What is an anchor text?
Anchor text includes all of the text information between an opening <a> tag and the accompanying closing </a> tag. This text can either be written straight between them or in the alt attribute from a <img /> tag.
I have broken down anchor text into eight categories along with a short description to help you identify them:
- Branded – these are terms focused around your brand and are by far the most common anchors from external sources.
- Generic – these are terms that could apply to any link, from any source to any destination. Examples include “click here” or “more information”.
- Image – these are normally filenames or empty tags that include no text information.
- Low Quality – these are anchors that are foreign or they are long non-specific sentences.
- Miscellaneous – these are anchors that typically include an authors name or irrelevant words that fit nowhere else.
- Targeted – these include exact match keywords or partial match keywords. They are specifically targeting a keyword.
- Topical – these are terms that are on topic but do not include a keyword in them. For example, “seo advice” would be relevant but not targeted.
- URL – references to your website based on the URL of your site. These are generally low-quality and should be avoided.
How can I check my internal anchor text?
Checking your internal anchor text is easy if you use an auditing tool such as Sitebulb or Screaming Frog. First, crawl your website to get a complete list of pages and the links between them.
Once you have crawled your website, you will want to export a full list of internal anchor text. I prefer to use Screaming Frog for this, as it crawls sites quickly and the bulk export is formatted neatly for auditing.
How can I check my external anchor text?
Checking your external anchor text is a little harder and can only be accurately done using third-party software. Google Search Console is a free tool that everyone can use, while paid tools such as Majestic, Ahrefs or SEMRush can provide additional insights.
All three of these powerful tools include external anchor text ratios. However, I prefer to use the data from Ahrefs. In my experience, it has the most extensive index and lots of other useful features.
How can I improve my Anchor Text?
After checking your internal and external anchor text, you may wonder how to improve these. Google uses both internal and external references to validate the purpose of the page, with external sources given more weight.
However, while anchor text is a dominant ranking factor, it has some downsides. Due to being so powerful it is strictly regulated by the Penguin algorithm and can result in both algorithmic penalties and manual penalties.
To minimise the risk you should always consider the following factors:
Keyword Stuffing – if you have included lots of internal references of the keyword, then only a small number of external references are required to solidify rankings.
Internal Anchor Text – you’re free to be more specific here, but be sure that the keyword matches the page’s intent. Avoid using the same keyword for several different pages.
External Anchor Text – be more cautious with these anchors, making sure that you have a mixture of branded anchors to dilute the strong manipulation signals.
Avoid Too Many Links – sometimes pages stop performing because they have unnatural volumes of links. Avoid adding links with any anchor text if there are too many already.