The Great Anchor Text Debate


anchor text vs page relevance

Opinions are like…well we all know what they’re like. Everyone has one. Here is my opinion about the link anchor text debate that has been going on since Pubcon ’10. (At least that’s when the debate popped up on my radar. Apparently Greg Boser’s been talking about this since 2009)

In one corner of the ring, we have those who obsessively build anchor text-rich links with exact phrase anchor text that looks unnatural as all get-out but adds boatloads of relevancy to whatever page the link points to. In the other corner, we have those who seem to have forsaken the building of purposefully keyword rich anchor text links in favor of pursuing any kind of link from high authority, relevant pages.

And then there’s the rest of us who have been patiently working on a nice well-rounded backlink portfolio that includes both anchor text-rich links and domain name links from powerful pages and some directory links and some blog comments and all the lovely natural links that are generated by a nice, good quality link bait generation campaign.

See, in my opinion, anchor text is still really important. It’s hard to get (quality, organic-looking, contextual) keyword-rich links. If it’s hard, it’s not easily controllable, and in my experience, the search engines tend to place a lot of emphasis on elements that webmasters and we evil system-gaming SEOs can’t easily influence.

That being said, I was there when Matt Cutts said that they were going to start taking notice when a website’s link profile contains only keyword optimized links. The thing is, if you’re doing a good job creating link bait, this is never going to be a problem. You’ll have people linking to the site naturally — probably using the domain name, brand name or the word “here” or somesuch.

Those links will far outnumber the ones you spend your precious time on generating. But let me tell you something, if I spend the hour or two (on average) of building a relationship with someone so that they’ll link to a site from a nice, juicy page, you bet your ass I’m going to ask for a link with relevant anchor text.

And I bet, given the option of having a link with good anchor text from an authoritative but non-related page vs. having a non keyword rich link from a page with similar authority, most SEOs will still choose the keyword rich link. I would.

Christina is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

  • Hi Christina, interesting take. You concluded with,

    “…given the option of having a link with good anchor text from an authoritative but non-related page vs. having a non keyword rich link from a page with similar authority, most SEOs will still choose the keyword rich link. I would.”

    I definitely wouldn’t.

    That is precisely the type of thinking I argued against in my recent post that started this debate:

    You are favoring anchor text over relevance. Good anchor text from a non-related page can be pretty spammy. That’s the type of link that’s going to become less and less effective (at least on Google, but Bing will follow suit).

    I’ll take the related link every time, and won’t care as much about the anchor text.

  • Christina Keffer

    Hi Adam!
    It was actually your post that prompted me to write this one, so I’m happy that you commented.

    Though I ended the post with the comment you quoted, I’d like to reiterate the point I made earlier: if you have done your job right, then you’ll have a nice mix of keyword rich links that you’ve purposefully built with good anchor text and massive links that people have built for you to your link bait.

    This post is about moderation in everything. Anchor text rich links from high quality sites are still quite valuable, and I don’t think that SEOs can afford to stop considering them in link building campaigns just yet.

    I spend a lot (the majority) of my time helping clients create link bait so I don’t have to spend the time getting those individual links. However, if I AM going to spend the time, I’m you bet I’m going after anchor text.

    Also, you said “Good anchor text from a non-related page can be pretty spammy.” Too true. However, consider that in many cases the topics of the pages in question can be quite related to the link I want to build even if the words are totally different.

    A great, authoritative informational article on someone’s site that focuses on the keyphrase “prenatal meditation” would be a great place for a link to my article about “Music for Fetal Development” even though that key phrase appears nowhere on the site. It’s related in TOPIC, and I wouldn’t consider that link spammy.

    The differentiation between keyword relevancy of a page and topic relevancy is an area that many of the articles that I’ve read about this topic have ignored. Maybe it’s worth a blog post in and of itself.

    Thanks for your comment though! Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  • Now I’m confused. You said first that good anchor text from a non-related page trumps non-anchor text from a related page. But in your reply you give an example of a related link and say THAT’S actually best. Which is sorta my point and the point of my recent SEL article.

    I guess we agree then? Surprising turn of events!


  • C. Bagdon

    Quick question- completely unrelated to the current post.

    I know there’s tools on the market to see and analyze your competitors’ AdWords keywords, do you know if there’s anything one can do to protect their keywords?

    Some of our keywords are industry specific cross-reference numbers and it’s critical that they remain confidential.


  • Some truly nice and useful info on this website , too I think the pattern has got good features.

  • Interesting post. Very useful for noobs like me. 😀 Thank you

  • Very nice article. Building backlinks with or without a good anchor text (as long as it is relevant) is always a priority for most SEO webmasters.

  • I have been using anchor texts for months and my backlinks are increasing slowly slower also the pr of the blogs that you comment on should have high pr ranks which also helps much more 🙂

  • yes especially if they are relevant to your website also

  • Great tools, you should add: Google trends, Google insight.Internet Geheimen recently posted..Offline Seo.

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