Why you should care about your anchor text distribution

Posted: 05 Jan 2022

Anchor text distribution can play a significant role in your SEO success. 

If you have ventured into the world of SEO link building, chances are you have heard the term ‘anchor text’, without really knowing what it is or how it can help your SEO. There are a number of ways to build links for SEO to help improve your ranking. When it comes to anchor text, it’s easy to think it’s less important than everything else you’re focusing on – but that would be a mistake. 

In this article, we’ll look at what anchor text is, why it’s important and cover some tips on how you can improve your SEO success with good anchor text distribution.

What is anchor text? 

Anchor text is the clickable text of a link on a web page or blog post. That text links (or ‘anchors’) two different locations together. Usually, an anchor text will appear in a different colour than the rest of the text on a page, although it can sometimes be bold or underlined. 

Here is an example: 

Graeme Winchester is an experienced SEO freelancer and consultant.

A moment of self-promotion aside, in that sentence ‘SEO freelancer and consultant’ is the anchor text. But an anchor text doesn’t always appear as that above, as there are a few different types regularly used online, such as: 

  • Brand anchor text – A clickable link where the text is the name of the site to which the link leads: graemewinchester.co.uk.
  • Topical anchor text – Anchor text that describes the general subject of the page a link will take you to – for example the phrase ‘how to build links for SEO’ can be linked to a page specifically about that topic. 
  • Miscellaneous anchor text – Anchor text where a generic word or phrase is used for a link. Common examples include ‘read more’, ‘visit website’ and ‘click here’, although any content producer worth their salt will tell you that users aren’t really looking for that type direction these days, so it’s better to keep miscellaneous anchor text to a minimum. 

Why is anchor text important for SEO? 

Google cares about anchor text, so if you’re looking to improve your SEO, you should care too. 

The text you choose for anchors is important because it tells Google’s algorithms exactly what your content is about. It allows Google to better understand the topics you are linking to and is a sign that you’re not linking to any spam or any dodgy areas of the internet. Google looks for unnatural anchor text; for example, if too many backlinks contain the exact same anchor text, this will raise a red flag.

Anchor text also tells users what to expect before they click the link – so you must always choose highly relevant terms. 

Anchor text HTML: The basics 

Even if you’re an SEO beginner, anchor text HTML should be very easy to understand. Here is an example of what it looks like at the backend of WordPress in the text editor: 

When you change to the visual editor in WordPress, you can see how the link changes to display the anchor text only:

Good anchor text distribution

Anchor text distribution can form part of the SEO competitor analysis that you embark on. One of the best ways of finding out the ideal anchor text distribution for your page is to see what your high-ranking competitors are doing. But how can you do this? It’s pretty easy (although it’s even easier to let an SEO professional take on the job):

  1. Search Google for the main target keywords you’re focusing on
  2. Put five of the top results for those keywords into your preferred backlink checking tool 
  3. Using the data from that tool, create a list of the anchors for each of those pages
  4. Work out the proportion of the total anchors taken up by different categories This will give you a rough estimate of the anchor text distribution for each page
  5. Take an average percentage from the anchor types generated 

Nothing is set in stone when it comes to anchor text distribution, but generally, you should aim for:

  • 30% to 40% branded anchors
  • 30% to 40% topical anchors
  • 20% generic and miscellaneous anchors

Competitor research will give you a much clearer picture of anchor distribution elsewhere, so you can begin to put your plan into place. 

Optimising internal link anchor text 

While you don’t have control of external backlinks to your pages, you can control your internal links. The anchor text of these links also matters to Google, so it is well worth ensuring this text is highly relevant – for both its algorithms and its users. 

If you think your external links are over-optimised toward target keywords, internal links are a good opportunity to even things out. Simply include less target keyword anchor text for your internal links.

How does anchor text affect SEO? 

Anchor text has always been important to search engines like Google. From the beginning, it has used anchors to learn what web pages are about, so it can rank them for the right keywords.

Anchors tend to provide more objective descriptions of a link than the pages can provide for themselves through metadata. Google says anchors also help the algorithm crawl pieces of content that don’t (or can’t) supply a copy on the internet for indexing. This includes images, apps, documents etc.

How to optimise anchor text for SEO

When it comes to optimising anchor text, there are some best practices you can follow to keep Google (and your readers) happy. 

In 2019, Google released an update that uses natural language processing to understand and rank pages. This could mean that the search giant now pays closer attention to context clues around anchors. Rather than just reading the anchor text, Google’s crawlers might also look at the surrounding words in more detail than they previously did. 

This is definitely a sign that Google is putting user experience at the forefront of search, so you should do the same when tackling your SEO link building strategy.

Top tips for optimising your SEO anchor text

Be relevant 

Google is looking for highly relevant content and links – if your anchor text isn’t in any way related to the page or site it redirects to, you might as well not bother. Similarly, overuse of miscellaneous anchor text (‘read more’, for example), will also not be directly relevant to the content it links to, so if you are keen to use them occasionally, always make sure that the anchor text is surrounded by very relevant keywords instead. 

Be natural 

Again, both your content and your anchor text should benefit readers. Do not use the same anchor text for every link, as Google will see this as unnatural behaviour. If you’re stuck for ideas for alternative anchor text, vary the length of your text and bring in relevant long-tail keywords.

Vary brand and URL anchor text 

If you’re linking to your site, it’s likely that you are tempted to use the same brand name for anchor text links. You would be better-placed to alter these slightly. 

For URL anchor text, you can alter it as the following examples show: 

  • https://graemewinchester.co.uk 
  • www.graemewinchester.co.uk 
  • https://graemewinchester.co.uk 
  • https://www.graemewinchester.co.uk/ 
  • graemewinchester.co.uk

It isn’t as straightforward to change the brand anchor text, however, you can combine it with target keyword or topical anchor text. Instead of every link stating stating ‘Graeme Winchester’, we might use ‘Graeme Winchester SEO’ or ‘Freelance SEO Consultant UK’.

Always match anchor text to link type 

Just as there are different types of SEO content, there are different types of links. These can include blog posts and comments, landing page links and forum comments.

If you’re linking from the body content of a blog post, use topical or target keyword anchor text. Landing pages will often end with a miscellaneous anchor text – but do make sure that this is being used effectively, as previously mentioned. URL anchor text is most often suited to forum or blog comments.

The bottom line

Anchor text might not be the first thing you focus on when looking at improving your SEO, but it can certainly have a positive impact on your rankings. 

If you need some help with your business SEO, get in touch: I can use my years of search experience to help you implement best practices that will ultimately generate optimal results for your business. Say hello today

You might also be interested in… 

Why do you need SEO competitor analysis?

How to identify a good SEO link from a bad one