Anchor Text Optimization: Best Practices for Optimizing Link Text

Anchor text optimization is as old as SEO itself. It’s one of the most important SEO techniques that SEOs have sadly abused frequently over the years. Still, how you write and present your link anchors highly impacts your site’s discoverability and performance on the SERP. 

In this post, you’ll learn all you need to know about anchor text optimization, including best practices for creating anchor texts that Google can parse. 

What Is an Anchor Text?

An anchor text is the visible, clickable part of a hyperlink. It’s usually highlighted, may or may not be underlined, and indicates a link pointing to another page. On your webpage, here’s what it looks like

And in the back end of your page, the HTML version looks like this:

<a href=””>SEO content strategy</a>
<a href=””>Semantic SEO guide</a>

The anchor text is contained in the <a> HTML element (also called anchor element) with an href attribute. It describes the content of the linked pages, whether internal or external. 

Without it, search engine crawlers and site visitors will struggle to understand what your hyperlinks are talking about or pointing to.

Why Is Anchor Text Important in SEO?

Using descriptive anchor text tells web crawlers and visitors what the pages you’re linking are about. This improves user experience by helping them navigate through your site. It also gives the search engine a clear understanding of your site’s structure and provides context about how pages relate.

Anchor texts also help Google determine the relevance of your content. When used correctly, descriptive link anchors can positively impact your performance.

In its recent 2023 document on link best practices, Google describes link anchors as text that helps it make sense of your content. The search engine recommends that you write good anchor text that is:

  • Descriptive
  • Reasonably concise
  • Relevant to the page it is on and the page it links to.

For example, the anchor text “keyword clustering tool” tells Google that the linked page is about a keyword clustering tool. 

However, if the anchor text used a generic phrase like “click here,” “learn more,” or “article,” it would provide zero context about the linked page.

Types of Anchor Texts Used in SEO

Here are the six common types of anchor text you’ll find across the internet:

1. Branded Anchor Texts

This involves using a brand name as the anchor text, such as “use InLinks to build internal links and schema.” This anchor text is usually used to link directly to a website, cite a resource, or establish authority. 

Sometimes, you can use a brand name alongside a keyword or phrase indicating a feature or service the brand offers. For example: “Use InLink’s content audit function to analyze your pages.” These are safe and effective ways to signal to Google and visitors that the page you’re linking to is relevant and useful to them.

2. Exact Match Anchors

Exact match anchor texts use the main keyword(s) the linked page is targeting. For instance, if linking to a page about internal linking, using the anchor text “internal linking.” 


  • “InLinks’ guide to internal linking” points to our internal linking guide
  • Content brief best practices” points to our article on creating effective content briefs

Exact match anchors are generally acceptable. In fact, in the early days of SEO, ranking for a keyword was as easy as using exact match anchors several times on your page for both internal links and backlinks. However, SEOs abused the technique so much that Google began to penalize it and even rolled out the Penguin algorithm to specifically target link manipulation. 

Most internal linking plugins only use exact match anchors, and doing so repeatedly can look spammy. In the link best practice document, Google warns against overusing exact match anchor texts by stuffing keywords into them.

3. Partial Match Anchors

These are typically variations or related keywords of the exact keyword the linked page targets. This type of anchor text solves the problem of keyword stuffing and, at the same time, provides context about the linked page. For example, using the anchor text: 

InLinks uses a lot of partial match anchors when building internal links on your website because they are more natural, provide sufficient context, and enhance the user experience.

4. Generic Anchors

As I mentioned above, generic anchors are phrases like “read more,” “website,” “article,” “learn more,” etc. They give zero context about the page the link is pointing to and are generally frowned upon by Google. Overusing generic phrases makes it difficult for readers to understand your content. 

Naked link is when a URL is used as the anchor text without any descriptive text. For instance, or These anchors are the easiest to use but are also very confusing when used in paragraphs of text. They’re best used to cite sources at the bottom of articles. 

6. Image Anchors

This is usually the alt text surrounding an image that links out to a different page on your website or an external site. Using anchor texts (alt text) in images is important because sometimes, when an image doesn’t load, the anchor text is still clickable, telling Google and readers what the image is about. Image anchor texts also make your site more inclusive and accessible for users with disabilities. As a result, they tend to be longer and more descriptive than the normal anchor text you would use between paragraphs or sentences.

Now that we’ve covered anchor texts and why they’re worthwhile, let’s look at how to optimize them and a few best practices to follow. 

How to Optimize Anchor Text

Over the years, SEOs have invented various techniques for utilizing anchor text, one of which is called “Anchor text ratios.” This is generally defined as the distribution of anchor text across a webpage. Different SEOs recommend using varying percentages of branded, exact match, partial match, and even naked anchor texts on different parts of your website when building external and internal links. Some even recommend looking at your top-ranking competitors and creating an anchor text distribution similar to theirs.

We cannot confirm whether these tactics guarantee results. But we can tell you that what works for one website does not always work for another. Plus, perusing another website to match its anchor text distribution pattern is tedious work.  

Instead, we recommend (and Google also recommends) that you focus on making your anchor text optimization and distribution as natural as possible. As you write content, anchor text opportunities should present themselves naturally so you can build links. 

That said, here are some best practices to keep in mind when optimizing anchor texts.

Best Practices for Writing Well-Optimized Anchor Texts

1. Context and Relevance is Everything 

The words in your anchor text set the expectation for readers and search crawlers before they click through. This means they must be relevant and contextual to help Google and users understand the linked pages. The best way we’ve seen to provide this context naturally is to vary your anchor texts so that they fit seamlessly into your content. This means using synonyms, related words and phrases, sentence fragments, and sometimes exact match words that convey the context of the linked pages. 

If you struggle to vary your anchor texts without losing context, use the InLinks internal linking tool to automatically create them from within your article. 

Here’s how:

Go into any project you’ve created in your InLinks account and navigate to “Website pages” from the left navigation pane.

You’ll see all the pages you’ve brought into a given project there. Click on “Target” next to a page to see the list of topics you can associate that page to and the potential number of internal links the InLinks system can create to other related pages.

Once you hit “select” to complete the topic association, InLinks will instantly build links between related pages. To view the links and their anchor texts, go to “Internal Links” from the left navigation pane. 

On the page that pops up, look at “Link opportunities” and sort by “Source or Target Page” to review the internal links built to your pages. 

Then, look at the anchor text selection for each internal link. You’ll see that InLinks looks within your paragraphs to find anchor texts in sentence fragments, synonyms, exact keywords, and related phrases. 

This way, you’ll get a rich anchor text profile that looks natural, is relevant to the linked pages, and delivers a good experience for people and search crawlers.

2. Be Reasonably Concise

Very lengthy anchor texts look unnatural and confuse visitors. While there’s no set rule for length, it’s best to keep your anchor texts as concise as possible. Read it aloud to see if it makes sense to you. If the anchor text sounds weirdly long, then it probably is, and you should shorten it. Also, avoid cramming all the keywords you want to rank for into your anchor text. It is keyword stuffing and violates Google’s spam policies.

3. Consider the Sentence as a Whole

The words before and after your anchor text help give context to your links. If you cram too many links next to each other, you’ll lose surrounding text, overwhelm users, and make your content confusing. For example, in this image, it’s hard to tell where each anchor text (and link) ends. 

The idea is to pay attention to the entire sentence and paragraph from which you’re drawing anchor texts and link out reasonably so it looks as natural as possible.

4. Make Your Anchor Text Crawlable

Do this by placing your link text between the <a> HTML element. Empty <a> elements provide zero context to Google. Even though the search engine can use the title attribute when the anchor element is empty, it is best to always place your descriptive text inside the recommended anchor element. 

Anchor Text Is as Important as Every Other SEO Element

They might seem minuscule, but your link anchors can significantly impact your SEO success. Pay attention to them, don’t write them haphazardly or indulge in ill practices like keyword stuffing. Instead, pay attention as you write and find ways to build natural anchor texts that do not disrupt the user experience. Better still, use InLinks to build your internal links and get varied, natural anchor texts without hassle. 

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