When it comes to Search Engine Optimization, anchor text plays a very important role. In a bid to counter the overuse of anchor text by websites, Google moved to introduce the 2012 Penguin update.
Google slapped around 3.1 percent of websites with a penalty for taking advantage of unscrupulous link building practices, as a result of the Penguin update. You should definitely take anchor text related matters seriously, as Google apparently does.
Whether internet users choose to follow a link and if search engines are able to comprehend the link are both dependent on the description and placement of anchor text.
Anchor Text Types
We have had a lot of time to observe the performance of anchor text, given the fact that the Penguin update came into force around ten years ago.
Our use of content optimization and anchor text to be specific has been greatly assisted by other developments, like comprehension of the growing importance of long tail phrases and keyword intent.
With that in mind, let us look at the various types of anchor text, identifying the best ones to use according to link building service eCentres.ie.
Exact Match Anchors
In this case, the specific pages being targeted have anchor text that matches them exactly. Considered to have been overused in the past, this type of anchor text is meant to provide users and search engines alike with the best possible context.
We all know that Google does not take kindly to keyword stuffing, and overusing exact match anchor text is similar to using your main keyword too many times. Excessive use of this type of anchor text was resultantly penalized by the Penguin update.
Even with that in mind, you can still use this type of anchor text every now and then. To avoid suffering the wrath of Google, just remember to avoid excessive usage.
Partial Match Anchors
The combination of your keywords with other phrases or words during use results in the creation of partial match anchors. Since partial match anchors help you avoid any chance of over-optimization, while still providing search engines and users with accurate information about the destination of the link, it is considered to be a good means of avoiding penalties associated with exact matches.
However, the problem is that you risk creating longer phrases by choosing to use partial match anchors. To avoid keyword dilution and causing confusion among users with regard to identifying the section that a link applies to, you should try to steer clear of anchor texts that are as long as a sentence.
While they should not be overused, just like in the case of exact matches, partial matches are a great option for use in anchor text.
Considering the fact that it involves a reasonable level of keyword research, this method different from the others described here. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is normally used in semantic anchors.
Entering the first word of a phrase in the search bar on Google, and observing the result, will give you a good idea of LSI keywords.
Alternatively, you can enter a full phrase and then find more suggestions of LSI keywords by scrolling to the bottom end of the search results page.
Since all the semantic terms/phrases displayed won’t be relevant, you will need to carefully sort through the list. For instance, vague or exceedingly long phrases may not be suitable, and it might make sense for you to avoid them.
When you want to reference sources like images and quotes, you should use naked anchors. These are URLs that have been copy pasted from the search bar and onto the bottom of webpages.
However, these anchors are not as effective, even though the practice is easier than spending time choosing suitable anchor text. You cannot take advantage of this opportunity to provide search engines with details about where the link leads.
In addition to making it harder for users to identify the destination of the links, naked anchors can be distracting to users who are trying to read the content on a page; thus negatively impacting the user experience.
As such, wherever possible, we recommend that you steer clear of these anchors.
To establish the authority of a brand, like in the case of external links leading to trusted sources, branded anchors use the name of a brand.
By contacting brands that could do the same for you in future, you can use this form of anchor text in combination with your link-building efforts. Provided that it is not overused, Google considers this to be a good practice.
You can make images clickable with the help of image anchors. On top of providing a visual aspect for users to enjoy, you can also add variety to your links with this strategy.
But, you should avoid overusing them. When browsing your website, users may end up clicking on images accidentally, as they have a larger surface area. It can be very frustrating being taken to pages you don’t want, and having to go back to where you were over and over again.
Since the alt text of your images is read as anchor text by Google, you should definitely think about alt text when using image anchors. As such, all images on your webpages should come with the correct alt text.
One of the most commonly used types of anchors is generic anchors. Common examples include “Read more” and “Click here”, among others.
These types of anchors are quite common, and do have their suitable applications. However, they do not offer much value to search engines as they do not provide any details or context on the destination of the link.
Simply because modern mobile devices are fitted with touch-screens, the phrase “click here” has been rendered obsolete with the exponential growth of mobile internet traffic, as these devices do not allow users to “click” on links or anything else for that matter.
In terms of accessibility, generic anchor text can also be problematic. For instance, audio tools and screen readers are used by visually impaired users when it comes to describing the contents of a page. These users do not get much information from the phrase “click here”. Your content will be more accessible to all users and anchors provide more value to users when they contain details about where the link takes them.
Furthermore, people are more tech oriented today, given the fact that the internet has be in use for many years now. The phrase “Click here” is no longer as useful as it once was as people know what links look like and we know we can click on hyperlinks when and where they are used.
As such using anchor text that is in line with digital accessibility guidelines, provides information to users and search engines, and improves the overall user experience by being well-thought-out and targeted is better.
Sujan Pariyar is the founder of Think 7 Figures magazine.