Anchor text use and strategies

Anchor text plays a vital role when it comes to forming a successful link building strategy. It has a long history with search engines by giving them the context clues in understanding the relevancy of a given link to a website. However, much has changed in its use throughout the years and knowing how to use anchor text effectively is now essential in avoiding penalties and bad rankings.

Before Google’s Penguin update, many sites abused the fact that anchor text can be used to create an exact match with your page and your target keywords. However, this kind of abusive and spammy strategy was considered low-quality and didn’t give search engine users the kind of results that were relevant to them.

In an effort to curb this, the 2012 Penguin update changed a lot of the rules behind backlinks and analyzed the way anchor text was used. To put it simply, after a site’s link profile was compiled, the Google algorithm would check it against your onsite keyword optimization. If it found that you were over optimizing your page content with your anchors, then you’ll most likely get penalized for it.

Knowing this, it’s important to understand how to effectively implement anchor text with your link building strategy. Google favors sites that build a more diverse and natural link profile rather than one that is spammy and artificial. To understand this concept more, let’s take a look at the different types of anchor text first.

Types of Anchor Text

  1. Generic – This type of anchor text typically relies on simple, straightforward call-to-action statements like: “click here”, “check this out”, or “go here”. Take note that the statement preceding generic anchor text usually has some context as to content of the landing page it is pointing to. (i.e. “To read more about link building strategies, click here.”)
  2. Branded – If you have your own domain, branded anchor text is a good way to “advertise” it though anchor text. Using this type of anchor text is generally safe unless your domain incorporates your main keyword as well, making the subsequent anchor text come out as an exact match instead (e.g. if your domain is something like: “”). It’s also possible to mix up the branded anchor text by inserting your target keyword for more diversity. For instance, a branded plus keyword anchor text would look something like: “SEO strategies by GlenDemands”.
  3. Naked Link – A very direct type of anchor txt, naked link simply places the actual URL to your target page. Example:
  4. LSI – LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing and basically includes variations in your main keyword. There are several ways to get LSI keywords that are related to your main one. One way is through Google Keyword Planner, which will output a list of keywords that are related to your target keyword. Another method is by simply plugging in your main keyword though the Google search bar. At the bottom, you’ll find a list of suggested searches that are related to your main keyword.

Here is an example of related search terms for the keyword “anchor text”:

Related searches for the term "anchor text"

  1. Partial Match – Similar to LSI, partial match anchor also relies on variations to your target keyword. However, this type of anchor text can come across as more natural since they’re user generated rather than produced by a tool. It typically attaches a qualitative modifier next to the main keyword. For example, “best SEO company” is a good partial match for the keyword “SEO company”.
  2. Broad Match – Related to partial match, a broad anchor text is essentially the same but is usually longer in terms of length (5 words or more). This is a good way to target more specific, long-tailed keywords. To expound on the previous example, “best SEO company in the Philippines” can be a broad match anchor text of the above.
  3. Exact Match – With exact match anchor text, it doesn’t get any more direct than this. This type of anchor text specifically matches whatever keyword you are targeting for a particular page. For instance, if the target keyword for one of your service pages is “PPC Philippines”, then this is the anchor text that you use to link to that page. However, note that making use of exact match anchor texts is a double edged sword in terms of increasing your rankings and getting penalized – especially if you over optimize with this type of anchor text.

Another type of anchor where links can be placed includes images. Embedding a link into an image is a good way to diversify your link profile. Just make sure to include a relevant description and keywords in the ALT tag of the image.

Anchor Text Tactics

Relevant Content

The power of links is still quite powerful in today’s SEO landscape. That’s why the correct use and distribution of anchor text across a page is imperative towards a successful link building campaign. Many sites have been penalized due to their overspecialization of anchor text choice and placement. To avoid this particular trap, you only need to remember one thing when setting up your anchor text links: relevancy.

The best practice for this is to always position your target keyword around your anchor text. The caveat here is to write your anchor text in such a way that it sounds natural rather than spammy or incoherent. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as the content surrounding your anchor text is highly relevant to one another. Google has evolved enough to understand the relevancy of a link and the content surrounding without having you to blatantly spell it out.

Proper Anchor Text Distribution and Cycling

Creating a diverse link profile is one of the safest ways to go about your link building strategy. With that said, using varied types of anchor text contributes to this greatly. The exact breakdown of which anchor text to use has varied over the years, though.

The general consensus so far is that the safer strategy leans on using brand and naked anchor text over exact matches. This has been corroborated by Google in numerous references throughout the years, encouraging us to build our brand for better recognition. An over reliance on exact match and LSI anchor texts can be seen as spammy, and this can spell trouble if a majority of your backlink profile is filled with these.

Anchor text cyclingThere have been many recommendations on what percentage of anchor text types that you should use. However, instead of focusing on this, let’s take a look at how you can effectively cycle your use of anchor text to get better rankings.

If you’re starting from a new website with no previously created backlinks, begin by targeting the page with a relevant link using an exact match anchor text. The reason behind this is that you want to establish what your page is about as soon as possible. While this may seem contradictory at first, always remember that a single link does not automatically penalize a site – regardless of the type of anchor text used.

Similarly, if you’re starting a link building campaign for an older, established site, you first need to take a look at the backlink profile and see what kind of links and anchor text were used. You can then determine whether you should begin the campaign by using exact match anchor text or not.

Your page’s or your site’s link profile is built over time and, in any case, you should closely monitor how your links affect it. After injecting the initial link and anchor text, you can then move on to other anchor text variations. So if your focus during one month is on branded anchor text, then the next month should focus on partial match. What’s important here is that you regularly cycle the type of anchor text that you use to create a more diverse and natural link profile.

Conclusion: Quality over Quantity

In the end, it doesn’t take a ton of backlinks to rank for your desired keywords. Through smart use of anchor text variations, it’s the quality of the links that matter and not the quantity. As a final tip, try not to settle into a rhythm when it comes to building anchor text and links. Always make sure to mix things up to create that much needed diversity that Google loves.