Links are probably the most important part of Search Engine Optimization. Search engines look at links as basically a vote for the quality and relevance of your website.
Therefore building links back to your website is a very important aspect of SEO.
Anchor text and more importantly, anchor text diversity is an incredibly important part of your link building. Especially after Google’s Penguin update.
What is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is simply the visible and clickable text in a link.
The HTML code looks like this:
<a href=“http://yoursite.com">This is Your Anchor Text</a>
It looks like this on your actual website:
To put things very simply, if you want to rank for a specific keyword then you need links from other websites back to your website with that keyword as the anchor text.
After Google’s Penguin update however it’s not quite as easy as it sounds.
The Penguin Update
Before Google’s Penguin update you could go crazy with your anchor text. You could build hundreds or thousands of links to your website with the exact keywords you wanted.
It was very easy to get your website to rank.
Penguin changed all this and was designed to figure out who was artificially building links and penalize them for it.
Here’s how Penguin works:
- You get links to your website.
- Google indexes those links.
- The links are added to Google’s database as part of the link profile for your website.
- The algorithm then analyzes your link profile to determine if you’re doing SEO.
The way Penguin determines if you’re trying to artificially build links is by taking a look at the on-page content of your website and comparing it to your link profile.
If almost all of the anchor text for your links contains the same keywords that are all throughout the content on your website then it’s pretty obvious you’re doing SEO.
It’s actually very easy for Google to tell what keywords you’re trying to rank for and if you’re trying to build links.
To put it more simply:
Exact match anchor text + on-site content full of the same keywords = a Penguin penalty
So how do you avoid getting penalized by Google?
By diversifying the anchor text in your links.
How to Diversify Your Link Profile
Search Engine Optimization is all about making things look as natural as possible.
After the Penguin update this is more important than ever.
When you build links back to your website it’s very important to use a wide variety of different kinds of anchor text.
Here are some of the most common types to give you an idea.
This is the most important type of anchor text right now. Google absolutely loves brand names.
Because if people are naturally linking to your website then most of the anchor text should naturally be some variation on your brand or company name.
When you build links you need to be absolutely sure that most of your links have brand name anchors.
In fact this should be about 70% of all your anchor text.
Another very common type of anchor text that would occur naturally are simply naked URLs.
There are things like:
It’s very easy to just copy and paste a URL from your address bar and share it somewhere.
Naturally, a large percentage of your anchor text would be from URLs.
Ideally you want around 15% to 25% of your anchor text to include URLs.
Generic Anchor Text
This is another pretty common type of anchor text that’s very easy to use to add some diversity to your link profile.
These are simply quick phrases like:
- Click here
- Learn more
- More information
- Visit our website
- Read More
You can easily come up with tons of different phrases like this an use a bunch of them as you build links.
About 5% of your backlinks should have generic anchor text.
Brand Name + Keywords
This is another excellent way to mix things up while still helping you rank.
For example if you want to rank for the keyword “Chicago Realtors” and your brand name is “John Doe” you might use anchor text like:
- “John Doe is one of the best Chicago Realtors”
- “Out of all Chicago Realtors John Doe gives the best service”
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)
Latent Semantic Indexing sounds pretty fancy but it’s not that complicated.
These are really just variations on the keywords you want to rank for.
For example if you want to rank for “Chicago Realtors” you could use anchor text like:
- “Realtors in Chicago”
- “The Best Chicago Realtors”
- “Chicago Realtor Reviews”
You can use the suggested options that appear when you start typing a search in Google or the related searches at the bottom of the page if you need ideas.
Anchors with Synonyms
These are similar to the LSI anchors and here you just use synonyms for the keywords you want to rank for.
For example if you want to rank for “Homes for sale in Chicago” you could use:
- “Properties for sale in Chicago”
- “Condos for sale in Chicago”
- “Houses for sale in Chicago”
It’s quite possible that someone might make a clickable image that links to your website so why not throw in a few yourself.
Simply add the HTML code for a link to an image.
<a href=“http://yourwebsite.com"><img src=“thepathtoyourimage.jpg”></a>
Exact Match Anchors
These are still the most important types of anchors and are what makes your website rank. This is anchor text that has the exact keyword you want to rank for and nothing else.
Remember that if you have too many of these you’ll get penalized by Penguin so you can only have very few of these.
Only build a few of these types of links and save them for the absolute highest quality websites that you can find.
Exact match anchors should be less than 1% of your anchor text.
A Few Additional Things to Consider
There are a few more things you might not have thought of which are very important.
Exact Match Domains
In the early days of SEO having a domain with the keywords you wanted to rank for was a big help.
After the Penguin update however it’s definitely not.
When you start getting lots of natural links back to your site as we mentioned before most of them will have your brand name or URL as the anchor text.
If your brand name and URL is exactly the same as the keywords you want to rank for then a huge percentage of your links will end up with the same exact match anchor text.
It won’t be your fault and you might not even be trying to do any SEO.
From Penguin’s perspective through it’ll look like that’s exactly what you’re trying to do and you’ll trigger a penalty.
Therefore if you’re starting a new business it’s very important that you choose something like YourName.com as your URL.
If you register something like homesforsalechicago.com then it’ll be really easy to trigger an over-optimization penalty.
How Much of Each Type of Anchor Text You Need
The percentages we recommended for each type of anchor text are just guidelines.
Especially when you start getting a ton of links.
When you just have 10 links to your website and one happens to have exact match anchor text that’s not a problem.
That could easily be completely natural.
When you have 5,000 links back to your website and 50 of them have exact match anchor text then that’s a little bit more of an issue.
It’s highly unlikely that 50 different websites would link to you using the exact keywords you’re trying to rank for.
This could trigger something with Google’s algorithms.
The more links you build the fewer exact match anchors you should have.
No matter what you do with SEO remember to always keep things as natural as possible.
If you are going to use exact match anchors save them for the absolute best sites with the highest ranking power.
SEO can seem pretty intimidating if you’re new to it. It’s best to avoid building links to your website until you’re sure you know what you’re doing.
At the very least you should make sure you’re able to remove the links if you ever run into any problems.
As always if you have any questions about anchor text or even SEO in general feel free to ask them in the comments or on the forums.