• Choosing your anchor text for incoming links

    by  • May 17, 2007 • Linking, Search Engine Optimization • 40 Comments

    It would be pretty nice if we could just select our top chosen keyword phrase as our anchor text and then use it for all incoming links we gather for our website. Unfortunately, it isn’t year 2000, and this technique just doesn’t hold the weight it once did, not to mention the fact that you very likely have more than one keyword phrase you want to rank well for.

    So this brings us to the question of not only how to choose anchor text for brand new incoming links, but to also use anchor text in a way to make your backlinks look as natural as possible (even if they aren’t!) to the Google (and other search engine) powers-that-be. Here are some tips when it comes to selecting that crucial anchor text as well as things to consider once you start gathering (or buying) backlinks.

    But first off, what is anchor text? Anchor text refers to the text used in your linking structure. And the keywords you use contributes to relevancy on the page it links to, meaning that Google (and the other search engines) will give a bit of a boost to that page when someone searches for that phrase. Now, keep in mind that you will need to utilize other optimization techniques in order to rank for that phrase, unless it is a totally non-competitive phrase. But your anchor text is definitely one of the factors used in the ranking algorithm to decide which pages rank higher than others.

    For example, if I was linking to JenSense, linking with the phrase “contextual advertising” or “Google AdSense” would make a lot more sense than using “Jen’s blog” or a slightly less relevant keyword phrase.

    Another important reason to ensure you vary up those incoming links, especially if they are paid links, is that having variety in the anchor text of your inbound links is a signal that those links are natural. If you go out and get/buy 500 links, and every single one of those links has “buy green widgets” as the anchor text, there is definitely nothing natural looking about that. Same with using only two or three anchor phrases, and splitting it evenly across all 500 of those links.

    Concerned if most people link to you without getting your input for chosen link phrase? Don’t worry about it. Natural linking (where you aren’t supplying the linkage information) tends to have variety in anchor text, where people most often link using the site name or a top product or service the site sells, so variety shouldn’t be an issue at all.

    So definitely ensure you have variety in your anchor text, even going so far as having some links linked with “click here”, your company/website name or simply your URL. Then make a list of all the possible anchor text combinations and when you get a new link, choose a different keyword combo off the list. Then once you get more than a handful, you can go back and get additional links for your most important phrases, but again being careful to unevenly distribute the anchor text of those links. Yes, you can definitely give more links to your most important keyword phrases, just resist the tempatation to do them all on your top phrase.

    You should also make sure you link using anchor text that is actually relevant to the destination page, ideally a page that includes some or all of the keywords that you are using in each keyword phrase for the anchor text. Because a signal of Googlebombing (making a page rank for a phrase that is not relevant to the page) is irrelevant anchor text, you want to ensure that those keywords are indeed relevant to the page and site so you aren’t inadvertantly discounting those links.

    There is also some evidence that Google is looking at keywords surrounding the anchor text as well, so if you are able to suggest or change the text surrounding the linked anchor text, optimizing that entire sentence to include additional keywords (although ensuring the sentence still reads properly) you might see a slight optimization bonus given to the destination page for the additional words or a boost on the linked phrase.

    And yes, while we are on the subject of anchor text, you should also consider these factors for your internal linking within your site as well as those sites you link out to. It is worth going back and making changes to ensure when you are internally linking to articles within your own site as something more relevant than “click here” (yes, we all seem to do it at one time or another, usually when in a hurry and not thinking carefully enough!)

    Backlinks and anchor text are a crucial part of any search engine optimization campaign. And if you are buying links, rather than obtaining them naturally, following these tips for selecting your anchor text can be even more important if you are trying to make Google et al think they are natural.

    About

    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    40 Responses to Choosing your anchor text for incoming links

    1. May 17, 2007 at 7:30 am

      Great summary of the importance of anchor text. I also find that the Page Analysis section of Googles Webmaster Tools is a good way to see what anchor text others are using to link to you.

      It’s true you can’t really control natural linkage to your site but if you notice any phrase patterns in some of the inbound links you could always re-optimise your page to levarage some of the natural linking better.

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    3. Winooski
      May 18, 2007 at 9:41 am

      “…having variety in the anchor text of your inbound links is a signal that those links are natural. If you go out and get/buy 500 links, and every single one of those links has “buy green widgets” as the anchor text, there is definitely nothing natural looking about that…”

      But if Google et al. are truly discounting multiple links with identical text, thinks like the infamous [miserable failure] Googlebomb wouldn’t work.

      However, it does work, as long as even a single word of the anchor text is on the page itself. This was recently pointed out in Search Engine Land ( http://searchengineland.com/070406-175030.php ), summed up with the punch line:

      “The White House used the word ‘failure’ on Bush’s page, which resulted in the page becoming relevant for the query again.”)”

      (Postscript: The page in question, http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/, currently is not ranking in Google for [failure], but that seems to be because whitehouse.gov has removed the word “failure” from the page itself.)

    4. May 18, 2007 at 9:57 am

      I know google recently had to do a minor big daddy like update to counter act the effect of the anchor text power that seem to be exploited by a google bomb effect for search engine optimization.

      But I think the weight of anchor text linking has been drastically eliminated.

      For years for me the best link has been ones without any anchor at all like the Daily Show.

      ” Remember the google bomb for eBay song” did you even see one linke with anchor? and it by far has been the most successfull google bomb yet.

    5. May 18, 2007 at 10:29 am

      hi, Jennifer, how are you?

      This is a great piece on anchor text. Another little hint I think it’s worth mentioning is that your URL is a great place to sway your natural incoming anchor text for a couple of reasons:

      1. if someone just links to you using your URL as the anchor text, whatever keywords are in there are acting as your anchor text
      2. if someone’s putting a link into a page using a content management system, they’re usually looking at a form with 2 boxes “link url” & “link text” – once they’ve pasted the URL into the top box, the keywords in that URL are directly in their line of vision as they’re filling in the “link text” box.

      I hope everything’s going well,

      daniel

    6. May 18, 2007 at 2:03 pm

      Jen, you hit the nail on the head perfectly on this post. A lot of people spend too much time trying to push through the same phrase (and it’s also a difficult thing to explain to upper management for you in-house folks). It’s all about looking natural these days!

      Aaron

    7. May 18, 2007 at 5:19 pm

      If you want to have a natural backlink profile, ask the people to link back to your site with whatever anchor text they think is appropriate for their users. Asking an arbitrary percentage of people to use “click here’ for anchor text with a goal of varying your anchor text is patently unnatural by virtue of your goal.

      This is one of those examples of people “trying” to look natural because they’ve forgotten how to “be” natural.

    8. May 18, 2007 at 9:13 pm

      I agree that having getting many links with the same anchor text doesn’t look natural but I’ve also known webmasters who’ve bought hundreds of links with the same anchor text and they don’t seem to be penalized in anyway (at least not yet) and have been ranking well for that specific keyword for a long time.

      Perhaps its something to do with their overall link profile.

    9. May 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

      Hello Jennifer.
      Good article, you explain well the anchor text importance.
      The sites are crawled and analyzed by search engines, not humans, and with the time these search engines become smarter, so using always the same phrases mean you are using a pattern, and obviously this doesn’t look natural, and these patterns can be very easily identified. Like Maki says in last comment, maybe is still working in some cases, but what about the future, search engine algorithms always change, like the recent Google PageRank adjustment that caused that Apple and Intel lost the PR10 that they had. All SEM efforts must be focused for the future and for a long term period, that’s why it’s needed a good SEM strategy before start working in a project.

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    11. May 22, 2007 at 7:15 am

      Jennifer,
      Great post. Sometimes we who are very net savvy forget that others do not know all that we know. I really loved your comment to put some “Click here” links now and a gain. There really are people who still need some hand holding. I also think that variety in link text is good. People will become skeptical of your motives if the words are exactly the same every time.
      Thanks for sharing.

    12. May 22, 2007 at 8:48 am

      It is obvious that google is really clamping down on anchor text and it is more focused on giving weight to links that do contain your keywords BUT your keywords must also appear on the page you are linking from and also the page you are linking to. As search is all about relevancy it is probably safe to assume that the more relevant the page the more weight given. ie high link popularity, keywords in text, meta, title, h1, alt tags etc.

    13. May 23, 2007 at 5:58 am

      Hi Jennifer,

      True, farm links such as automated link exchange sites is a classic example. In most cases users submit there home page and the keyword once get/buy 500 easy pointing only to their home page with the same keyword and their ranking stay the same. They usually complain that Google doesn’t like them but “You Can Get Great Traffic from MSN…”

    14. May 26, 2007 at 1:00 am

      I think that using keyword research tools will help to refine your anchor text. Combine Google webmaster Tools and your research results will offer you the opportunity to rank well.
      Another point, get links to your inner web page will be considered as a new anchor text that point to your web site, using this you will get links to your inner web pages and natural anchor text to your web site.

    15. May 26, 2007 at 2:23 pm

      Jen, you’ve written an excellent article about anchor text. I wish that I had come across this article when I started to promote my first website as It really would have helped point me in the right direction.

    16. June 4, 2007 at 2:05 am

      thanks for this post!
      anchor text is still important!

    17. June 4, 2007 at 5:43 am

      …”Jen, you’ve written an excellent article about anchor text. I wish that I had come across this article when I started to promote my first website as It really would have helped point me in the right direction…”

      I agree …

    18. June 10, 2007 at 5:29 am

      May I ask you if you have any bad experience with this issue, like acquiring hundreds of links with the same anchor text and after that your ranking getting worse.
      Google added the word “almost” to its old statement “Almost nothing your competitors can do to harm your ranking” I think that was an introduction to start a kind of new penalty for specious one way link practice!

    19. June 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm

      even if we like certain anchor text to be included when building links, the rampant use of link condoms (no follow attributes) negate the effects of the anchor. good thing there are still services still out there that still allow you to use whatever anchor text you choose. ie directories, blogs that follow, ad networks, forum signatures, and social network site like squidoo.

    20. Dev
      June 25, 2007 at 6:43 am

      Excellent article! Topical and well researched, this has everything a webmaster could want- and if it hasn’t it will find it for you! I am ‘beyond’ impressed! Top work!!.

    21. August 4, 2007 at 1:28 pm

      I am convinced that simple reciprocal linking will be a thing of the past very shortly. Yet, we still do it and it still works — for now. But listening to Google and Yahoo at the Searchnomics Conference talk about how they are fighting manipulations like this, I am convinced it’s only a matter of time til this goes away.

      I used TextLinkAds for several months and never saw the backlinks show up on our California tourist site with the Google “Link:” command, prepended to our site. Has anyone else found purchased text link ads to really help?

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    26. November 11, 2007 at 5:38 am

      It is obvious that google is really clamping down on anchor text and it is more focused on giving weight to links that do contain your keywords BUT your keywords must also appear on the page you are linking from and also the page you are linking to. As search is all about relevancy it is probably safe to assume that the more relevant the page the more weight given. ie high link popularity, keywords in text, meta, title, h1, alt tags etc.

    27. January 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm

      Great article, I gets me thinking about my strategy. I have already made a lot of internal changes to page names and internal links mixing up all the relevant words and phrases to cover more ground, But my efforts in building external links have been using pretty standard text.
      No more, Thanks for the tip.
      http://www.donssite.com

    28. January 25, 2008 at 12:33 am

      Nice article about anchor text. But google’s importance differs from time to time. For example I have certain number of backlinks for some keyword. And google also started showing for that keyword. But suddenly that keyword is dropped and it picks up some other keyword. It was showing up for “discount travel” in 2nd page but it is dropped. I couldn’t understand this behavior.

    29. NRV
      February 26, 2008 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks, for the info. I’m just getting started at SEO and can use any good tips I can find.

    30. April 10, 2008 at 2:26 am

      Nice tips. I get a lot of natural deep links on a variety of keywords, but my main domain see’s mostly ‘Site Name’ type links, and the occasional user name one. I don’t buy links, but I will use this advice to get some decent variety next time I’m doing directory submissions!

    31. April 16, 2008 at 6:26 am

      Excellent post. You’ve touched on an important topic in which many people may not be well informed of these coming changes e.g. LSI or Latent Semantic Indexing. It is recommended to use a splashing of your keyword phrases in your article or blogpost or synonyms of these phrases.

      Peter Lee
      Work From Home Business Blog

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    33. May 26, 2008 at 11:34 pm

      Hi Jennifer,

      You’ve got an excellent article about anchor text for incoming links. In understand that we need to alternate not evenly more then 2-3 top search phrases in N incoming links to relevant pages. But most of us are trying to optimize more domain homepage and splitting N links to 5 ore more pages means 20% or less linked to homepage. I wonder and I ask you if there is a reasonable percent from those N that can be “safely” pointed to homepage?

    34. October 13, 2008 at 9:20 pm

      Great Post!

      This was more straight forward and I easily understand now the importance of anchor text.

      Jen, you’ve written an excellent article about anchor text. I wish that I had come across this article when I started to promote my first website as It really would have helped point me in the right direction.

      I truly agree…

    35. December 10, 2008 at 6:41 pm

      Very informative, I am looking for an more information on anchors links for keywords. I’m new to SEO process and this will help me move forward

    36. December 23, 2008 at 3:49 am

      Great post! I think, keyword research plays a major role when building links. However, finding the right keywords is not as easy as it may seem. The success of website depends on traffic directed from search engines; and to figure on a search engine you will have to optimize your site with relevant keywords. It also does not end with optimizing the site once; one has to continually analyze the popularity of keywords and make appropriate changes to your website.

    37. December 30, 2008 at 8:05 am

      I also think that inboud links are real important and gives your pages a small boost, anchor text is basicly your signature and tells the engines what your site is all about. But to rank higher you should always remember not to duplicate your content and get robot txt that stops the bots from indexing sertain parts of your site.

    38. December 30, 2008 at 8:17 am

      Bilding links is real big task, I think creating blogs and linking from them to your own site is probabley the easies way to get links or anchor text to your site. But then a newley created blog has no page rank and does not have any value really.
      What do you think?
      What is the best and fastes way to build anchor text and backlinks.

      Thanks for great post, visit my site any time and leave a comment.

    39. January 24, 2009 at 10:04 am

      Thanks Jen. Great pointers. I know this has been up on your blog for a while but it is a great read for anyone looking to maximize the time the spend on their blogs.

    40. January 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm

      Great Post Jen!

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