What is anchor text and how to improve your link text?

Anchor text — or link text — is the visible, clickable text of a link. It usually appears in a different color than the surrounding text and is often underlined. Good link text tells the reader what to expect if they click on the link. Getting your anchor text right increases the chance of someone clicking on your link, and helps search engines by giving them context.

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What does an anchor text look like?

Anchor text describes the article being linked to and entices visitors to click. Even search engines understand that the linked article is relevant because the URL and the link text correlate. So, for example, if you were to link to this article, you might use the link/anchor text like this: What is anchor text? So you link to other articles in a way that looks natural to the reader.

What does anchor text look like in HTML? The first piece of code is the URL, while the second part describes the link – and this is the anchor text. Like this:

anchor text example
The anchor text or link text is the piece of content describing the link

Why are link texts important for SEO?

Links are important for SEO: you need to add internal links, for example, to make your site structure clear to search engines. The text of the link helps search engines make sense of your (internal) links; it gives them more context. When you link to other content, Google uses the link text as an indicator of the topic of the linked page. If the link text matches your keyphrase, Google will not be able to tell which article is the most relevant for that topic and should rank for that keyphrase. So yes, anchor text is a ranking factor for Google.

Besides adding context to links for search engines, link text is also important to your users. The anchor text clarifies the value of a link and tells them where it leads them. So, using the focus keyphrase in the link text can be confusing for both search engines and your users. That’s why you should actively avoid competing links.

Anchor text is relevant for both your internal links and your incoming external links. External sites can link to your content in various ways.

  • Branded links: A link with your brand name as an anchor, like Yoast.
  • The URL itself: Just your site’s URL without a text, like https://yoast.com. Not that helpful in most instances.
  • Site name: written as Yoast.com.
  • Article or page title: Exact matching the page title, like What is anchor text?.
  • Exact keywords: Your focus keyword/keyphrase as anchor text
  • Partially matching keywords: Using variants of your focus keyword to make a readable link.
  • Related keywords: Not a direct match, but a keyword or keyphrase that is closely related to the main one.
  • Generic links: Try to avoid these ‘Click here’ and ‘Read more’ links. Tell people what a link is about. Otherwise, they’re guessing.

Link focus keyphrase check in Yoast SEO

The Yoast SEO plugins for WordPress and Shopify come with a link focus keyphrase check, which can help you improve your link text. This check warns you when it detects competing links in your text. A link is considered a competing link when its anchor text contains the focus keyphrase that you want your page to rank for. So, the link focus keyphrase check assesses the links on a page and their anchor text and notifies you if you have competing links. If you have Yoast SEO Premium or Yoast SEO for Shopify, the check will also look for the synonyms of your keyphrase.

Let’s consider an example. Say you have written an article about potato chips, so your focus keyphrase is ‘potato chips.’ If you then use a link with the anchor text ‘potato chips’ in that same post, that link is considered a competing link.

When Yoast SEO detects a competing link, it displays a warning message in the SEO analysis results.

Warning message in the SEO analysis results
Warning message in the SEO analysis results in Yoast SEO

How to improve your anchor link texts

So, what do you do if Yoast SEO warns you that you have competing links in your text? Follow the tips below to improve your link texts!

1. Create a natural flow

Writing, in general, should have a natural flow. The same is true for link texts. When adding links, make sure they fit well with the rest of the text. Look at it like this. If you are struggling to squeeze in a link in a sentence, the link probably doesn’t belong there. It’s better to put it somewhere else, and avoid making your texts unnatural and difficult to read. So, while links are important for SEO, you should make sure that they don’t get in the way of the message you want to convey.

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide

2. Match the link text with the content you’re linking to

A good practice for writing link texts is matching the text of the link with the content of the page you are linking to. When a reader sees the linked text, they should immediately know what to expect if they click on it. Take a look at the text in the image below.

Example of good link text
Example of good link texts

The links in this example blend in seamlessly with the rest of the text. Moreover, you know precisely what to expect if you click on a link. For example, the link text “content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin” clearly leads to a post explaining the Yoast SEO content analysis features. How about the link text “meta description.” The sentence the link belongs to is about optimizing your text. So, you would expect that the link leads to a post about optimizing meta descriptions. And that’s what it does.

3. Don’t trick your readers

In the example above, the link texts are used responsibly. That is very important. You should not try to trick your readers with links. For instance, if your link text says “potato chips,” it would be bad practice to have that link take the reader to a car dealership page.

4. Make clear the link text is clickable

Lastly, make it evident to the reader that the link text is clickable. You can do that by using a different color for the link, underline it, or both.

Keep reading: Blogging: The ultimate guide

5. Bonus tip: put your entire keyphrase in quotes

Let’s say you are writing an article with the long-tail focus keyphrase ‘learning how to knit.’ If you use any of those words from the focus keyphrase in a link text, you may get feedback from Yoast SEO advising you to change it. To avoid getting a red bullet for the focus keyphrase in link check, you can put the entire keyphrase in quotes, so the analysis only matches the entire phrase, instead of the individual words.

Want to learn more about how to improve your anchor texts and SEO copywriting? We have several SEO courses that can help you with that, such as courses on all-around SEO, site structure and SEO copywriting. Get access to these courses with Yoast SEO Premium, which also gives you access to extra features in the Yoast SEO plugin.

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Learn how to write great content for SEO and unlock lots of features with Yoast SEO Premium:

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We all know that internal links are essential. Yoast SEO for WordPress has a built-in internal link tool that makes it a lot easier to find related content to link to on your site. Whenever you add a relevant link to your article, you also need to think about the anchor text. By thinking carefully about how and why you link these articles to improve your internal linking structure you can help both users and search engines navigate your site easier.

To make the most of internal links try to only add links that add real value to users. Write great anchor text for them, so readers know this link has been carefully selected to help them find out more. Don’t link for the sake of it. Make it relevant and useful. And of course, don’t spam!

seo basics text exact match example
An example of an exact match
seo basics text freeflowing text
An example of a more free-flowing form of linking

This is anchor text

Anchor text helps both users and search engines decide whether a link is worth visiting. Some people try to game this system, but don’t fall into this trap. These days, Google is pretty good at spotting links that are unnatural and even harmful. So, keep it natural and relevant, and you’ll be good to go!

Read more: SEO basics: What is a permalink? »

Coming up next!

7 Responses to What is anchor text and how to improve your link text?

  1. Ross
    Ross  • 3 years ago

    Very helpful article, thank you!!

    Quick question: I recently added internal links after relevant sections that say: “Recommended Article: [Insert exact article title].”

    Is that good internal linking or is that over optimizing? I feel like it’s good because you seem to do something similar (i.e. “read more [insert exact title]), but just want to make sure I’m not missing anything.

    Also, I add a few recommended articles at the end of my post as well. Is that a legit way to do it?

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Hi Ross, it sounds like you’re doing a great job! A good rule of thumb is to just keep your users in mind, would they appreciate the articles you’re recommending at the end of a section or your post? And does your text still flow naturally? Adding a few recommended reads isn’t a problem, but don’t go overboard as you still want to keep your text enjoyable to read. Finding the balance is the answer here :) Hope this answers your question!

  2. Jagat J Saikia
    Jagat J Saikia  • 3 years ago

    I have purchased Yoast Premium and I am seeing slow yet steady growth in traffic. Thank you to the folks at Yoast!

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      That’s great to hear, thanks for choosing Yoast SEO! :)

  3. Brandon Patton
    Brandon Patton  • 3 years ago

    Yost SEO Premium said to add more external links so I added external links to my keyword,”Brandon Patton”. However, then it said not to link to external sites for the keyword. My point is that I wanted to try to boost other sites for the same keyword so that would be a good practice, wouldn’t it?

    If you own say 20 websites and you want to try to link all of them together then is that a bad practice?

  4. Nick Tyrrell
    Nick Tyrrell  • 4 years ago

    Interesting article on anchor text. however, as a general observation from a happy Yoast Premium customer, is that the Yoast tools are almost exclusively BLOG centric. Yes, my site has blogs BUT we are primarily an e-commerce site. I would like Yoast’s excellent tools to be more ‘product’ centric.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 4 years ago

      Hi Nick, thanks so much for your feedback! I don’t know if you’re familiar with our other plugins, but it might be interesting to have a look at our WooCommerce plugin if you’re not already using that one :)