There’s been a common practice among SEOs (both established and new) to try and get as many links from as many sites as possible, with little strategy when it comes to backlink profiles and anchor text ratios.
It probably started when Google made a bunch of anchor text changes to the algorithm. Since then, there’s been a lot of guessing at what the anchor text should be for each backlink.
Now, if you’re getting links to your site naturally, there’s not much need to worry about anchor text. If a site just decides to link to yours, you’re not going to have much control over the anchor text they choose.
But that’s an ideal situation. And what’s real and what’s ideal aren’t often the same thing.
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t have the luxury of people banging down our door asking if it’s OK for them to link to our content.
This creates a challenge. There’s no question that we need backlinks to rank. We also know that these links need to look natural to Google in order for them to work.
This post will break down what anchor text is, why it’s important for SEO, and the perfect anchor text and link building strategy.
What Is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the hyperlinked text on a webpage.
The linked part of this sentence– a blog post on anchor text vs. keywords– would be considered the “anchor text” for the link.
Anchor text applies to both external and internal links. External links go to other websites. Internal links link to other resources within the same website (blog posts, product pages, etc).
Why is Anchor Text Important for SEO?
I’ll dive into more specifics when it comes to strategy shortly, but here’s a quick overview:
- Internal links make your site’s structure clear to search engines
- The anchor text helps clarify what the linked page is about
- External links give your site more authority if you’re linking to solid, relevant sources
- The anchor text here does the same, and helps clarify what the site is about
So yes, anchor text is a ranking factor, because it helps provide context to search engines
If the above is true, why not just build a bunch of links with super targeted keyword-heavy anchor text?
Because not every site is going to link to you using your preferred keywords, and Google’s able to sniff out that kind of B.S. as unnatural if you go too hard.
This is called “over-optimization,” and you can read more about it here.
But I’m going to tell you the exact anchor text ratio strategy you need to be using to get the most out of your link building.
Link Building With No Anchor Text or Link Profile Strategy
I mentioned earlier that there’s a tendency for SEOs to simply try and get as many backlinks as they can and then just sort of “mix up” the anchor text and hope for the best.
There are two fundamental flaws with this strategy.
First, there is no direction to the backlink profile you are building. Even if you build 100 links to a page if you are just guessing at what the anchor text should be and then hoping it all works out you could be out of business before you realize your anchor text assumptions were wrong.
Second, getting backlinks to your site is going to cost you one or both of these two things: time and money.
Both are limited resources.
And what happens if you guessed wrong and build out a very unnatural looking backlink profile?
You’re out a lot of time and money and could lose money on SEO clients or even worse, lose these businesses as clients altogether.
Targeted Link Building Strategy
So how do we build backlinks without wasting money or time on links we don’t need or that can hurt our progress in the search engines?
There are two critical elements to building out a backlink profile that will not only be safe from algorithm updates and rise up the rankings with less links.
It’s a more targeted approach to link building.
Instead of trying to get as many links as possible and hoping that I do enough, I only target the links I know I need.
Instead of building links and praying that my backlink profile looks natural, I keep a natural profile all along the way.
How to Know It’s a Natural Backlink Profile
The best way to “know” if your backlink profile looks natural is to go right to the source, Google.
Google has already told us what a natural profile looks like by ranking that website #1 in their search results.
Research the backlink profiles of #1 ranked sites and try to mimic what they have done.
But looking at just one #1 ranked site is not enough. You need to look at many sites across all industries.
We all know that our links should be from relevant sites. We all know our links should be quality.
Anchor text tends to be where most of us are guessing.
As I was doing SEO for some really high profile clients (read: Marcus Lemonis) I got so tired of guessing at which anchor text I should use that I decided to figure out once and for all what Google actually wanted to see in a #1 ranked backlink profile.
So I locked myself in my office and spent hours upon hours doing search after search after search.
I looked at #1 ranked websites in every category, niche and industry. Then I looked at every single backlink profile.
I created 12 anchor text categories that every single link could be categorized into and then I categorized every single link one at a time.
I’m talking thousands of links.
Here are the 12 anchor text categories I created that every single link in the world can fit into:
12 Categories For Anchor Text
- Keyword – this is an exact match anchor for one of your key phrases.
- Page Title – this anchor text is usually a blog post title or the actual SEO title as the anchor text.
- Keyword Plus – this anchor includes one of your main key phrases plus other non-keyword phrases with it (ie “this link building article here”).
- Brand Plus Keyword – this anchor includes your brand name plus a key phrase (ie “HOTH link building service”).
- Partial Keyword – this anchor contains just a part of your key phrase (ie “if you’re building”).
- Brand – this is just your brand name as the anchor text
- Natural – this anchor has no reference to any keywords or brand.
- Full URL – this anchor is the full URL of the page being linked to as the anchor.
- WebsiteName.com – this anchor is your URL written in this format: “TheHoth.com”.
- Home URL – this anchor occurs on inner pages and even though the link points to an inner page the home URL is the anchor text.
- No Text – this anchor is associated with image links that have no alt text.
- URL with www’s – this anchor is the url written without http:// (ie www.thehoth.com).
Once I had all of the links categorized and I compared them side by side, my SEO world changed.
The correlations that almost every #1 ranked website shared were staggering.
It was as if Google was saying to me, “this is the key to top rankings”.
You can read more about the backlink research we did at SEOJet but here is a quick overview what we came up with.
3 Main Categories For Anchor Text
As I mentioned there were 12 total anchor text categories but to keep things simple we lump them into 3 main categories.
- Exact Match Anchors – These are links that have one of your key phrases (exact match) as the anchor text (ie “link building”).
- Key Phrases Mixed Into Anchors – These are links that have one of your key phrases in the anchor text but the anchor also contains other words that are not part of your key phrase (ie “this is why link building has become”).
- Brand, Natural and URL Anchors – These are anchors that have no reference to your key phrase, unless your key phrase is part of your brand (ie “The HOTH”).
In order for you to build a backlink profile that matches other #1 ranked sites you need to mix up your anchor texts in the following manner.
Keep in mind that these ranges are always shifting slightly as Google changes their algorithm.
Homepage Anchor Text Strategy
For your homepage SEO this is how your backlink profile should break down.
- 80%-95% of your links should fall in the Brand, Natural and URL Anchor category.
- Up to 10% of your links should fall in the Key Phrases Mixed Into Anchor category.
- Up to 5% of your links should fall in the Exact Match Anchor category.
Inner Page Anchor Text Strategy
On your inner pages, this is how your backlink anchor text profile should break down.
- 35%-45% of your links should fall in the Brand, Natural and URL Anchor category.
- 50%-60% of your links should fall in the Key Phrases Mixed Into Anchor category.
- Up to 10% of your links should fall in the Exact Match Anchor category.
I have included both the homepage and inner pages separately here because as you can see there is a huge difference in what the backlink profile looks like for each.
Homepage Backlink Strategy
Your homepage is used (at least for link building purposes) for building brand trust with Google. As you can see, up to 95% of your links should have your brand name or some form of your URL as the anchor text.
Let’s look at an example from Overstock.com. These guys rank #1 for thousands of huge shopping related search terms.
This is what their homepage backlink profile looks like (screenshot is SEOJet dashboard with Overstock link data):
As you can see 98% of their homepage links are either their brand name or some form of their URL as the anchor. They have 2% of their links to their homepage that reference one of their key phrases. Two percent, that’s it.
Keep in mind that Overstock has over 900 homepage links.
Another important thing to remember is that your homepage should be where most of the links to your site go. It should be at least double the number of links as your next highest linked-to page.
Here is a screenshot of GuestPostTracker.com running inside of SEOJet’s dashboard. Guest Post Tracker is a website I own that ranks on page one for just about every keyword I am targeting.
As a rule, I try to get 1 link to my homepage for every link I get to an inner page on my site. It’s not a hard rule that can’t be broken but definitely, the majority of your links should point to the homepage.
This is what Google expects to see in a natural backlink profile.
If you don’t build brand trust with Google, your other pages will almost always struggle to get to the top 3 of Google.
Inner Page Link Profile
On your inner pages, it is much more natural to more heavily target your key phrases. This is where you should focus your main SEO efforts.
It doesn’t mean you get a bunch of exact match anchors to your inner pages, you still need to follow the percentages to match other inner pages of #1 ranked sites.
For example, The HOTH ranks #1 for the phrase “guest post service”.
If you look at the links pointing to that page, this is where the anchor text for the links fall in the ranges above.
The backlink profile for this page falls right into the ranges that #1 ranked sites across the board are falling into. And it looks natural to Google.
It all goes back to the awesome brand trust they have built with Google.
This is what The HOTH’s homepage backlink profile looks like (with over 300 links pointing to the homepage):
This means that over 240 links pointing to their homepage are either the brand name or some form of the URL as the anchor text.
And Google trusts them as a brand now.
Here is another example of a #1 ranked page matching the described percentages above.
Let’s look at the #1 ranked site for the search term “backlinks”.
Backlinko.com takes the top spot for this phrase. This is what their backlink profile looks like on their post that ranks #1:
You will see over and over again that #1 ranked pages fall into these percentages because this is what looks natural to the big G.
So now that you have an idea of what a natural backlink profile looks like all you need to do is build out your profile to match.
This is why I built SEOJet. (Shameless self-promotion forthcoming)
SEOJet takes all of the guesswork out of the link building process.
I don’t have to worry if the links I am building are going to help move the SEO needle.
I know that every link I get is helping me build out a backlink profile that matches other #1 ranked sites.
Regardless of what your current backlink profile looks like, SEOJet will tell you exactly which links you need to get to build out a backlink profile that looks amazing and natural to the big G.
No more Guess-E-O.
Whether you have 10 links pointing to a page or 100, your profile can always match other #1 ranked backlink profiles in the three categories mentioned above. This also means you can build links as fast or as slow as you want and it always looks natural.
So stop building links blindly and use proven data from Google instead.
Get 25% off SEOJet through the HOTH partners page or you can also see a demo of SEOJet here.
I have been using SEOjet in my campaigns for sometime now, and it is a great advantage to see both the benefits in rankings & be in the know for what your next backlink move is…. Just as the tagline suggest, “With SEOjet there is no more GuessEO”
SEOBank, I’m glad SEOJet is helping your link building efforts. With link building being so important to the success of SEO we should treat every link like the success of our business depends on that one link.
Thank you very much for this well documented and very useful post, I have just read it I have put hands to the work, greetings
AsturWebs, I’m glad it was useful for you. I was trying to provide actionable SEO advice.
I wrote a similar blog post on that not too long ago and discussed the importance of brand anchor text in your anchor text profile. I forgot to mention the difference of internal pages vs the home page and how different they can actually be in regards to anchor text ratios. I really liked how you laid out the difference between the home page anchor text ratios and internal page anchor text ratios. Thanks for sharing your research and data for internal page anchor text ratios.
Yeah it really makes a difference. I see so many people stuck on page 2 or 3 because they try to do their homepage SEO just like other pages in their site.
I use it as well and love losing the guess work in this maze of SEO. My question becomes, how do you determine which pages to rank first if you’ve got dozens that you want to rank? And, how many should you work on at a time?
PS – Thx for the hand holding when we were getting our account setup with you Adam! Really appreciated it. 🙂
Bobbi, Im glad you’re loving the software. I choose which pages to rank first based on which ones I think will have the best chance to turn visitors into buyers. There are some keywords that seem great to rank for until you get to the top of Google and then realize that none of the traffic they bring in wants to purchase anything. Really try to dial in user intent on your keywords and target those pages first, although you should build links to many pages which is more natural to do anyway.
I would still think that the speed/timing of backlinks is important – google knows the dates of all the links in a back link profile – so should that not be counted in the profile itself?
Justin, great question. I do think link recency (I just coined that phrase) matters. This is one of the main reasons you should always be building new links. But old links do hold weight and shouldn’t be ignored.
This is a good study. I’ve read in another data-backed study where they said:
“Sites in #1 had an average of 5.42% of anchor text with their keyword.”
Stan, if you look at an anchor with only a keyword and nothing else then that is pretty close to what we see. But keywords mixed in with other words happen a lot more often.
So true. Every time someone asks me to look at their site and I run it through ahrefs or majestic, I almost always see over optimized anchors – like 80%. You’ve got to mix it up and link to your BRAND, not your money page keyword phrase all the time.
You’re exactly right Carl.
Yeah, I am interested in looking further into this SEOJet stuff 😀
I have grown my DA from 1 to 34 in around 6 weeks 😀
Scott, nice work. I tend to focus less on DA and more on relevance when it comes to links. And then if I get a super relevant link with a lower DA I build links to that page to increase the SEO value.
When building links you may have some control on guest posts but when somebody else links.. well ..what can you really do? Reach out say thanks and ask him/her to change the anchor text?
Claudiu, unless you get an insane number of natural links there isnt any need to ask them to change up the anchors. In fact, with SEOJet, the link maps are going to guide you to an anchor text profile that will almost perfectly match what would happen if you got all of your links naturally.
Great research and article, Adam. This article should carry a big red warning that indicates the subject matter as “advanced”, just like Google’s disavow tool. We have found that messing up your anchor text profile can have serious consequences on rankings. Over-usage of exact keywords in anchor text was one of the main reasons so many websites lost rankings about a year ago, after one of Google’s updates.
Carlos, yeah anchor text profile is a big issue and the reason why so many sites get stuck on page 2 and 3 of the search engines.
Yes This metod still work From the past until now. I usually use this method for my clients before shooting keywords who Client Want.
Awesome data, thanks for sharing your research with us! I think a big takeaway here is that some exact match anchors are OK, but it’s certainly the least natural. Focus on branded, full URL, or mixed anchors as you call them.
Nick, you’re exactly right. Exact match anchors are an expected piece of a natural backlink profile, just a very minor piece.
Great article! For me, anchor texts were a little confusing to learn once I started looking at SEO for my website. This article is a great reminder that we really do need to diversify and not just worry about a bunch of keyword stuffing to try and rank well. Google catches on to those kind of things and it really can hurt you in the long run! Thanks for the helpful article – looking forward to more like this in the future!
Yeah, keyword stuffing is a great way to never make it to the top of Google.
I can tell you hands down SEOJet works like a charm. I have been using it on a new site for about 4 months now and the SEO rankings keep going up every month. I am sending links to about 8 pages per month. 35% to the HP and the rest to the inner pages and following the steps to a T. I know this will take longer this way but once I am at the top I will stay there in a VERY competitive niche.
Thanks Adam good shit my man 🙂
Mark, that’s awesome to hear it is working so well for you. A lot of our users are hesitant to follow the link maps exactly but if you just trust the maps you will have success for the long term.
Excellent article, I can’t believe the amount of research that must have gone into it. Did you keep industry/niche specific data of the anchor text and backlink profiles? Would be interesting to see a breakdown of top ranking sites from multiple industries and the differences in their backlink strategies.
Sam, yes we did keep track of each industry as we did the research and the biggest surprise was how closely each industry matched each other. The one major exception was the SEO industry itself. They are a different animal altogether.
how to do this rule dear ” As a rule, I try to get 1 link to my homepage for every link I get to an inner page on my site”
when i linking my inner page in guest post like “best backlinks SEO” i linking this anchor text with homepage url !! or linking anchor text brand name with linking inner page ??
Does SEOJet account for the niche when recommending anchor texts? I’ve researched Top 3 google results for a boring local business niche in 10 different cities (example: KW Dallas, KW Las Vegas, KW Atlanta, and so on). Almost all of them rely heavily on sponsor links with naked url as anchor (30%-60%), and these links come from all sorts of sites that are NOT relevant to the money site. Unless they are hiding high authority PBN’s, how can you explain the relevancy issue on this?
Happens all the time. Relevance can help but in terms of backlinks, what we’re seeing (at least now) is that raw # and power of backlinks can trump relevance. We covered a bit of this in our link building myths article and link relevance article here.
Really appreciate the way you have written and explained. Worth reading it.
Thanks for sharing it with us.
Thank you Clayton! This is the best article on the internet on the subject. The difference between ethos and spam is the education on how to properly optimize anchor texts. I have been guilty of over-optimizing for target keywords in my strategy. But doing it the right way, I hope to get the desired results.
Great, thanks for sharing this blog post.Really looking forward to read more.
Very indepth and well balanced article. I learned alot of new things related to anchor text. Before this i was only focusing on exact match keyword anchor then i started title tag keyword anchor etc. Anyhow this is awesome post. Keep up the great work.
Hot damn, this is a good article.
Wow. I semi-panicked as I read this article fearing my link building was shooting the proverbial foot. Doesn’t look like I ‘m off the deep end, but I will definitely be modifying my approach going forward. Thank you Clayton and Adam for this great article and research.
Thanks Clayton, Superb article for optimizing anchor texts for ranking fast. Great Work.
This is really very in-depth and value added information, thank you very much for such a wonderful data driven and informative article… specially 12 categories of anchor combine in to 3 main category is good idea to simplify and home & inner page profile backlink % ration is also very good.. Thanks
Great article, exactly what Ive been looking for. Is there an optimum % of links to the home page and inner pages or does it depend what the #1 website competitor is doing. Mimic there %?
Really very in-depth article. Anchor text has always been very confusing. Natural link building looks impossible unless you have very high authority. But this post given me some clarity which i am going to implement and get result. Didn’t expected so much research and analysis behind natural link building.
I love how you broke down the “3 Main Categories For Anchor Text”, sometimes I forget to mix it up and this article is a great reminder.
Anchor text is something I’ve heard lots about but found it hard to make sense. Your article is the best I’ve come across. Haven’t heard of SEO Jet till now but it looks like a great little tool. Thank you.
Glad you found this useful, and thanks for the feedback!
This has been the most clear and concise explanation of anchor texts that I’ve found! Thanks!
Qu-1: How would you categorise an anchor text “London plumbers R Us” if the domain was “londonplumbersrus.co.uk”? Would you add this to the “Brand”, “Exact match” or “Key Phrases Mixed Into Anchor” category?
Qu-2: How would you adjust the recommended anchor text percentages for the home page if the domain is:
a) exact match (kw =”london plumbers”, dom=”londonplumbers.co.uk”)
b) phrase match (kw = “london plumbers”, dom=”londonplumbersrus.co.uk”)
c) partial match (kw =”london plumbers”, dom =”apexplumbers.co.uk”)
Thanks in advance!
1) This would be “Brand” since it’s the company name. Though I would probably capitalize each word so it’s clear it’s the brand.
2) This would depend on the context you put the link in. I’d say the ratios remain the same, even though they’re part of your domain, but Google will crawl the sentence and see how the link is contextually used to determine if it’s exact match, etc.
Thanks for the reply, and I’m glad this post was helpful!
Great article but i have one question. My exact anchor test ratio is much too high. Is it ok to change the exact match text on existing links just to reduce exact anchor match ratio or is it too dangerous for google? (unnatural and manipulating). Thnx already for answering this question 🙂
I’d create more links with natural anchor text! I wouldn’t change what’s already there, especially if you haven’t seen any direct negative impact.
Thanks for sharing valuable information about anchor text. I learn a lot from your article.
This is an excellent read, and I must say the safest anchors are Brand names or makes URLs. You will not go wrong and never penalize.
thanks YOU so much for shearing with us these Usefully information’s
I didn’t know about how much we should use keyword rich anchor text but now I’m clear. One of my page has been panelized, can I do something now to rank it again?
Yeah sure, it’s too effective article for professional and beginner.i m getting knowledge about anchor text ratio after reading it, I think this article is worth fully ..
It is important to maintain a balanced anchor text ratio to avoid over-optimization and potential penalties from search engines. A natural-looking link profile typically has a mix of different types of anchor texts. A general guideline is to aim for no more than 5-10% of exact match anchor text and to use a combination of other types of anchor text to make up the rest. However, the optimal anchor text ratio may vary depending on the specific website, industry, and competition.