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If you’re a search engine optimization newbie, you probably heard somewhere that anchor text can help you rank in Google.
Unfortunately, this was very much true several years ago.
Nowadays, anchor texts are something that doesn’t affect your rankings as much as it can lead to a penalty.
They can easily harm your blog so it’s best to steer clear from them.
But let’s go step at a time. Let me first explain what anchor text is.
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is a clickable hypertext link which describes the target page it points to.
For example in click here, the“click here” phrase represents two word anchor text.
In a way, it is a description of the link helping people find their next destination while browsing the Web.
It is something that can also affect your website content as you can play a bit with your anchors and make your sentences stick out.
History of anchor text
Back in the day exact match anchors were one of the best ways of ranking on the top of Google for any keyword.
SEO experts were creating tons of links with their main keywords as anchor text in order to boost their pages in the SERPs.
And as strange as it might sound – it worked like a charm!
Google were paying a lot of attention to the anchor text webmasters and SEOs used and this was a great strategy to occupy the top spot in any industry.
Unfortunately, as you can assume, this led to some very negative effects for the entire Internet.
Marketing specialists would create a lot of backlinks containing the main keyword of their clients. Based on your company budget you were able to quickly rank for particular profitable keywords.
It was just a matter of quantity, not that much of quality.
Actually, the whole optimization process came down to how much money a site had for their link building campaign.
Needless to say this affected end user’s experience and the quality of the search results across the board.
You couldn’t tell if you’re reading a quality article as quality of content was… well, pretty much irrelevant as a ranking signal.
Instead, the posts that were among top spots in Google search engine were reserved for sites that implemented this absurd link building strategy.
This was especially true for e-commerce websites.
The first page in Google was reserved for e-shops which had hundreds or even thousands of low quality, exact match anchor backlinks.
Yeah, that’s how bad it had become.
Anchor texts today
Fast-forward to 2017.
First off, anchor texts still exist (and probably will for years to come) and are really helpful when it comes to user experience.
They still help you learn more about a linked page and lead you to additional sources of information (sites) that you wish to read.
However, their nature has changed drastically.
They no longer work so well in terms of rankings. At least not like before.
In short, the huge changes we witness today began with Google Penguin algorithm which was a huge step towards the Internet we know today.
Nowadays, good SEOs no longer focus on exact match anchors as changes in Google’s algorithms made it really easy to get penalized.
It’s not too much to say that in 2017 it’s better to not have any links than to have such that are:
- Low quality (comment and forum links, the majority of links from web directories, Web 2.0 backlinks, etc.)
- Irrelevant (have nothing to do with your niche and were built merely to boost your rankings)
- Built by using forbidden strategies (PBN links, paid links, etc.)
So one of the top priorities on your list when it comes to anchor text is to avoid over optimization.
Don’t use one and the same money term as Google will notice the pattern which increases penalty risk.
Instead focus on anchor text diversification.
What do I mean by that?
Read on, I will explain.
Diversification is the key
Anchors are still something that can boost your rankings but they can get your business in trouble too.
So what is the solution? Use different types of anchors.
But wait, there’s a catch.
You shouldn’t do this randomly!
When it comes to SEO, it is usually best to adapt to the current state of your online niche instead of guessing.
Check your top 10 or even top 20 competitors.
Make sure to pay attention to three very important factors:
- What kind of are they using?
- In what proportion (percentage)?
- Of what quality?
Well, you have to blend in with the top players in your online niche and not look suspicious to Google.
Your best bet is to go with the industry average.
If the top rankings websites are not penalized for having such link profile, you shouldn’t be penalized as well, right?
Hmm, not exactly! I’ll explain in a bit.
First of all, let’s see how to find your industry norm.
There are several awesome link analysis tools you can use to analyze the top 10 players’ link profiles:
- Link Research Tools
What these SEO tools will do for you is that they will show you what links and in what proportion form the backlink profiles of your main competition.
Have in mind that these tools are paid and unless you need the whole suite for your SEO, it is best to sign up for their trial versions.
What makes a good anchor?
Everything I said so far is important, but it’s not everything you need to consider when analyzing your main competitors.
The general rule of thumb is that anchors also need to be:
- Relevant (coming from sites related to your topic and niche)
- Natural (to be placed on pages where it makes sense and fit naturally within the content)
- Rich keyword free (I already explained why anchors that contain money terms can be dangerous)
- Diversified (well diversified link profiles will keep you safe)
All these 4 factors are playing an important role when Google is analyzing your backlink profile.
You see, even if you avoid exact match anchors you can still get in trouble with Google if you start overusing the same phrase for all your links.
Keep in mind that Google Penguin was initially introduced as a way of preventing black hat link building techniques.
Still not sure what a naturally looking link profile means?
Well, it’s not rocket science. just use your common sense.
Let’s imagine that multiple different sites link to yours. These are different webmasters and they can rarely have the same opinion or mindset. In that regard, it’s almost impossible to have similar anchor texts coming your way, right?
Exactly! Now, just make sure you keep this thought in mind whenever you build links to your site. Be creative and try to diversify your link anchor text as much as possible.
Main types of anchor texts
I already talked about them.
In short, when you use exactly your main (money) keyword as your link text, you’re building exact matches.
They are necessary in a small percentage and can improve your rankings, but if you’re building them at scale you will get in trouble.
Make sure this type of links are forming the smallest percentage of your backlink profile.
Examples: “white hat SEO services” and “technical SEO audit”.
Unlike exact match, this type of links include other words in their anchors.
In a way it can be perceived as diluted exact match. It still helps your rankings, but is not that dangerous. It looks much more natural too.
Examples: “check these SEO services” and “SEO audit is very important”.
Generic texts are random text in a sense that they do not describe the content on the page.
Instead, they use phrases such as “click here” or “read more”. Even though they are called generic they often fit perfectly.
Most people will use anchors such as these to point to a page so it’s normal to have them as a part of your profile.
These ones will simply point you to a website such with its URL address.
In normal articles, you won’t find this often as it doesn’t look good.
Instead, there is a much great chance to see something such as the name of the brand. Nevertheless, these anchors are great when creating lists with different websites on them.
Examples: “http://niksto.com/” or “niksto.com”
I just mentioned brand names.
With branded anchors you’ll be using the name of the brand without placing http, www or its domain extenion (.com, .net, .org, etc.)
These anchors come very naturally and it is normal for a company to be mentioned in such a way.
Usually, it’ll be the naked and branded anchor texts that should form the majority of your natural link profile.
Examples: “NikSto” or “niksto”
Images are a bit different.
Here, the alt attribute of the image is used instead of anchor text.
Examples: <img src=”seo-services.jpg” alt=”SEO services”> or <img src=”seo-audit.png” alt=”SEO audit”>
Anchor text relevance
There is another very important thing that needs to be mentioned.
With time, Google hasn’t only perfected the way it observes anchors; it also manages to understand whether an anchor is natural and appropriate for a site or not.
This is why we have anchor relevance.
Anchor relevance has to do with where we get our links from.
This is basically the same as domain relevance. Google is looking at the source of your links and they have to be related to your site’s topic. If not, this immediately raises a red flag.
In fact, lack of anchor relevance is something that black hat SEOs constantly use for negative SEO attacks.
They would link from multiple irrelevant websites with irrelevant anchors trying to get you in trouble with Google.
Best way to prevent this, or cope with such negative attacks, is by constantly checking your incoming links and disavowing those that look dangerous.
Professional SEO services like link profile audits are also highly recommended.
To wrap it up
Anchor texts are an element that can bring some form of diversification to your blog.
However, if you think that this is still a potent link building strategy, better think again. There is no real reason for you to take risks with your anchors as this can only get you in trouble.
Believe me, removing Google penalties can be a really, really tedious process.
Instead, try to focus on anchors that flow naturally with the content and look natural.
Do you optimize your anchor texts? Have you ever had issues with over optimization? Share your experience it in the comment section below!