What is anchor text?

Anchor text in the SEO sense is the words that are contained in a link. In the below example, to be meta:

What is anchor text?

The anchor text is actually [anchor text], because those are the words that I used to link to this page.

There are a few phrases used to describe anchor text that you should be familiar with:

  1. Exact match
  2. Partial match
  3. Branded
  4. Naked

A natural (or natural looking) backlink profile will contain a combination of all four types of anchor text.

Exact match anchor text

Exact match anchor text is what SEO professionals call a link that only contains the keyword or keyword phrase for which the SEO is trying to rank the destination page.

As an example, Credo has a page located at https://getcredo.com/pros/seo/consultants/ that we would like to rank for the term “SEO consultants” when searched within Google or Bing. Exact match anchor text for a link to this page looks like this:

SEO consultants

Partial match anchor text

Partial match anchor text is what SEO professionals call a link that contains the keyword or keyword phrase that the SEO would like to rank, but also contains some other words within the link as well.

Let’s use the example of the Credo page https://getcredo.com/pros/seo/consultants/ again. A partial match anchor text link looks like this:

Check out these SEO consultants over on Credo.

As you can see, I still have my desired keywords of “SEO consultants” within the link, but it also reads more naturally to a reader and to a search engine. This link will still help me to rank for “SEO consultants” but is not as risky as an exact anchor text link.

Branded anchor text

Branded anchor text is a straightforward term used by SEOs where the anchor text of the link is simply the brand’s name, such as Credo or Zappos.

Branded anchor text is important for SEO because it sends a signal to the search engines that you are building a brand with natural links, and not just a website that is meant to game their search engines in order to drive traffic to your web properties.

Branded anchor text most often points to your website’s homepage and are earned through content marketing or PR.

Naked anchor text

naked anchor occurs when the page’s URL is used as the anchor. To continue with the /pros/seo/consultants/ example, a naked anchor for Credo’s SEO consultants page is this:


This is a very natural way for some websites to link. A naked anchor like this carries very little risk and can also help you to rank for your intended keywords or keyword phrase.

Anchor text code

The code for anchor text is simple HTML for a link, a HREF HTML annotation:

<a href=”/link/”>Anchor Text</a>

Read more about the <a> href protocol for creating links here.

Anchor text and its effect on ranking

Anchor text matters strongly for SEO, both for internal and external links. Because search engines count links from other websites to yours as a vote, links are imperative to ranking for the keyword phrases that can drive new clients or customers to your business. Whether an ecommerce site or marketing agency, links and therefore anchor text matter.

Some businesses and SEOs are afraid of using anchor text in their link building because of Google’s Penguin algorithm, which started in 2012 and was meant to target manipulative link building.

But anchor text remains a very strong factor in how well a page ranks for its targeted keywords or keyword phrase. Penguin showed us that Google will take action against terribly manipulative anchor text, but also that anchor text matters. Exact and partial match anchor text absolutely do happen naturally as well, and so the search engines will not penalize websites simply because they have links that use exact match anchor text!

What the search engines want to guard against is manipulative anchor text.

What should a page’s distribution of anchor text look like?

A page that has not had manual link building done to it (such as link directories) will have a natural spread of links across:

  • Branded
  • Exact
  • Partial match
  • Naked anchors

Therefore, this is what you should strive for as well if you are focusing specifically on links for that page, whether through content or other link acquisition methods.

However, the extent to which you can use exact/partial anchors depends on your specific niche and your competitors.

The search engines look for unnatural linking patterns, but that means unnatural for your specific niche. If your competitors are using very strong exact and partial match anchor text, then you will need to do so as well in order to be competitive for those terms. As long as you are not doing it in a way that is spammy (such as buying links or using groups of sites to link back to yours), you will be competitive and also not at risk.

Link building involves thinking about anchor text, but don’t be so scared of it that you don’t rank.