Search Engine Optimization is all about getting the most out of each link you build. In this context, anchor text is the most significant element as it plays a key role in unlocking the potential of link building effectively. However, you also need to be aware of the impact of Google’s updates on anchor text best practices. Knowing this is important because over-optimization of anchor text can eventually have a negative impact on your site’s rankings. On the other hand, implementing the right tactics can get you great results, both in terms of the website authority and SERPs. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you in mastering the anchor text optimization strategy.
What exactly is an anchor text?
First things first, let us start by explaining what exactly an anchor text is. Basically, anchor text is the visible, clickable word or phrase that links a web page to another one. For instance, an anchor text in HTML appears as follow:
Anchor Text Optimization and the visitors will see this on the website:
Anchor Text Optimization
The phrase “Anchor Text Optimization” here links out to https://outreachmonks.com/anchor-text and is the anchor text in this case. It is simple to anchor a link to a text on the page easily as CMS platforms such as WordPress and Drupal offer an out-of-the-box functionality that enables the same. Now that the meaning of anchor text has been explained, it is important to understand its impact on search engine rankings. Anchor text enables Google to determine what the web page is about and whether it is relevant to the chosen keywords. Earlier, building a strong anchor profile and getting it to rank by Google was as easy as selecting the keywords and using exactly the same keyword to anchor links back to the site. But the Penguin update in 2012 brought some disruptive changes for anchor text and websites that failed to align with them witnessed dramatic collapse in their rankings.
Anchor Text in the Era of Google Penguin
Google’s ranking algorithm has gone through numerous changes over the years but the Penguin Update that came in 2012 has perhaps been the most important one till date. The thought behind the update was to target the websites that flouted quality guidelines and used spam to gain rankings. As mentioned before, it was easy to game Google prior to the update with only exact match anchor links to the website and rank easily for any keyword. But the advent of Google Penguin changed everything as sites that over-optimize the anchor text are now subjected to harsh penalties and may lose traffic as well as organic rankings.
Practices such as unnatural link building and exact match anchor text links now become a complete no-no as they can damage the SEO efforts beyond imagination. Updates like the Panda, Hummingbird and Penguin 4.0 that succeeded Penguin strengthened the trend and emphasized the importance of anchor text optimization even further. While the update primarily brought improvement in the search engine result quality, they also brought challenges for the marketers who hardly had an idea about coping up with the new algorithm. Gradually, as things became clear, these challenges appeared easy to overcome. Let us delve deeper into the ramifications of the update.
The backlink process used in the updated Google algorithm comprises the following steps:
- A backlink is added by you
- Google indexes the said backlink
- Your link profile is updated by Google with this new backlink
- The process continues indefinitely as Google uses the information to determine the ranking of your website
All through the process, the algorithm makes a thorough analysis of your link profile and compared it with on-site keyword optimization. Google uses a specific set of parameters to determine whether your anchor text practices deserve to be rewarded or penalized. Being unaware of these parameters can land you in trouble and get you penalized for not using the best practices. Before explaining these best practices, let us identify the types of anchor text and their relevance for Google.
Types of Anchor Text
Keeping in line with the changes brought by the Penguin update, it becomes essential to understand the different types of anchor text so that you can use the right one at the right place. Anchor texts can be regarded as the diverse niches that can be used for creating backlinks. Each of these types has a specific purpose and is to be used optimally to avoid penalty.
Title Tag: A title tag, as the name suggests, refers to the page title. For instance, if a link leads to an About Us page or Sales page, you can simply is the meta title or main H1 tag as the anchor. Similarly, while linking to a blog post, the title of the post will be the anchor.
Exact Match: The exact match keyword is the exact keyword phrase that you are looking to rank the page for. For example, if you are trying to rank for “Anchor Text Optimization”, you will have to copy and paste this exact phrase for anchor.
Keyword Plus Word: This type of anchor text combines the exact keywords that you are aiming to rank for with other words/phrases. For example, if you want to rank for “fashionable midi dresses store”, a relevant Plus Keyword anchor will be “see fashionable midi dresses store here”. The best thing about this type is their versatility as they can be fitted naturally within the content. However, you need to ensure that each of the Keyword Plus Word anchor is unique from the other Keyword Plus Word anchors on the site.
Only Part of Keyword: As the name implies, these anchors have only a part of the key phrase that you look to rank for, rather than the entire phrase. A good example here would be using “buy fashionable midi dresses” as in case of the previous example. Again, these anchor texts should be unique from the others.
Just Natural Anchor: The anchor that does not have any of the key phrases is called a Just Natural Anchor. It is a simple piece of text that explains where the users are being redirected. “Here”, “At the blog” and “This website” are the examples of Just Natural anchors.
Brand Anchor: Clearly, brand anchors refer to the name of your business or brand. Outreachmonks.com, for example, will use “OutreachMonks” as the brand anchor.
Brand and Keyword Together: The next anchor type is Brand and Keyword Together, which is the combination of the branded anchor either with the Exact Keyword or Only Part of Keyword. For instance “Blogger outreach services from OutreachMonk” is an example of such anchor text.
Naked URL: A naked URL refers to an anchor which does not contain an anchor text but is a URL itself. For instance, https://outreachmonks.com/ is a naked URL.
Websitename.com: This can be a naked URL anchor that links to the site’s home page or an inner page using the site URL as the anchor. For example, the phrase “Read insights on blogger outreach at outreachmonk.com” lands a websitename.com link to the blog page on the site.
Homepage URL: This type of anchor text is similar to websitename.com anchors but the only difference is that they the use the full URL of the home page.
Naked URL without Http://: This is a naked URL that used only www and skips the https:// part.
No-text Anchor: This trick strategy involves building a link without any words in the anchor text. The simplest way to do is through images or by forgetting (intentionally or unintentionally) to include it in the article while keeping the link tag empty.
Besides these anchor types, anything else that you try using as an anchor text comes in the category of random anchor text type.
Anchor Text Practices for Google search rank improvement
Now that the different types of anchor texts have been explained clearly, you should also know about the best practices you should adhere to for leveraging them to attain high search rankings. Let us list them for you.
Keep them versatile and natural
Google gives precedence to the websites that deliver real value to the users. In this context, the placement of links should be natural, where users expect them to be and they get some valuable information for these links. As the algorithms get smarter than ever, recurrent use of keyword-based anchors is most likely to bring penalty for your website. The best approach,
therefore, is to serve high-quality content with relevant links from high Domain Authority and Page Authority sites.
Ensure that anchors are relevant to content
Relevance of anchors to content is another best practice that you must stick to. The improvement in Google’s algorithm, in addition to use of advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies, has made it capable of understanding the meaning of the web page content. So relevance matters a lot and Google will definitely penalize you if you place irrelevant anchor
texts and links on your site. Google is now totally focused on delivering unmatched user experiences, which is the reason it will not compromise with relevance at any cost.
The use of over-rich, spammy keyword-based anchor texts is another red flag for Google. You must, therefore, avoid over-optimization of anchor text and keep it as natural as you can. The best thing to do is to spread them across the inbound links in optimal proportions (which has been explained further in this article). For instance, you can try anchor text variations that
resemble the keywords closely in meaning yet are different.
Position your anchors properly
Another best practice related to anchor text positioning; place them where they are most likely to capture the attention of the users. The first few paragraphs make the best place to use them and so do headings, sub-headings and imagery. The idea is to have them put where they are capable of generating high click-through rates and engagement.
Focus on deep linking
One strategy where SEO professionals usually go wrong is focusing the anchors on the top level pages (such as home page, landing page or product pages) and ignoring the deep-level pages. Google does not appreciate this practice because the top-level pages happen to be
shallow from the content value perspective as compared to deep-level pages such as the blog. These are the ones that are actually valuable to the users.
Engage in relevant guest blogging
Guest blogging is the key ingredient of a successful digital strategy as a whole. When it comes to anchor text usage, you need to engage in relevant guest posting to get the best results. Pay attention to the authority as well as relevance of the website you are contributing to for getting authority links. According to the latest updates, Google also includes the websites that you link with while determine your ranking. Check your outbound links as well to ensure that you steer clear of spammy and low-quality websites.
Ideal Anchor Text Distribution
In addition to following the best practices for anchor text optimization, you also need to make sure that different types of anchor text are used in the right proportion. An optimal distribution of anchor text is the mainstay of a successful search engine ranking strategy. The reason is that if
you use the same anchor text types or more of two types, Google will definitely penalize you. You should, therefore, target anchor text diversity as a part of your link building strategy. An idea website profile will exhibit the following distribution matrix:
- Branded anchor text- 50%
- Websitename.com- 15%
- Naked links-10-20%
- Page title/Blog post title- 10-15%
- LSI partial match anchors- 1-5%
- Generic anchors- 5%
- Exact match anchor texts- 1-5%
Besides these, you can mix and match the other anchor text types as the need may be. Additionally, you need to avoid low-quality links as they can land you in trouble. A thorough analysis of the niche and competitors will give you a clear idea about the distribution of anchor text that will get you optimal results.
Anchor text optimization is an evolutionary strategy that needs to be fine-tuned to be aligned with the changes in Google algorithm. The mantra is to keep your website’s anchor text cloud versatile and natural because this only matters the most to Google when it determines the rankings. Periodic audits are a good idea to weed out the ones that might damage your SERPs and identify the ones that you need to build on. In a nutshell, you need to be in the good books of Google and this can be done best with honest efforts to adhere to the best practices and using anchor text that is natural, relevant and user-oriented.
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