Anchor Text

What is Anchor Text?

Anchor text is the text that appears highlighted in a hyperlink. When clicked, it opens up another web page on any domain. In SEO, anchor text can be valuable as an indicator of keyword targeting for a web page. Best practices indicate that anchor text should be relevant and natural sounding within a sentence for it to generate value for that web page.

From a coding standpoint, the anchor text is encased in an HTML “a” tag and the URL is defined by an “href” tag. The entirety of the code is sometimes referred to in SEO as an “a href attribute”.

The coding structure of anchor text.

On a web page, the anchor text usually appears blue and underlined. Search engines such as Google and Bing utilize this anchor text as an indicator of user experience and relevancy. This can not only be useful for internal linking but link building as well.

What are the different kinds of Anchor Text?

There are several different kinds of anchor text that need to consider, including exact match, phrase match, partial match, and more. Depending on the intent of your anchor text, and the SEO value that you are trying to grab, you may want to consider each one differently.

Exact Match Anchor Text

Exact match anchor text is when the anchor text is the keyword that reflects the targeted page. For example, a hyperlink with the anchor text “on-page optimization” should be linking to a page about on-page optimization.

From an SEO perspective, if utilized correctly, exact match anchor text is the most valuable practice. In the past, there have been some discrepancies between whether or not this practice can negatively impact keyword rankings and traffic. However, as long as there are no instances of unnatural links or anchor text stuffing, exact match anchor text can be a valuable targeting tool.

In regards to best practices for exact match anchor text, you should only use this form of anchor text once per page and only when it is natural and relevant.

An example of exact match anchor text.

Phrase Match Anchor Text

Phrase match anchor text is when the keyword is present, but the anchor text is not the exact phrase. For example, a hyperlink with the anchor text “on-page optimization tactics” that represents a glossary page about on-page optimization is phrase match anchor text.

From an SEO perspective, this is the next best option. The anchor text still contains the targeted keyword and is still relevant to what is on the page.

Some SEO’s actually prefer using phrase match anchor text because not only does it capture the targeted keyword, but it captures any related and longer variations of the keyword as well. For example, the anchor text “on-page optimization tactics” contains the keyword “on-page optimization” and “on-page optimization tactics”.

An example of phrase match anchor text.

Partial Match Anchor Text

Partial match anchor text is when all words in the targeted keyword are included in the anchor text, but it is not an exact match. Not to confuse this with phrase match, they are very similar.

For example, a hyperlink with the anchor text “optimizations for on-page SEO” contains the words on-page and optimization, but not together; therefore technically it does not contain the keyword.

Depending on the keyword, this kind of anchor text still has a lot of SEO value. Most of the time, Google and other search engines have the ability to pick up semantic versions of the keyword (sometimes referred to as Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords).

An example of partial match anchor text.

Image Alt Text as Anchor Text

Image alt text is the text that Google attributes to each individual image. People who experience partial to full blindness and utilize voice readers use image alt text as a way to “read” images.

From an SEO perspective, image alt text is the anchor text of the image. Alt text can be extremely valuable because it is another way to send Google a signal of attributing a certain keyword to a page.

Best practices for inserting keywords into your image alt text is using a natural description that includes the keyword but also describes the image as best as possible. For example, an image that shows a list of on-page optimization tactics should contain the alt text “A list of the top 5 on-page optimization tactics”.

An example of alt text as anchor text

Branded Anchor Text

Branded anchor text is anchor text where the underlined word is the brand name. For example, if we are talking about “on-page optimization tactics from Directive” (us), the anchor text would be “Directive” rather than “on-page optimization tactics”.

From an SEO perspective, although it is relevant to our brand, it is not relevant to what the page is discussing. Therefore, it does not provide very much (if any) SEO value.

Branded anchor text, although not very valuable, is the type of anchor text most used. The reasoning is because, in order to use exact match anchor text, you have to actively understand the SEO value behind it to use it. Branded anchor text is a little bit more obvious. You want to reference their site, so you use their brand name to reference them.

An example of branded anchor text

Random Anchor Text

Random anchor text is anchor text that contains a random word that is not related to the targeted keyword or destination web page. For example, “click here” or “learn more” are examples of random anchor text that is seen throughout many websites.

From an SEO perspective, this form of anchor text provides no value to the website. Internal linking is an extremely valuable tool that many SEOs use to generate targeting indicators for Google, and this form of anchor text is what they try to avoid.

An example of random anchor text.

Naked URL

A naked URL is the anchor text that contains on the URL. A good example of a naked URL is: Directive Consulting ( is a B2B Search Engine Marketing Agency.

Instead of using “Directive Consulting” as the anchor text, the URL is used as its own anchor text. From an SEO perspective, this does not provide any value to your website, and can actually be considered a negative in Google’s “eyes”.

How does Anchor Text Influence Rankings?

Anchor text is an indicator of relevancy and keyword targeting for the web page it is pointing to. When Google and other search engines crawl your website, they look for these indicators to influence Google’s ranking algorithms.

In theory, the more web pages that link to your web page (internal and external), the better of a chance you have to rank. However, with the Google Penguin algorithm update in 2012, spammy links and excessive link usage has shown to be detrimental to Google rankings and has even caused manual actions to be taken on websites.

With that being said, there are three things that you must keep in mind when utilizing anchor text:

  1. Keep your anchor text short and concise
  2. Ensure your anchor text is relevant to the content it is pointing to
  3. Include your target keyword naturally and at low keyword density

Short and Concise Anchor Text

Short and concise anchor text is a best practice for SEO because it provides a good user experience for the user, it is simple to read, and it usually provides Google with a quick indication of relevancy (or lack thereof).

By using short and concise anchor text, you are also reducing inefficiencies that may reduce your crawl budget by Google.

Relevant Anchor Text

As previously discussed, the purpose of anchor text is to provide an indicator to the user and Google a direction to a relevant page that is contained within the anchor text’s targeted keyword. By utilizing relevant anchor text, you are matching your targeted page with the targeted keyword and increasing your ability to rank for that page.

Low Keyword Density Anchor Text

Low keyword density simply means that you don’t want to overuse anchor text with the same keyword or phrase. This is when a good mix between phrase match and exact match anchor text would be a valuable tactic to use when doing internal linking and link building.

How Do I Know I Am Properly Using Anchor Text On My Website?

Overall, properly utilizing anchor text is an extremely valuable tool to grow your organic traffic and keyword rankings. However, is misused, your website can be deindexed by Google and other search engines and you can lose every bit of SEO value you have worked for.

Concerned that your website may not be properly utilizing anchor text? You deserve the best. See if your website is properly using anchor by getting a free proposal today!

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