• Tue. Jun 14th, 2022

3 things you should know

Anchor text is a hotly debated topic among SEO professionals.

“Exact matches are the best!” “

“Never get an exact match unless you take advantage of Google’s penalties!” “

“Natural all the way.”

Unfortunately, neither of these feelings help.

Is Anchor Text Really Important For Link Building And Improving Rankings?

How can you avoid potential penalties?

Here are some things you should know about anchor text when creating and linking.

1. Google likes exact matches… to some extent

What I am about to tell you might shock you.

Conversely, if you were the first person I quoted just above, you probably won’t.

Exact matches shouldn’t be as dreaded as they are.

There, I said it.

I know, your inner SEO pro is screaming.

You’re probably thinking furiously when tweeting how bad the exact match anchors are.

But before we do, let’s talk about Google’s official position.

Google says the following about the effective use of anchor text for readers and search engines:


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When writing the link text, use a phrase that describes what the reader will see after following the link.

Links should be meaningful without the surrounding text.

It’s a bit vague, but it’s simple: the anchor text should describe what the reader gets when they click on a given link.

If your anchor text is “Linking Strategies,” the user who clicked should be directed to a post about Linking Strategies.

Simple, eh?

But, isn’t that the exact match ??

Isn’t the exact match anchor text bad?

Yes and no.

According to Google, good link text contains “the exact text of the title or header you are referring to” or “a description of the landing page.”

Rather than using phrases like “click here” or “learn more,” Google actually prefers a more exact match and variations closely related to the content that users click on.


It offers a better user experience and makes it easier to crawl search engines.

Users know exactly what they are getting when they click.


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And they only click if they want to know more.

However, that doesn’t mean you should leverage this for rankings.

For example, you shouldn’t post guests to 200 different sites and put exact match anchors in every room.

Each anchor does not have to be the exact same anchor.

Google identifies this as a direct link pattern, subject to penalties, manual action, etc.

The moral of the story: if you get a lot of natural backlinks with exact or related match anchors, that’s fantastic.

You don’t need to panic or disavow exact match anchors.

Instead, just avoid large-scale schemes that exploit this, or you could risk penalties.

Use exact match sparingly, but find unique ways to describe the link you reference or get that are still useful for users to read.

2. You can and should check your anchor text

Having hundreds of exact match keyword anchors is a recipe for red flags.

Especially if they make up the majority of your backlinks. But, sometimes, that’s just how you acquired links naturally.

Fortunately, you can (and should) check your current anchor text broadcast to find the perfect medium.

If you notice that hundreds of sites link to your “SEO guide” with the exact anchor, simply approach those publishers and ask them to change the anchor.

It really is that simple.

Writers want to produce the most engaging play for their readers.

Audit the existing anchor and backlink, and see if they can be improved or placed on a more relevant anchor.

Even if you only change 20/100, it’s still a fantastic conversion rate and a great way to limit the total number of exact matches you get.

Using the Ahref Anchors report, you can view a breakdown of the current anchor text and relevant metrics like referral domains, followed or untracked links, and more.

When looking to earn or link, you can also diversify the possibility of linking to your article.


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This in turn will diversify your anchorages.

For example, if you have a very comprehensive guide, consider adding video embedding features or using custom images to create quote links.

Overall, a well rounded anchor profile is ideal.

Speaking of which, what does it look like?

3. Well rounded anchors are ideal.

Google likes exact matches (and variations), as long as you’re not breaking any guidelines with large-scale link schemes.

That being said, your entire backlink profile should not contain 100% exact match anchors.


It is just not realistic.

Most content creators or websites aren’t going to make exact keyword anchors every time.

As much as Google says it’s natural and even preferred, the idea of ​​exact match anchors still makes people wary.

Anchors can and should range from homepage branding to keyword variations and even quotes.

In fact, recent data shows that the top Alexa ranking sites have a natural anchor text profile that contains a mix of:


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  • Brand anchors (eg Search Engine Journal).
  • Exact match anchors.
  • General / random anchors.
  • Image source anchors.

The best Alexa ranking sites have this mixture because it is natural on a large scale.

If you had 500 backlinks and each one matched your target page exactly, it could signal to Google that you were manipulating their system, controlling all of those anchors.

While you don’t have anchor text control for the countless links you receive, when you do, start evaluating your current anchor text broadcast.

If you have an overwhelming amount of keyword anchors, try using a branded anchor or reference something hyper-specific in the article.

Seek to establish a natural mix of anchor text that avoids any linking pattern or manipulation of the system.


Anchor text can be a tricky and sensitive topic for SEO professionals and bloggers.

Knowing how and when to link to the right content isn’t easy. Google often sends mixed signals and fails to clarify gray areas.


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With the latest resources, we can be sure that Exact Match Anchors are useful to Google and readers, as long as you don’t violate any linking patterns.

Having well balanced anchors is always best if you ever have a say in the links you acquire.

Always look at your existing anchor text to determine if you have a well-balanced profile and iterate based on performance.

More resources:

Image credits

Screenshot taken by author, October 2020