Anchor text is the clickable text in a link. I’ll give an example of a link to Web Directory Forum, which is maintained by the same people who run this site. As you can see, the words, “Web Directory Forum,” have been made into a link, and if you click it, your browser will take you to the forum.
In that particular case, “Web Directory Forum” is the name of the site, and that is by far the most common anchor text that it has. However, instead of using the title of the site as the anchor text, I could, as I do sometimes, have simply said that you could find the forum here, using the word “here” as the anchor text, which will also take you to Web Directory Forum.
I just snuck in two links to my own site, which is not always a good habit to get into, but I think Google will forgive me in this case.
Before Google’s Penguin update, the anchor text that was use to link to your site was one of the best ways to get Google to learn the things that I wanted the search engine to think were relevant to my site.
For example, if I wanted Google to believe that another site of mine was the best site about Ypsilanti, North Dakota, I might try to get people to say that on their web site, and to link to the whole thing. Most web directories won’t do that, by the way, and I’d be unlikely to persuade very many other people to do that either, so I’d probably have to create my own sites in order that this can be done. This is no longer recommended, and I am flirting with danger when I use that as an example. Please forgive me, Google.
I didn’t do this but, in the past, a lot of people would think of search phrases that they believed their target audience might be searching on, and then maneuver to gain as many exact-match anchor texts to match these phrases as they could, and they did that with some success.
Doing the wrong thing with anchor text today can be dangerous, as it may well be considered over-optimization and spam by the search engines, and even result in penalties. Creating sites for the sole purpose of linking to your other sites can also be hazardous.
Does this mean that the anchor text used to link to your site doesn’t matter? No, not at all; it’s probably even more important, but you do have to be smarter about it.
Don’t create sites solely for the purpose of linking to your other sites. That doesn’t mean that you can’t link to your other sites, but do so only when it makes sense to do so, and from the perspective of someone who is reading your site rather than for SEO purposes. I have four sites that relate to web directories, and I think that I’m relatively safe in referencing articles from this site within my forum site, as it is for the sake of discussion rather than a back-link, and because these sites are related topically.
I won’t link to it here because I think I’ve taken enough chances, but I also have a site about Upper Peninsula pasties. Since it wouldn’t make sense, topically, for me to link to my Upper Peninsula pasty site from one of my directory sites, or to the pasty site from one of my directory sites, since they are not actually directories, it could be dangerous for me to add such links. They are not topically relevant, one to the other.
I won’t go further along this tangent, since the topic of this article is anchor text.
Let’s look at the different types of anchor text.
- Branded Anchor — A branded anchor text is generally your company name or the official title of your web site. Most web directories will require that the title of the listing be the actual title of the site, and will use that as the anchor text. This will also commonly be used by others who might link to your site as well, so the majority of your links will probably be branded anchors.
- Long-tail Keyword Anchor — A long-tail keyword is a phrase that you would like to optimize your site for, or a phrase that I believe my target audience is likely to use in searches that you would like your site to come up for. Using my Ypsilanti example, a long-tail keyword anchor might be, “the best site about Ypsilanti, North Dakota.”
- Partial Match Anchor — A partial match anchor uses only a portion of the key phrase (long-tail keyword) that you would like to optimize your site for, usually the most relevant portion. Using my Ypsilanti example, a partial match anchor might be simply, “Ypsilanti, North Dakota.”
- Synonym Anchor — Synonym anchor text uses words that mean the same thing as the ones that you would like to optimize your site for. “The greatest site about Ypsilanti, North Dakota” could be a synonym anchor, using my Ypsilanti example. A synonym anchor uses a variation of your main keywords.
- Brand Plus Keyword Anchor — This type of an anchor would use your company name along with a single keyword or very brief key phrase, often in the form of a sentence of sentence fragment.
- Hybrid Anchor — A hybrid anchor might use a portion of your company name along with a synonym or keyword anchor.
- Non-Descriptive/Generic Anchor — Generic anchor text may include phrases such as “click here,” “go here,” “this site,” “visit this site,” or “read more here.” People linking to your site from blog or forum posts will sometimes use generic anchor text. Prior to Penguin, generic anchor text had no particular SEO value, but they do contribute to link diversity.
- Naked URL Anchor — A naked URL anchor will consist of the actual address of your web page, in one form or another. Many web applications will automatically convert a naked URL into a hyperlink.
- Image Anchor — In an image anchor, an image is made clickable. This might be an image taken from your site, such as your company logo, or it might be a thumbnail image of your site. When someone clicks on the image, the browser takes them to your web site. Where an “alt” tag is used on the image, that may be used as the anchor text, as far as a search engine algorithm is concerned, or it may mean nothing. I’m not sure, but it does count toward link diversity.
Google has an appreciation for diversity, and this applies to anchor text as well. Ideally, what you want is a mixture of all of these types of anchor text, but this doesn’t mean that you have to (or should) create them all yourself. Anchor text diversity is an important component of ranking well in Google, and may be for other search engines as well.
Most of your links should be branded anchors. Obviously, it is important for your site to rank for your own company name. However, this is not one that you will need to concentrate heavily on because, as I have said, a large percentage of people linking to your site will use your company name as the anchor text, and if you submit your site to web directories, most of them will require it.
Next, in the order of importance, and probably the ones that you should concentrate most on, are synonym anchors, but not as obvious as my Ypsilanti example.
Long-tail keyword anchors can still be effective, but only if they are not too improbable, and if they are not overused. Brand plus and hybrid anchors should be incorporated. Once you start getting some natural links, they will likely include a good mixture of the other types of keywords.
Until that point, web directories are a good place to begin developing a link profile. Most of your web directory links will be branded anchor links, but many will include image anchors as well.
Look for opportunities to include some of the others, as some reputable directories will allow minor variations from your branded anchor link.
Putting this into practice, let’s consider another site of mine. SENIORSonly Club is a free online discussion forum for people fifty years old or older. That might seem like a rather unfortunate name, particularly from a search engine optimization perspective.
That might prove to be the case, and I can’t say that it’s done all that well so far, but then I haven’t invested much into it either.
I chose that name because I wanted to do something with one of the new domain extensions, and I chose the domain seniorsonly.club.
- Branded Anchor — SENIORSonly Club
- Long-tail Keyword Anchor — seniors discussion forum
- Partial Match Anchor — seniors forum
- Synonym Anchor — over fifty forum (or) baby boomer forum
- Brand Plus Keyword Anchor — SENIORSonly Club Forum
- Hybrid Anchor — Seniors Only Forum
- Naked URL Anchor — http://www.seniorsonly.club (or) seniorsonly.club
On the negative side, visitors to the site will perhaps be less likely to remember the domain with a .club rather than a .com extension, and unless they have been there before and are looking for my site specifically, people are unlikely to enter “seniorsonly club” or even “seniors only club” into a search engine. Additionally, since my target audience is people over the age of fifty who are looking for a discussion forum, they are more likely to use “forum” in their search than “club.”
In order for people find the SENIORSonly Club through a search engine, I will need to rank for key phrases like “seniors forum,” “over fifty forum,” “baby boomers forum,” or something along those lines. So far, I am not but, as I have said, I haven’t put much effort into it yet.
I use web directories heavily in my site marketing efforts because I believe in them, and know them to be effective. On the positive side, most web directories will not allow capitalization to be used in a title unless it represents an acronym, and a large percentage of them will not allow two words to be glued together in a title.
As a result, while many of my web directory links will be branded anchors, since SENIORSonly Club is the actual title of the site, a not insignificant number of them will use partial match or hybrid anchors instead, so I will also have listings that use “Seniors Only Club” or “Seniors Only Forum,” or Seniors Only Club Forum” as the anchor text, which might help me rank on searches for a seniors forum.
Many directories will use a thumbnail image of the site to create image anchors, and some use naked URL anchors. There are also directories that allow other anchor text variations, sometimes including a choice of deep links that can use the anchor text of my choice. In this, I would avoid anything that might be seen as spam or over-optimization, but I would take advantage of the opportunity for deep links, since that spells link diversity, which is also good.
Similarly, if people enjoy the forum and refer to it from their blog, in other forums, or on their web sites, they are likely to use a variety of anchor types in order to link to it, and it is rarely, if ever, a good idea to turn down a natural link.
The last time I looked my SENIORSonly Club site was not doing particularly well in search engine results, but it’s fairly new and I haven’t put a lot of effort into marketing it. Since it is not monetized in any manner, it isn’t something that I can afford to spend a lot of money on.
In time, I have no doubt that it will do well in search engine results, as others of my sites have done using a similar anchor strategy.