Anchor Text in SEO: Link Text Best Practices

Anchor text optimization is a crucial part of any SEO strategy. Anchor text, or link text, refers to the clickable text within a hyperlink that users click on to navigate from one web page to another. Optimizing your anchor text can improve your search engine rankings and traffic. However, improper link text optimization could get your site penalized by search engines. We will teach you everything you need to know about optimizing anchor text to enhance your SEO efforts.

In this guide, we will cover:

  • What is anchor text, and why is it important for SEO
  • Different types of anchor text and when to use them
  • Best practices for optimizing anchor text
  • How anchor text impacts search rankings
  • Differences between optimizing for internal vs external links
  • Anchor text ratio guidelines to follow
  • Dangers of over-optimizing anchor text
  • Tools for analyzing your anchor text profile

Leveraging anchor text will take your SEO game to the next level.

Key Takeaways:

  • Anchor text helps search engines understand the topic of linked pages
  • Using the right mix of anchor text types is crucial
  • Avoid overusing exact match anchor text to prevent penalties
  • Analyze your anchor text profile to improve it
  • Anchor text significantly impacts search rankings when optimized properly

What is Anchor Text, and Why is it Important for SEO?

Anchor text refers to the visible, clickable text within a hyperlink that users click on to navigate from one web page to another. For example:

Best search engine optimization companies

Here, “Best search engine optimization companies” is the anchor text.

Anchor text serves two primary purposes:

  1. It helps search engines understand the linked page. And it determines its relevance for specific keyword searches.
  2. It provides contextual clues for users clicking on the link so they know what to expect from the landing page.

Optimizing your anchor text for SEO is crucial because it acts as a ranking signal for search engines like Google. Anchor text gives Google vital clues about the topic and authority of linked pages.

If you optimize your internal anchor text well, it can help distribute the relevance signals throughout your site. And that will strengthen your ranking potential for target keywords. For external links, relevant anchor text from authoritative sites conveys that your page is a trusted resource.

In short, strategic anchor text optimization impacts search rankings for target keywords.

Different Types of Anchor Text and When to Use Them

Several types of anchor text serve different purposes:

Exact Match Link Text

This type of anchor text exactly matches your target keyword or keyphrase, for example:

How to learn local SEO for small businesses.

Exact match text strongly signals to search engines that the linked page is relevant for that keyword. However, overusing exact-match text can appear manipulative.

Partial Match

Partial match text includes your target keyword along with additional words, for example:

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Partial match anchor text looks more natural while still signaling keyword relevance.

Branded Link Text

This anchor text contains your brand, company, or site names. For example:

Check out the blog directory and submit your blog.

Branded anchor text helps establish domain authority and brand awareness.

Generic Text

Generic anchor text does not contain keywords. For example:

Read more here.

Generic text helps diversify your anchor text profile but does not convey keyword relevance.

Image Alt Text

The alt text used for image links also serves as anchor text. For example:

The alt text should contain your focus keyword for optimal SEO benefits.

Naked URLs

Using just the URL as the anchor text:

For more on SEO, visit

Naked URLs should be used in moderation to diversify anchor text.

Best practice: Use a healthy mix of partial match, branded, and generic text for most links. Sprinkle in some exact match and naked URLs. Avoid overusing any single type. Image alt text can also be optimized for keywords.

Best Practices for Optimizing Anchor Text

Here are some essential best practices to follow:

  • Ensure relevance – The anchor text should accurately reflect the content of the page it links to. Don’t use misleading or irrelevant anchor text.
  • Aim for diversity – Vary your usage of anchor text types across links. Don’t reuse the same anchor text repeatedly.
  • Avoid overusing keywords – Limit your usage of exact match anchor text to appear natural. Too much looks spammy.
  • Consider intent. Use keywords for anchors where they fit contextually and provide value to users.
  • Use branded terms. Branded anchors help reinforce your domain authority and brand equity.
  • Watch competitors. Analyze competitors’ anchor text profiles for ideas on diversity and optimization.

Anchor text relevance is most important. Diversify anchors where possible, limit exact match text, and reinforce your brand through anchors. Monitor competitors for ideas but avoid copying them entirely.

How Link Text Impacts Search Engine Rankings

Search engines like Google treat anchor text as an essential ranking signal. Optimizing it can significantly improve your SERPs and organic traffic for targeted keywords.

Here are three key ways anchor text impacts search rankings:

  • Indicates page relevance – The anchor text provides clues about the topic and focus of the linked page. More contextual anchors indicating page relevance can improve rankings.
  • Provides user signals – Quality anchor text creates a better user experience. It sets useful expectations about page content. This, in turn, boosts rankings.
  • Passes link equity – A link from an authoritative page passes more equity if the anchor text contains relevant keywords. This equity transfer helps boost your rankings.

In essence, strategic anchor text optimization makes your pages appear relevant in search engines’ eyes. It also helps pages earn greater authority for their keyword by attracting links with contextual, keyword-rich anchors.

Internal Links vs. External Links

Anchor text optimization differs considerably for internal links versus external links.

Optimizing Anchor Text: Internal Links vs. External Links

Internal Link Text

For internal links pointing to other pages on your site, exact and partial match keywords can be safely used in anchor text.

Internal anchor text plays several key roles:

  • Distributes relevance signals for target terms across your site’s architecture.
  • Provides contextual clues about your site’s internal content structure.
  • It helps search bots crawl and index internal pages more efficiently.
  • Creates a logical user navigation experience.

Because internal links are entirely in your control, you can strategically optimize their anchor text for SEO without worrying about over-optimization penalties.

External Link Text

For links from external sites, avoid overusing exact match anchor text. Too many exact-match external links appear manipulative to search engines.

Best practices for external link anchor text:

  • Partials and Branding – Use mostly partial match and branded anchor text for natural diversity.
  • Limit Exact Match – Keep exact match anchors minimal for external links.
  • Naked URLs – Allow some external links to use just your naked URL as the anchor text.
  • Relevance – Ensure external links make contextual sense for the anchor text used.

Since external links are not in your complete control, focus on earning high-quality contextual backlinks with diverse and natural-looking anchor text.

Anchor Text Ratio Guidelines

Follow these recommended guidelines for balancing your anchor text ratios:

  • Internal links
    • 40-50% exact match anchors
    • 30-40% partial match and branded
    • 10-20% naked URLs and generic text
  • External links
    • 10-20% branded anchors
    • 60-70% partial match
    • 10-20% naked URLs
    • Only 5-10% exact match anchors

This mix helps you avoid over-optimization risks in anchor text usage. Don’t obsess over the exact percentages; use these ranges as a guideline.

Analyze your top competitors’ anchor text ratios to determine appropriate benchmarks for your niche.

Dangers of Over-Optimizing Anchor Text

Using too much exact match and keyword-stuffed anchor text can be dangerous for your SEO. It can result in a Google penalty if the anchors look manipulative.

Here are some signs of over-optimization to avoid:

  • Excessive repeating of exact match anchor text across multiple links
  • Irrelevant, misleading anchor text that doesn’t reflect real page content
  • Anchor text keyword stuffing using multiple target terms
  • Unnaturally high anchor text keyword density

The safest way to optimize is to use primarily partial match and branded variants as anchors. Limit exact match keywords to a reasonable amount and ensure total anchor text relevancy.

Over-optimization risks can be checked by analyzing your anchor text profile, which we’ll discuss next.

Tools for Analyzing Your Anchor Text Profile

Regularly track your anchor text profile using these tools:

  • Ahrefs – Shows anchor text breakdown and helps identify potential overuse of keywords.
  • MOZ Link Explorer – Analyzes link metrics, including percentages of anchor text types.
  • SEMRush – Provides anchor text auditing to show text overuse risks.
  • Google Search Console – Check link count and anchor text in the linked domains report.
  • Screaming Frog – Crawls site to show internal anchor text optimization opportunities.

Analyze quarterly to spot high-risk areas of over-optimization or imbalanced anchor text usage. Use the tools’ data to improve your link-building and internal linking strategy.


And that’s a wrap! Let’s recap the key learnings:

  • Anchor text helps search engines understand the relevance of linked pages for ranking purposes.
  • Exact match text should be used sparingly to avoid over-optimization risks. Rely more on partial match and branded variants.
  • Anchor text heavily impacts search rankings when optimized with a balanced, natural link profile.
  • Regularly analyze your overall anchor text mix using SEO tools for optimization opportunities.
  • Internal links can use more keyword-focused anchors, while external links should be branded and generic.

Properly optimizing your anchor text presents one of the most impactful yet challenging aspects of SEO. Following the best practices outlined here, you can reap tremendous benefits from anchor text optimization. Remember to keep it natural and closely monitor your anchor text profile to avoid penalties.