Anchor text is like a bridge that connects one piece of content to another. You can use anchor text to send readers to websites or pages that provide more information or support your claims—plus, it’s a critical tool for building your search engine rank and online reputation.
Before you start interlinking and linking to other sites, take time to learn what anchor text is, how it relates to the search engine optimization (SEO) of your page, and how to optimize anchor text to your benefit.
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is clickable text on a web page that allows the reader to open another page or website. When someone clicks on anchor text, they are redirected to the page linked in that text. Clicking the link text, or hyperlink, takes you to a website, article, blog post, newsletter, or any page that’s related to the subject of the anchor text.
For example, if you are writing a blog post about how to promote a YouTube channel to get more subscribers, you can include anchor text to link to a reputable source or a recent study that validates your statements or provides additional information. You might include anchor text in a sentence like this:
There are many different ways to promote a YouTube channel.
What is the role of anchor text in SEO?
When it comes to search engine optimization, anchor text gives search engines context to determine which keywords and topics are relevant to your web pages. This means that you can strategically use anchor text optimization to help a page rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search engines regularly crawl and index websites, using indicators such as keywords and headlines to determine which search queries best match the content of each page. When a search engine comes across anchor text on your site, it uses your anchor text to further comprehend the content of the linked page. Having the right keywords in your anchor text helps search engines “understand” your site’s content and rank your site.
When considering an anchor text optimization strategy, your tactics should be different if you link your pages internally (from your own website, a.k.a. interlinking) or if you link them from third-party websites (backlink acquisition). For the latter, over-optimizing your anchor text might be seen by Google as spam links.
6 types of anchor text
You don’t have to word your anchor text the same every time you want to insert a link. You have the flexibility to choose the anchor text that sounds most natural in your content. Consider the following types of anchor text you might include on your site:
1. Brand name
Brand name anchor text uses the name of the specific company or website the text links to. For example, if you were writing an article about e-bikes, your copy might read, “Cowboy sells smart e-bikes and allows users to book a test ride before purchase.” In this case, the brand name Cowboy is the anchor text, and it links out to the company’s main page.
Branded text is useful when you want to be clear about what site you are directing the reader to or when you want to recommend the overall site rather than a specific article or page.
2. Exact match
Exact-match anchor text has the same anchor text wording as the topic of the linked page. These are often exact-match keywords that help improve SEO ranking. For example, the exact-match anchor text for an article on earned media might read, “Earned media is any type of promotion your business receives that you didn’t pay for or create yourself.” In this case, the link takes the reader to an article about earned media that has the phrase “earned media” in the URL. Exact-match anchor text provides a very clear description of the content the reader will see when they click the link, which can lead to high click-through rates.
3. Partial match
Partial-match anchor text has only a few of the same words as the subject of the linked page. You can use partial-match anchor text to help make your text sound natural without having to conform to the exact wording of the linked page. For example, in the sentence “You can use a variety of SEO strategies to improve your site’s ranking,” the anchor text links out to an article with the words “seo checklist online store” in the URL. The partial match anchor text “SEO strategies” is far more reader-friendly than the text in the linked article’s URL.
Generic anchor text uses a generic word or nondescriptive phrase to encourage the user to click on a link. For example, the text might read “Click here” or “Read more.” Generic anchor text is good when you don’t want to distract the reader from your page, but it still provides a valuable content resource.
5. Image link
Although not text, an image can function as anchor text, too. In this case, the image is considered the link and includes alt text, which is the descriptive text attribute included in the image’s HTML code. The user clicks the image and is sent to the linked page or source in the image’s alt text. Images with anchor text are especially useful when you want to provide a link to the source of the image.
6. Naked URL
Naked link anchor text simply uses the URL of the linked page as the text. For example, the naked anchor text might be “www.shopify.com” and link to the same page. Naked URL is similar to branded anchor text but is useful to show the reader that you are sending them to the exact link or homepage of a site.
How to effectively use anchor text
Knowing how to use and optimize anchor text is critical for improving the SEO of your site. There are a few guidelines you can follow when deciding how, when, and where to use anchor text, including:
1. Use relevant keywords
Use words and phrases in anchor text, for both internal and external links, that are related to the topic of the linked page. Irrelevant anchor text confuses readers and makes for a negative user experience. Keyword-rich anchor text is great for SEO, but avoid overusing keywords where they’re not relevant. Search engines can lower your search ranking if they detect that the same keywords are overused.
2. Encourage clicks
When readers click on your anchor text, they indicate to search engines your links are valuable, which can improve your website’s SEO. If you want a high click-through rate, make sure the anchor text has a clear description of what it is linking to. You should also link to both internal and external pages that provide information that is new and useful to the reader.
3. Distribute links organically
When search engines crawl your site to evaluate your use of anchor text, they assess the diversity and distribution of your anchor text links. Your site can rank higher if your anchor text is naturally dispersed throughout your page, indicating that the links were chosen to serve readers. Since this strategy works for both internal and external links, make sure you take both into account when carrying out an organic link plan.
4. Have a third-party link-building strategy
Building backlinks involves having third-party sites use external anchor text that links back to your site (also called inbound links). As you build out your content strategy, aim to create valuable and authoritative content—the type of content other sites will be more likely to link out to as a resource for their readers. Strong link-building strategies prove to search engines that your content is relevant and useful to readers searching for target keywords.
Arthur Camberlein, technical SEO and data specialist at Shopify, suggests web managers try to use anchor text to link pages that are semantically close, “Don't hesitate to use exact match or partial match as much as you can internally, avoid using parameters in your internal links, and don't link to the same page twice in a single article.”
Anchor text FAQ
What is the difference between anchor text and keywords?
While a keyword is a word or phrase that search engines use to categorize sites by topic, anchor text is text that is specifically hyperlinked to another page. You can use keywords in your anchor text to improve the SEO of your site.
Can anchor text be used for internal links as well as external links?
Yes, you can use anchor text to direct readers to other pages on your site, and you can also insert external links to send visitors to pages outside of your site.
Can using too many keywords in anchor text negatively impact SEO?
Yes, overusing keywords in anchor text and keyword stuffing can indicate to search engines that you are trying to manipulate your search ranking, and your site may be demoted or even removed from SERPs. Use keywords naturally and sparingly, and focus on writing relevant anchor text that provides a clear description of the linked content.