact match anchors is “safe”, and place that same percentage on three websites with more or less links, watch what happens:
Website A: 100 backlinks = 5 exact match anchors
- This is definitely possible and generally would not put your site at risk.
Website B: 1,000 backlinks = 50 exact match anchors
- The possibility of 50 different websites linking to your page with the same exact anchor text is pretty unlikely.
Website C: 10,000 backlinks = 500 exact match anchors
- Obviously this isn’t possible and your page or website would get drilled by Penguin.
Okay, so now do you see why assigning a percentage to exact match anchors is a bad idea?