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January 9, 2022

Optimising Anchor Text & Avoiding Google Penalties

Apart from the destination page, the anchor text is the only other element of a link you can control. Learn how to optimise links and avoid penalties!

What Is Anchor Text

When a backlink or hyperlink is created, the anchor text is the word or words used to hyperlink another piece of content on the web. It helps both users and search engines to understand what the destination page is about.

Different Types Of Anchor Text


  • Exact Match Anchor Text

The exact keyword for which the page is trying to rank for is used as the anchor text. For example, a a link with the anchor text keto diets is sent to a page about keto diets


  • Partial Match Anchor Text

Keyword string, often long tail, that includes the keywords for which the page is trying to rank for. For example, a link with anchor text, best keto diets, pointing to a page about keto diets.


  • Naked Anchor Text

Naked links are when URLs are used to link to pages. For example www.ketodiets.com pointing to a page about keto diets (almost always the same URL as in the anchor text)


  • Branded Anchor Text

When the brand name of an entity is used as anchor text in the link pointing to a page on that entity’s website (usually the homepage). For example Crazy Keto Diets pointing to www.crazyketodiets.com


  • Generic Anchor Text

Random non-keyword related anchor texts. For example a link with anchor text, Click Here, pointing to a page about keto diets.


  • Image Anchor Text

When images are linked, their alt text will be used as the anchor text. Technically anchor text within images can be any of the other types of anchor text.

anchor text example

Optimising Anchor Text

You should use anchor text that both describes the destination page as well as matches the keyword theme you are trying to rank for.

For example, a dentist in Sydney may have a website that has backlinks pointed to the homepage with the anchor text, ‘Dentist Sydney’ or Dentist in Sydney’. Initially this will give the best result, given that this is where most of the keyword volume is situated. This anchor text would help Google identify what the website is about. So why would you use any other type of anchor text if this works so well?


Over-optimising Anchor Text

If SEO were that simple, everyone would just spam exact match anchor text. The problem is Google is very much aware of SEOs exploiting this tactic.

In fact, if you try this you will likely get algorithmically penalised. We need to avoid any suspicion might have that our backlink portfolio is unnatural. Generally 2-3 backlinks with exact match anchor text is not a big deal for a new website, but going above 3 entails some risk. New SEOs often struggle with Off-page SEO for this reason – they try too hard, and they’re efforts become too obvious. 

types of anchor text

Avoiding Unnatural Anchor Text Penalties

First of all, especially for a new website, focus on multiple pages at once. Different pages should be focused on different keywords, and so this allows us to avoid the problem as the links acquired should have different exact match anchor text.

Second, it’s important to implement an anchor text cycle. Anchor text for a specific page should be rotated so that it’s not obvious that a page is being pushed for particular keywords. Use exact match initially, but then move to partial match, naked, generic and other types of anchor text. Once the cycle is completed, move back to the start and repeat until you have built sufficient authority.

This looks much more natural and its much less likely to result in an algorithmic penalty.


Internal Links & Anchor Text

It’s less important to vary anchor text internally. Google penalties don’t occur internally, only externally where SEOs violate Google’s policies. Therefore, make sure internal anchor text is consistent and does not confuse Google in regards to page content.

Deciding which backlinks should get which anchor text

Given the anchor text cycle discussed earlier, we should be careful which type of anchor text we reserve for which websites. Generally, exact match anchor text should only be used on the most relevant and authoritative websites.

About the author
Vic is the Founder and Lead SEO at SEO Summer. He has over 5 years experience in building brands through organic rankings and content. Vic has worked with businesses in all niches, all the way from local businesses to international behemoths. Vic focusses on the cutting edge of SEO, employing the most effective techniques in the space to achieve the best results for clients.
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