How important is Anchor Text to a Backlink?

Anchor Text

Linkbuilding is an essential part of SEO. The more links, the merrier. Each link consequently comes with an anchor text. The confusion right now is, does Google still give as much important to anchor text as it does before?

How Google derives a Link’s relevance

Before we go on to conclude the importance of anchor text right now, let’s take a look at how Google derives an individual link’s relevance. Basically, there are three major ways:

Anchor Text

The anchor text is what we want to tackle today. This is the blue underlined text that is clickable and will take you to another webpage to which it is pointing to. There have been many controversies and exchange of ideas surrounding anchor text – some swear by its effectiveness, while others proclaim its death.

Recently, Google has announced that it will gradually reduce its dependence on anchor text until it has minimal effect. Lots of sources have given infographs about the future of SEO factors – and it clearly shows that anchor text is in rapid decline.

Anchor Title

The anchor title is the tool-tip text that appears whenever you mouse-over on a link. The importance and weight of the anchor title is not really as big as the anchor text – but it is one of the most visible factors describing the link and what it is pointing to.

I personally think that Google derives a link’s relevance from an anchor title too albeit not too much.

Context around the link

Click Here

The context that surrounds the link is also used to derive the link and what it is pointing to. Basically, we look at two major factors that comprise the context:

  1. Page Title – The page title is what you see at the top-leftmost part of your browser. It gives you an immediate idea about what the webpage is all about. This affects the link by the page as a whole. A link coming from a page with a very relevant title tag incurs a huge impact in the link’s quality.
  2. Content Body – The content body is the whole of the article written in the webpage – where the link is almost always placed. The upper part of the content is arguably the best link placement and should easily describe what the link is about. This is also used by Google to derive the link and where it points to.

Anchor Text’s current importance

Right now, looking into an experiment posted in SEOmoz, the facts are laid out straight. Google isn’t there in its acclaimed ‘anchor text independence’ yet. Right now, how the system works is how it still does – varying anchor text is still the best as long as there is relevance in the words.

For example:

If you have a website that sells gift checks, building links with the anchor text “gift checks”, “gift certificates”, “gift items” will get you further up the ranks in the long run than making just focusing all your anchor texts on “gift checks”. But not having the keywords “gift” or “checks” or “gift checks” inside the anchor text would lead to it being somewhat useless.

If you visit the experiment from SEOmoz, you’ll see that the website with the backlinks having the anchor text “Click here”, “See here”, “This entry”, was nowhere to be found in the long run.

What now?

Well, the results of the experiment laid it straight out: build backlinks with relevant, but varying anchor text – and you’ll get to rank well in the long run.

Tips for Keeps: Don’t ‘follow your heart’ there is no such thing in SEO. Experiments and trial-and-error is the way to go.

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  • Thanks for this post was very informative. Isn’t the key to getting the most out of links lies in quality not quantity?

    • Yep I would say so. But the fact of the matter is, quantity is also a big factor whether we admit it or not.

  • Ken

    But what about dofollow/nofollow? I mean, is anchor text more important than the link being dofollow. Even simply, what is better – a nofollow link with proper anchor text or a dofollow link with “.” as an anchor text (sometimes that;s the best you can do :))?


    • Only Google detects nofollow tags on links. Anchor text is always important – it’s how search engines will know what the link is about. My opinion is, proper anchor text is more important than the link being a dofollow IF you already established yourself as an online authority.

  • “Don’t ‘follow your heart’ there is no such thing in SEO. Experiments and trial-and-error is the way to go.” With this tip i think in Ed goodson :)
    “Wishes are for girls with broken hearts and boys with broken condoms” hahaha

    I just send to Cutts a tweet with the seomoz experiment FANTASTIC!

    Thanks Sean

  • somyatrans

    Thanks for the Useful information!

  • MNF

    i’ll try to varying anchor text for my site, but still figured out how well on search. just pray to get higher rank someday. thanks for share your knowledge

  • Daniel

    As long as the crawlers travel the web via links I would say Anchor text is still very important. But there is a good way of using anchor text, it’s up to the SEO/link builder how he implements it. The key here is aggregation, if you got thousands of backlinks, and in all those backlinks you only used one anchor text (exact match in most cases) now when Google sees that all these links (probably low quality links) are pointing to your site, now what would Google think? That’s right you’re a spammer. You probably used an automated link building software to create all these blogs, articles, and what not. -Sean you should create a post about the differences between partial and exact match anchor text. As this is a part of anchor text which is mostly overlooked by link builders. Also point out which one is best to use.

    Thanks. Very nice post. Maganda ang blog mo kaya ginaganahan aqng mag comment. Hehe

    • Hey Daniel!
      I find it so cool that you’ve left me lots of comments in my blog. Thanks for being such an avid reader! As you can see in SEOMoz’s experiment, they’ve already clearly pointed out the difference (on long-term ranking) between partial and exact match anchor text. They placed it really well with a very interesting experiment. The best one for me is, of course to look natural – which means partial match anchor text. BUT if you’re sprinting on ranking for a competitive keyword, go for exact match (make sure you have enough site authority to do this).

      • Daniel

        Isn’t that what we all want? To have domain authority. It only makes sense that you have to have high enough DA in order to rank for competitive keywords. And once you have enough DA you will be able to rank for competitive keywords with only just one Exact Match Keyword. If you’re site is too young, or prematured then the best option for link building would be to use PMK, but if your site is already matured enough with reasonable DA, then it’s okay to use EMK for a couple of Anchor Text.

        • Good insight Daniel. Keep up your SEO learnings. You’re getting there ;)

  • shalini

    Anchor text means the keyword used in the back-links or hyperlinks to your webpage or URLs. So its very important for getting Back links.

    Thanks for Sharing!!

  • Now everything is complete, and much clearer. I had not given so much importance anchor links but from now on …

  • Kevin Piter

    Thank you for your Tips Sean!

  • Anon

    Anchor text is on the decline? hmmmm..thanks for the tip. Link-building with Pinterest, Squidoo, and Google+ is great for SEO.

  • Deny Saputra

    That’s quite clear explained!
    Many thanks sean!

  • Hey Sean,

    I agree that maybe you shouldn’t follow your heart in SEO but you do certainly need to follow your common sense in that you should do what is natural.

    Backlink anchor text should sound natural and not forced, so if you’re linking to the same page in several different posts, the anchor text would most likely use different words.

    I think a good rule of thumb is not to force things. If you find yourself doing something you wouldn’t normally do to artificially impress the search engines, it’ probably not wise.

  • I totally agree with you. I lot of people ignore the use of placing anchor titles and alt text. They are very important to SEO. Just like the providing quality unique page contents, anchor text should also be created with relevant and popular keywords.

  • Taran

    AWESOME TIPS.Thanks for the Useful information!

  • Rayna Remondini

    Over optimizing your anchor text and building links from the same websites is over optimization and can be considered spam.

    • h3sean

      Right. We all know this now – especially that Penguin is already 2.1

  • Thanks Sean for great article. it’s very useful and helpful.