Branded, not branded, optimised, not optimised… a lot is written about your SEO anchor text. But what does a good mix of anchor text look like for an ecommerce brand? What is considered ‘natural’, and what will get you in trouble? How can you even control this kind of stuff? Here is what you need to know about SEO anchor texts to ensure that your brand will be sailing through 2017.
How links work for SEO: Good and bad links revisited
Why are links important for SEO? In the early days of search engines, links were developed as a way to give a website a ‘vote’ of confidence. Though the web has changed, links haven’t.
They are still one of the main ways that users navigate digital content, and search engine bots that crawl the web use links like highways in order to index and organize the web. Links are essentially a way for people and bots to travel around online.
Having more links pointing pack to your site makes it more authoritative in search engine eyes; but not all links are created equal.
- Come from sites who are highly authoritative themselves. Aged and trusted domains like .edu or .gov are good (but these links are harder to land). As long as the site is genuine and relevant – the link is probably going to do you some good.
- Come from a variety of domains – search engines like to see that a variety of sources trust your website enough to link to it. A large number of referring domains is always a good thing.
- Pass the topical relevancy. The best links come from sites in a similar niche. Getting links from sites that are relevant to yours will allow search engines to see that you’re in the right ‘neighborhood’.
- Appear at regular intervals and don’t appear doctored in anyway.
- Use a variety of anchor texts that closely mimic natural language.
- Appear all at once.
- Have artificial anchor texts.
- Come from low authority and spammy sites.
- Come from sites that have no crossover with your niche.
You should aim for a mixture of nofollow and follow (regular) links. Though nofollow links don’t pass any link juice, they still make part of a natural link profile.
What is your anchor text and why should you care?
Your anchor text is the text that is hyperlinked when someone links back to your site.
Depending on the context and the link, it could be a simple mention of your brand or website, or an invitation to “read more”.
By having high authority links with highly relevant anchor text – you are going to get a big SEO boost.
But, if this relationship looks manufactured, the links are of a dubious origin, or your anchor texts seem over optimized – you could get into trouble.
How do you choose an anchor text?
Anchor texts can be branded, or keyword-focused.
- Branded anchor texts are always the preferred option at first – anchor texts that match your main keywords can be a warning sign to search engines that dubious link building methods are at hand. It’s best to go for branded terms, naked URLs, and generic words at first.
- If you do use your keywords, remember to include stopwords, generic words, and natural variants inside the anchor so that you don’t overdo it.
- Anchor texts should be closely matched to page purpose – the most obvious anchor text is text that accurately describes the page content (page title, URL, page copy etc.).
Here’s an example of some initial branded anchor texts a business might use:
These could then be extended out into variations with generic phrases and some keywords (if the context was right):
Shoes from Honey Footwear
Honey Footwear online
Check out Honey Footwear
Honey Shoes online
Click here for shoes from Honey Footwear
Footwear & Shoes from Honey
Not sure what your keywords are? Here is a post on how to find the right keywords for your store.
When you are going after purely keyword anchors, always mix things up with stopwords, generic phrases, and variants. Don’t just repeat the same two word phrase over and over again.
How to manage your anchor texts: Anchor checklist
- You want lots of branded, naked URL and generic anchor texts. Generally they are the easiest types of anchors to score.
- You can check your anchor text ratios easily using a tool like Majestic, which will show you how diverse your anchor text portfolio is right now. Try to see if you are missing any elements. (Anchor texts are often measured in ratios or percentages – so there more you have, the more they get diluted).
- Exact match anchor texts should only be done once or twice, and are best saved for in-content links (links that sit inside the main body of a website). These should make up 1% or less of your overall anchor texts.
- Links that could be seen as more high-risk (content that sits outside the site’s main elements, directory links, or blog comments) should always be branded or generic.
How to get good links for SEO
There are many ways to build links for your brand – the key things you need to remember about link building are:
- Search engines are suspicious about change, and they don’t like things that happen at high velocity. Gradual, regular changes are better.
- You want genuine, quality sites. Don’t let your site hang out in a bad neighborhood.
- Mix it up and have a diverse range of links and anchor texts.
Some safe link building tactics:
- Content marketing is a great way to score links (and brand PR). Content marketing links are often branded mentions, or author bylines. You may also get links back to your blog or resource page if they warrant it – good, in-depth market research is where all good content starts.
- Directory registrations are a good way to score branded links.
- Comment marketing is a great way to get decent nofollow links from powerful domains. It also helps you build up your personal brand.
- Registering yourself on social profiles and networking sites helps diversify your link activity.
- Product reviews or testimonials are a source of branded links that also help market your products.
- Check out this list for 44 more ecommerce link building tactics.
As with anything, it’s best to approach anchor texts with caution when you first start off. An authoritative and powerful domain can handle more exact match anchors, whereas a newer domain will have to prove itself first. Be cautious with anchors, but don’t avoid your keywords entirely. What SEO strategy are you going to focus on in 2017?
Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder
Gareth Simpson has worked as an SEO for almost a decade now and has recently started freelancing as an SEO. His SEO specialisms are content and blogger outreach… and he really likes green tea. Follow him on Twitter.