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Most Important Types of Anchor Text to Use When Building Links
The off-page factor that most beginners struggle with
Beginners ALWAYS struggle with linkbuilding.
It’s understandable. On-page and technical SEO are fully within your control because they both occur entirely on your site. You don’t need permission from anyone to do anything and you can live your best life on your own platform. Whether you succeed or fail is entirely up to you.
Off-page is a little bit more tricky.
In today’s guide I cover one of the most important elements of your off-page SEO: anchor text. If you’re an experienced SEO then you already have the 411. But if you’re new then you NEED to read this article (it’ll save you a lot of grief in the future).
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Different Types of Anchor Text
Exact and partial-match
The most powerful type of anchor text is targeted towards the specific keyword you want to rank for.
If your target keyword is “best crypto hardware wallet”, the exact-match anchor text would be “best crypto hardware wallet”.
Partial-match anchor text would use at least one of the specific words within the keyword. If the link uses any of the words in the keyword including “best”, “crypto”, “hardware”, or “wallet” then it would be partial-match. If a site linked to your article with the anchor text “good crypto wallet” it would be considered partial match since the words “crypto” and “wallet” are both part of your target keyword.
Exact-match and partial-match anchor text is the most powerful ranking signal you can send to Google. Both types have the potential to help your page skyrocket to the top of the SERPs since Google views them as an endorsement of your content. If a site is citing your page using the exact keyword you were targeting then it must be legit.
So that means all you need to do is hop on over to Fiverr and buy a few thousand exact-match links and call it a day, right?
Nothing in SEO is that easy.
The big impact that keyword-targeted anchor text provides goes in both directions. If you do it right, you’ll jump to the top of the rankings. If you do it wrong, you’re going to tank your site.
Exact and partial-match anchor text should be the rarest type you see in your backlink profile. Some people like to give exact percentages (5% seems to be a common number), but that isn’t really based on anything other than the natural human desire for certainty when doing complex work.
SEO is never going to be that simple.
Instead of thinking about a specific percentage, just think “rare”.
The worst thing you can do is spam a bunch of links using anchor text that targets the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for. That used to work 10-15 years ago. Now it’ll get you penalized. This is really easy for Google to detect algorithmically so don’t even bother trying to get away with it.
A good rule of thumb is to build only one exact-match link per post. Since it’s such a powerful ranking signal, it’s best to make it the highest-DA link that you can get.
If you pull up the backlink profile for The Points Guy, you can see tons of different examples of keyword-match anchor text.
The above link points to an article titled “What is a good credit score” using the anchor text “relatively decent credit scores”. This is considered partial-match anchor text because it uses part of the main keyword “credit scores”.
Branded anchor text uses your exact brand name.
If we look at the domain thepointsguy.com, branded anchor text would be the exact words “The Points Guy”.
If your brand name has more than one word then it only counts as a branded anchor if they give you a backlink with the entire brand name. If they linked to your site using only the word “Points” that would NOT count as branded anchor text.
Branded anchor text is your bread and butter. The overwhelming majority of your external links should be using your brand name as the anchor text.
The reason why is obvious.
Google has a love-hate relationship with the SEO community. On the one hand, they give some limited official guidance about things site owners can do to help improve their rankings. But on the other hand they claim that doing any linkbuilding at all is against their terms of service.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at their official guidance on “link schemes”.
“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”
-Google’s document on “link schemes”
You can read the entire document if you want, but to sum it up, Google thinks that basically ALL linkbuilding tactics are black hat.
This is obviously insane.
There’s no way your site will ever rank highly for competitive terms without links. It’s just impossible.
Since you have to build links, make sure you do it in a way where it’s not obvious to Google. The easiest way is by making sure that the majority of your links are branded.
When site owners organically link (linking out without being contacted because they think it’s a good reference for their readers) to a post on another site they typically use the brand name as the anchor text.
If you were writing an article, how often would you naturally include the words “best ethereum wallet for android” with a link going to a best-of list on another site? The answer is never.
If you build too many keyword-match links and not enough branded links then you might as well walk around with a bright red neon sign pointing at your head saying “Penalize Me Harder Please Big Daddy Google” because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Don’t get greedy.
Chad tip: When your site is relatively new and you aren’t even showing up in the index for your own brand name, building branded links can help it show up in the SERPs.
This site is linking to the The Points Guy’s homepage using the anchor text “the Points Guy”. This is branded anchor text because it’s using the name of the brand.
Note: In the above example the branded anchor text pointed to the homepage. You also need deep links with branded anchors if you want your articles to rank.
URL anchor text links to your site using your domain name.
If your URL is “https://www.thepointsguy.com”, URL anchor text would be any variation of the URL. Examples include “https://www.thepointsguy.com”, “thepointsguy.com”, “www.thepointsguy.com”, “https://thepointsguy.com”, etc.
URL anchor text should be lower in the mix compared to branded links but higher compared to keyword-match.
You build links with URL anchors for the same reason why you build branded ones. The goal is create a natural-looking backlink profile that won’t set off any red flags at Google HQ. Mixing in naked URLs into your anchor text distribution ratio is a good way to show that you aren’t trying to keyword stuff.
The above link points to an article on travel advisories using the anchor text “https://thepointsguy.com/news/us-travel-advisories”. This is a type of URL anchor text.
It’s also a DR85 .gov link, which is awesome (I’m jelly).
Anchor text is considered miscellaneous if it doesn’t fall into the above categories.
“Click here”, “read more”, and “learn more” are examples of miscellaneous anchor text. If the anchor text isn’t referencing your site or keyword, then it’s considered miscellaneous.
You don’t need a whole lot of these links, but you should definitely work them into the mix. It’s common for sites to organically link to other sites with miscellaneous anchor text. If you don’t have enough of them pointing to your site it’s going to look a little bit suspicious.
Don’t overthink miscellaneous anchors too much. They aren’t going to move the needle on your rankings nearly as much as the other types of links but they play a HUGE role in the overall ecosystem of your site. A healthy backlink profile always has random miscellaneous links scattered throughout.
If there aren’t any it sets off red flags even just looking at it visually in Ahrefs.
The website above is linking to an article using the anchor text “View Article Here”. The anchor text is considered miscellaneous since it’s not using the URL, keyword, or brand name of the site it’s linking to.
The name of the game with linkbuilding (and SEO in general) is to make it look natural.
Google’s algorithm gets better over time. They release updates on a regular basis that make it a lot harder to get away with shady tactics (we’re in the middle of the Helpful Content Update at the time of writing).
The days of skating by with a shady anchor text distribution are over.
Ten or fifteen years ago you could spam links from Fiverr targeting exact-match anchor text and skyrocket to #1 in the SERPs in no time. The internet was like the Wild West and you could make it using the sheer force of Pure Retard Energy and low morals.
Nowadays you have to be a little bit more subtle when gaming Google’s algorithm.
Focus on branded and URL anchor text for the vast majority of your links. Include a small amount of high-authority links targeting the exact keywords you’re trying to rank for to get an extra boost (definitely don’t overdo it). Sprinkle in some miscellaneous links for the algorithm and you’ll be set.
The biggest mistake people make with linkbuilding is getting greedy with their anchor text distribution. Slow your role and focus on growing your site the right way over time. Future you will be glad that you didn’t destroy your business by taking shortcuts.
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