A guide to anchor text linking

Oh, links – just one of the many banes of Matt Cutts’ post-Panda, post-Penguin SEO world. Should you use them? When? Where? How many is too many and what will get your website penalised? These are questions that many of our clients have asked us time and time again – and, due to the ever changing nature of the beast, we’ve had to ask ourselves a few times too! With all sorts of myths about risk factor and ranking floating around, we’ve put together this short guide to anchor text linking.

What is an anchor text link?

Anchor text is the visible text that displays when you create a hyperlink – for instance, if you referenced us as a content marketing agency on your blog, you would select these three words and create a link back to our website (as we’ve done here, to demonstrate). These links can either be sent back to a page on your own site or externally, to someone else’s.

On-site links

On-site links can also take two forms – internal links, to pages on your own site, and external links, to sources on other pages. The former is a widely accepted from of linking. In fact, in April of this year, Cutts himself posted a helpful “Will multiple internal links with the same anchor text hurt a site’s ranking?” video, in which his answer was “typically not”.

Clarifying further, Cutts said: “The reason that I say typically not rather than a hard no is because as soon as I say a hard no, there’ll be someone who has, like, 5,000 links all with the exact same anchor text on one page, but if you have a normal site, and that’s just the way that people find their way around the site and navigate, you should be totally fine.”

In summary, as long as you’re not completely stuffing your site with links, and are using them as a genuinely helpful resource to help users navigate your site, this type of linking shouldn’t be a problem.

Off-site links

The message is pretty similar for off-site anchor text links (i.e. links on other people’s websites): you’ve got nothing to worry about if the links were acquired naturally. If, on the other hand, lots of your inbound links contain the exact same anchor text, Google will likely flag this up as spam.

Natural off-site links are likely to come from guest pieces you’ve written for other blogs, or from online PR. As a best practice measure, ask the editors of these sites for topic-specific anchor text links where possible (such as our ‘content marketing agency’ example from earlier).

So there you have it: linking keyword-rich words and phrases is generally a good thing, as long as it’s done in a natural and organic way.