link anchors

Anchor Text Optimization – How SEO Experts Optimize Their Backlink Anchors

Ever since the 2012 Penguin update, SEOs have realized that they need to have a natural looking link anchor profile to avoid detection of unnatural links by the Penguin module of the Google Algorithm.

Penguin was released to target webspam and blackhat link building techniques. Penguin detects all kinds of link manipulation and it looks for unnatural backlink profiles as one of its core webspam detection factors.

What is Anchor Text Over-Optimization?

The Penguin algorithm looks for unnatural anchor link profiles (among other over-optimization issues).

For example – if you are trying to rank your page for the search term “best web hosting” and you use this very frequently (as a high percentage ratio) across all your anchor texts in all your external backlinks, then you are inviting trouble.

Sure, you may be trying to rank for your money keyword “best web hosting” – but by using it frequently across all your backlinks, you are creating an obvious footprint that will get your site into trouble and the penalty you get will be at a sitewide level. 

As an example, suppose you have built 10 backlinks and your anchor texts across them look like this…

  • best web hosting
  • my website
  • best web hosting
  • best web hosting
  • click here
  • best web hosting
  • best web hosting
  • best web hosting
  • visit my site

Clearly this does not look like a “natural” link profile.

When someone else links to you from their site – they will rarely use your money keyword as the link anchor. And, Google knows this to be true for naturally created pages with backlinks to sites. People link to other sites naturally without using keywords. They don’t do keyword research and use the money keywords while linking to other sites – they have no reason to.

It goes without saying, that before you start building out your backlinks you ensure that you have done a proper website seo audit and you have a keyword plan in place based on this.

A Healthy Anchor Link Profile – My Factors

A healthy anchor link profile looks natural. It does not have money keywords of the target site across multiple backlinks.

I use a mixture of several different types of anchors across my backlinks when I am creating them on other pages that link back to my site. 

Here is a list of the different types of anchors – with specific examples for ranking for the keyword – “best web hosting”.

Money Keyword Anchors

This is exactly what it says and its the exact keyword that you are trying to rank for!

In this example your money keyword is (use them sparingly) –

  • best web hosting
  • Best Web Hosting
  • Best web hosting

Notice, how I can use the variations of it it with or without caps. 

Use it sparingly and when you do use it – you use it on your most powerful backlinks! 

You may want to take note of this – so it boosts your rankings with your most powerful backlinks. When you use your money keyword exactly as it is, on your most powerful backlinks, then – it passes down some amazing link juice to your target page for that keywords ranking. 

Ideal Frequency Ratio – Use your money keyword about 10% to 15% of the time only! Be careful! Don’t go overboard with this – it will only hurt your ranking ability for this keyword!


Eric Lancheres on anchor text:

My golden rule for anchor text is to NEVER use the same anchor text twice. I write things differently, I try to stay on topic and make it look as natural as possible. Sometimes that means using only the website, sometimes it means I can be a little more aggressive and get parts of my anchor text in there. If you’re on a really good site, the ‘ultimate’ anchor text right now (this might change a year from now, Google loves to do that) seems to be a mix of all your keywords in a different order + extra words. So for example, if your main goal is to rank for “best fishing pole”, I would have an anchor text that says: “this pole is the best for fishing bass” on a large authority website. So it’s natural & contains ALL the keywords. Yes, you can still do exact match keywords as anchor text but they don’t seem to be as future proof and they usually get the page in trouble fairly quickly. I like to rank for years at a time instead of weeks 😉 It’s my opinion that anchor text is responsible for MOST penalties handed out by Google. Bad anchor text (over-optimized) is their #1 tool for sniffing out spam on the web… so if you want to rank on Google, get your anchor text right.

Facebook SEO Signal Labs group Eric Lancheres #PickHisBrain thread (must read)


Brand Anchors

Brand anchors are nothing but your brand name used as the anchor text link. For example if your site name is then your “brand” is “MyWonderBlog”.

Examples of Brand Anchors that appear in anchor text links are..

  • My Wonder Blog
  • MyWonderBlog
  • mywonderblog

You can use exactly this text across many of your backlink anchors on offpage posts that you create – without having to worry about over-optimization issues.

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 20% of the time.

Website URL / Domain Anchors

For this variation – you should use your website’s homepage URL or domain name.

Examples are..


When your domain name or website appears in anchors as above it looks natural, as real webmasters would simply be using these variations when they create natural links to your site.

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 20% of the time.

Left-Right Anchor Technique

The Left Right Technique is used to send subtle signals to Google on what money keyword you are targeting – without having to worry about “over optimizing” your backlink profile so it gets caught by any spam traps of Penguin.

For our example of “Best Web Hosting”, this is what a healthy left-right technique of anchors would look like –

  • hosting
  • best
  • web
  • web hosting
  • best hosting

As you can see I am using parts of the money keyword that I am trying to rank for here. This is a very good method and should be used frequently. You are not over optimizing in any way, and in-fact you are sending healthy keyword signals to the algorithm.

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 30% of the time.

Natural Call-To-Action Anchors

These are natural words that appear as the link anchors – asking the user to take action by clicking the link.

Examples are..

  • click here
  • visit the website
  • click to visit
  • check out the blog
  • click here to see
  • check it out

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 20% of the time.

Long Tail Keywords

These are the very low frequency search queries that are used by users to search. Collectively they comprise of a very high number of queries but individually they are each used in searches at a very low volume (percentage). When you do your keyword research, you will see these keywords appear.

Examples are 

  • what is the best hosting company
  • best web hosting provider in 2019
  • best web hosting company compared 

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 5% of the time.

Secondary Keywords

These keywords are from your keyword research, and are keywords that you would also want to rank for. You would typically use these in your content by sprinkling them naturally in the on-page and off-page content.

You may use them sparingly as part of your anchor link profile and you can have different campaigns running that target these secondary keywords to ranking for them.

Do note – that you will rank for these keywords based on your page content even without including them in your link anchors!

Ideal Frequency Ratio – You may or may not use this, or use it about 5% of the time.

LSI Keywords

These are other semantically related keywords that are similar to your primary keyword. They are the keywords that appear in bold in the SERPs when you do the search for your keyword. The example for “best web hosting” is below. You may use these in your anchor texts, and some of these would also form part of the left-right technique above.

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 20% of the time (or as part of left right technique above).

Related Search Queries

You can uncover these while doing your keyword research using tools like or simply scrolling to the bottom of the search results in Google to see other related keywords unit – when you search for your primary keyword.

Ideal Frequency Ratio – Like Secondary keywords, you can use about 5% of the time, but focus to use these in your on-page and off-page content more (specifically in H1, H2, H3, H4… etc tags).

Image Anchors

Using images as anchors is another good variation. Although not required, this could be a good mix to the bag. If you are in a competitive niche, then using image anchors could give you a good variation signal, and you may want to use it as an anchor link.

Ideal Frequency RatioUse sparingly for slight variation only.

Naturally Spoken Queries

You may or may not use these in your anchor. They are search queries that people type in as though they were talking and asking for the query naturally. Voice searches are like this.

Ideal Frequency RatioMay or may note use sparingly.

Combination Anchors

These are a combination of the different types of anchors mentioned in this post. They just add some spice and variation so you don’t get caught by the spam filters and also pass down the link juice nicely.

  • visit
  • click for best hosting
  • Best Web Hosting – A Top Hosting Site

Ideal Frequency RatioUse about 10% of the time.

Important Tips On The Ranking Algorithm 

It’s important that you understand that the algorithm has other ways of picking up signals of what keywords your page is optimized for and therefore what keywords it should pass down link juice for to the pages linked to from the page.

The algorithm uses several on-page factors to determine what the page content / topic is about.

Once it semantically computes and determines what is being written about on the page contextually – it then passes down the link juice to the OBL pages (Out Bound Links pages) for that topic and what it determines as the primary keyword of the page (provided the target pages that are linked to are also talking about similar content / primary keywords).

This may be a little hard to understand and digest – but its an important point because it will help you realize that you need to optimize your page (off-page content in this case) in the right places for the keyword you want to rank for and the backlink anchor text is just an added booster signal.

So, if you optimize your off-page content for a specific primary keyword by including it in the Page Title Tag, the H1, H2 etc and in image file names, ALT tags, and in the body copy of the page etc (which is all basically doing good on-page optimization for off-page content) – then Google knows what keyword to pass the link juice for, for the pages this page links to.

Link To Your Homepage (along with your Inner target Pages)

Also, its vitally important that you link to your homepage as well, using the anchors as above (you can use brand and domain anchors more frequently (80% of the time) for these homepage target links and also use other variations about 20% of the time).

Then from your homepage you can link to this target inner page – so the link juice passes on. By mixing your target pages – you are creating a healthy mix and avoiding any over-optimization.

Typically, I try to make sure that my homepage is linked to about 30% of the time across my entire backlink profile.

What if your Money keyword is in your Domain Name?

This is known as having an “Exact Match Domain” or “Partial Match Domain”.

If your brand name or site URL has your money keyword already in it then you need to be extra careful in over-optimization that may occur. You definitely do have an advantage over the other sites when your primary money keyword is included within the URL, but you need to be careful as well.

For this example – if your domain name is then when you use the URL, domain name or brand name as the anchor – you should count it as if you are using the money keyword and not use it more than around 30% of the time. I would focus on the left-right technique and natural CTA anchors. Also, you should not setup your internal target page to have the same keywords in the slug – but you can vary it or just use the homepage as your target.

Keep A Healthy and Natural Looking – Link Velocity

Make sure you drip your links in at a steady pace that is healthy and natural looking. Don’t build 3 links in one day or a succession of 2 to 3 days and then stop for a week only to build another set of links thereafter immediately.

Just keep things moving naturally.

Build a link every few days… but again – this all depends on your situation! If your site is big and already ranking or if you have been building links quickly – then this specific suggestion may not apply to you!

You need to see where you are in SEO and how competitive your niche is – and also if you want to simulate the entrance of a new hot site that is going viral organically!

This is a very situation specific topic! I would advise a steady pace for most new sites… where you build a link every 2 to 3 days or maybe even 1 per week for smaller niches or smaller client sites.

Also, this depends on the “types” of links you are building… while lesser powerful links like Web2.0 or Social Bookmarks or Social Links may appear more frequently in succession and the more powerful Guest Post Links could be spanned out over weeks or a month or so. Link velocity is very specific and varies from project to project.

Mix Your Link Anchors As You Build Them Sequentially

It’s highly advisable that you mix the different types of link anchors as you build them. For example, don’t use money keyword twice or thrive in a row and then wait for another 15 backlinks to use them again. Mix up and randomize the sequence of their appearance as you build your backlinks.

Analyzing Competitors Anchor Link Profile

You can definitely look at the anchor link profile of the top ranking sites / your competitors in your niche by using tools like 

This will give you an overall picture on a natural looking “link anchor cloud”. However, do note that a top ranking competitor could probably be more aggressive in some of the ratios (like using money keywords) because their site may already have other strong factors like domain age and site authority. Also, do check to see if they have an exact match or partial match domain.

Link Juice Takes About 3 Weeks To Come Into Effect!

On a closing note, I’d like to let you know that link juice and ranking power from a backlink does not pass down immediately! 

You need to wait for about 3 weeks (this has been tested by several SEOs and holds to be true) – to see the ranking effects from each new backlink that you create.

So, don’t get impatient in waiting to see the boost in your rankings!

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