Google’s John Mueller answered a question about the best anchor text to use for internal, inbound and outbound links. His answer covered a wide range of linking scenarios.
What’s the Best Practice for Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the text used in a link. Anchor text can be “click here” and it can be “Acme Personal Injury Lawyer” and it can be “personal injury lawyer San Diego.”
Google’s PageRank algorithm uses anchor text to understand what a page is about. That was the big breakthrough for the founders of Google in 1998. They discovered that search results improved when you used the anchor text (in addition to the text on a web page) to understand what a page is about.
But the algorithm had to be altered in the ensuing years in order to stop publishers from abusing anchor text. That’s why anchor text is to this day so important in the minds of digital marketers.
The question wanted to know specifics about what the best anchor text is to use.
This is the question:
What’s the best practice for anchor text wording on internal links as well as external links?
For example, using the website name, the blog post title, exact match or LSI keywords?”
LSI Keywords is Not a Thing
Any SEO who promotes the idea of LSI keywords is spreading misinformation and are misguided. There is no such thing as LSI Keywords.
“Um… First of all, we have no concept of LSI keywords. So that’s something you can completely ignore.
I think it’s interesting to look at LSI when you’re thinking about understanding information retrieval as a theoretical or computer science topic.
But as an SEO you probably don’t need to worry about that.”
Best Anchor Text for Internal Links
Any link from a web page to another page on the same site is an internal link. A publisher can link to another article within the same site that contains more details. That’s an example of an internal link.
Internal links can help Google discover more articles within a site and it can give some context to what the content of the page being linked to is about.
Google’s Mueller recommended this for internal link anchor text:
“With regards to internal links you’re giving us a signal of context. So basically you’re saying, in this part of my website you’ll find information about this topic.
And that’s what you would use as the anchor text for those internal links.
So that’s something where on the one hand usually that’s something that you want to kind of give that context to users as well.
The kind of internal links that you would use for users usually match what you would use for SEO as well.
That’s something where luckily there’s a nice overlap there.”
Best Practice for External Link Anchor Text
An anchor text is a link to a page on another website. An example is if a publisher on a recipe site links to a Wikipedia page about a certain ingredient.
Mueller provided an answer about the best anchor text for external links:
“With regards to external links, if you’re linking out to other people’s websites, the same things. Like, supply some context why people should go and click on this link, what kind of extra information it gives.”
Best Anchor Text for Inbound Links
Background to Anchor Text for Inbound Links
There are many conversations and articles online about the best mix of anchor text (anchor text ratio) for inbound links.
Some SEOs believe there is an optimal percentage of inbound links that should be nofollow, use exact match keywords that you want to rank for and a percentage of inbound links that should use the website name (branded links).
These ideas originated from the understanding (in 2005) that Google used statistical analysis to identify unnatural links. SEOs tried to hide their paid links by trying to “look natural” and thus deceive and defeat statistical analysis algorithms.
SEOs tried to identify “natural” linking patterns by analyzing the anchor text of millions of sites links and even to this day there are still some misguided souls who do this and recommend anchor text percentages of brand name and keyword anchor text.
Those SEO studies, by the way, are gravely in error. They always have been. They presume that the anchor texts discovered are used by Google for ranking purposes (which is not the case). That’s the flaw in those studies.
Anchor Text for Natural Links Are Generally Out of Your Control
The question of what’s the best mix of anchor text for inbound links is invalid because it inherently presumes that the beneficiary of the link exercises control over the anchor text.
That’s not the case for natural links. The hallmark of a natural link is that it is spontaneously given by an author as a citation, without consultation from the site being linked to.
Understandably, Google’s Mueller kind of balked at the question.
“With regards to links to your website from other people’s websites, usually that’s something you wouldn’t have control over anyway.
So I’d be kind of cautious about like what you need to have there.”
Does Web Page Provide Context to Internal Links?
A follow up question was asked about internal links and whether Google uses the entire web page to provide context to a link on that page that is linking to another page withing the same website.
A problem with using an entire page is that a web page is often about several subtopics. A link from a paragraph about a subtopic will have more context from the words immediately around the link than it would from the overall topic of a web page.
For example if you have a page about how to cook Chinese stir fried rice, you might have a section about rice (use day old rice), instructions for velvetting chicken meat, how to optionally make the dish pop by making it with chicken cooked in char siu style, plus directions for making the stir fried rice sauce that consists of two different kinds of soy sauce.
Each of those sections are distinct subtopics. From the day old rice section I might link to a page about how to cook rice, from the char siu section I might link to a page about how to make char siu marinade.
Neither of those topics is about Chinese fried rice so it does not make sense to use the overall context of the entire web page to give meaning to a page about Chinese fried rice to how to make char siu marinade.
Mueller’s answer reflected that consideration.
Google’s John Mueller answered:
“A little bit. But not so much in that random words on a page will impact how linked pages are handled.
We take that into account with regards to understanding the context of the pages that you have there. Usually the anchor text is the most important part there.”
Anchor Text Best Practice
The key to the best anchor text to use is Mueller’s statement that when it comes to choosing anchor text, there’s overlap between what’s good for Google and what’s good for users.
Creating anchor text that tells a user what to expect when they click a link to an internal or external page is the best approach. Anything else is probably overthinking it.
Watch John Mueller discuss how anchor texts from about the 33 minute mark in the video.