I’ve contributed to several Link Value Factors type articles, including SEOmoz’s and Wiep’s, and was glad to be included by Rae Hoffman in her awesome Link Development Experts Group Interview. I always have a tough time providing the kinds of answers that would be useful without being so long as to put people to sleep. I can’t sum up my own best practices for something like link anchor text in a few words. But I can try to do so here. If it bores you then think of my words as a cure for insomnia.

Here are several anchor text BPs that I hope do a better job of explaining the challenge and nuance of link text.

1). The most trustworthy pages will NEVER let you control your own anchor text, and it is obnoxious to ask. Case in point. See the below site.

Here’s how they link out…

The Queen of Trees view more info comment email item
Website for a program that looks at the relationship b
etween a Kenyan fig tree and the wasps that pollinate its flowers. Includes background about fig trees in general and about sycomore figs trees in Kenya, a photo essay on sycomore figs and fig wasps, video clips, and related essays and links. From the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) show Nature.
URL: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/queenoftrees/
Added to LII: 2006-06-08

If you were the link builder for the site being linked to above, of course you’d be thrilled if the above link instead had words like Kenyan fig tree or wasps or pollinate flowers. But that’s not going to happen, because every content editor has their own fairly evident method for how they link to other sites.

Asking someone who has put a lot of time and effort into finding great sites to change the protocol they use for outlinks, just for you and your site, is not very polite nor effective. Be happy you got a link at all. This doesn’t mean you cannot ever get the exact anchor text you want, but let’s be real. Anyone willing to grant you that kind of control over what’s essentially part of their content must not have too stringent a requirement for what they call “content”. As Groucho Marx once said, “I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member.” If Groucho were a link builder today, he’d say “Any site willing to give me a link plus whatever anchor text I ask for is not a site I’d want a link from in the first place”.

2). As much as you might want to include HTML code in the email you send to the target site editor, don’t. Why? Same as above. And don’t you love it when you get email from someone you don’t know telling you what to do?

“Dear webmaster, please add the below code to your website…”

Any site that will do that for another site based on receiving that type of instruction is nuts.

3). The fastest way to create a suspicious looking inbound anchor text profile is to pay too much attention to it. There are some sites that rotate the anchor text using random generation tools in hopes of approximating a natural looking anchor profile. Yes, and Burt Reynold’s plastic surgeon is approximating the way Burt looked when he was thirty. See for yourself.

Yep. No doubt about it…perfectly natural…

4). Start with your own on-site anchor text first. By that I mean the anchor text YOU use to link to YOUR OWN PAGES from your own pages. This is especially true for sites that are already ranking fairly well. Here’s an example that illustrates the power of on site anchor text.

Do this Google allinanchor search: allinanchor: link bait strategy

Of Google’s 27,300 results, the first page listed is mine. See below.

Results 110 of about 27,300 for allinanchor: link bait strategy.

Expert Link Bait Consulting and Link Bait Content Strategy Plan…
Eric Ward . com
My approach to link bait is based on nearly 15 years of successful link building and publicity generation for timely or new content. I use my experience to perform a link bait analysis/audit of any existing linkbait in your niche, to determine what role link baiting can play in your online marketing strategy. I then work with you by phone to concept the types of linkbait/content you can create for the best strategic effect. www.ericward.com/linkbait-services.html- 21kCachedSimilar pages

Here’s the kicker. That page from my site ranks first out of 27,300 pages, but there is only one (that’s 1) page linking to that page, and it’s from my own site’s homepage. Let that sink in. No other sites or pages are linking to my page using that anchor text, except my own, and Google has plenty of other pages they could rank ahead of me, but they don’t. The primary conclusion I draw from this is Google has a great deal of trust for the anchor text I use to point to my own pages. It’s true that the trust I speak of comes from the overall collection of inbound links I’ve earned over the years in the first place, but the point lost in this is once you have such trust, don’t ignore it as a driver of rankings for…yourself.

Over a year ago I wrote a related piece for Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land called Are You In The Circle Of Link Trust? The point of that column?

“In the course of seeking new links and publicity for new content on an existing site, don’t ignore your already trustworthy content as a driver of reputation for the new content. If you are in the enviable position of already having high rankings, if you’re in the circle of link trust, leverage it”

5). There is no perfect percentage for keyword anchored vs. non-keyword anchored backlinks. People want to hear me say something definitive like you should try to keep your off site inbound keyword anchored backlink profile to no more than 20% of your overall IBLP. If that makes you happy, go for it.

I wonder what percentage of Adobe Acrobat’s backlinks say “click here” in the anchor text? Looks like more than 20%

NOTE: To ask a link building related question, click the Comments link below, or the Post a Comment form at the bottom of any individual post.

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  1. says

    I totally agree that anchor text is being ignored to a certain extent. Anchor text has been repeatedly mentioned in the SEO guidelines prepared by SEO experts but then again, it is largely under-utilized when optimizing pages for SEO purposes.

  2. says

    Hi Eric

    Very quick question that should not require much time to answer! Do you agree with the above comment about “removing bad links” Quite a pertinent question….

  3. says

    Hi Steve – I will try to do a better job answering the questions. There are some non-business issues making it hard for me to keep up with them, but I will do so. Maybe I should take all the unanswered questions and put them into a brand new post where I repeat and answer every one of them. What do you think?

    With apologies,


  4. says

    If you are so great why do you not answer the questions posed by all the commenters? You are like the Wizard of Oz, too high and mighty to answer the little people at your feet. Your doom is forecastable.

  5. Anonymous says

    This is the most insightful post I’ve ever seen about anchor text. The easier it is to get it, the more useless it has to be.

  6. says

    Nice read Eric as always. With link building you are so right about it being hard to sum up the best practices. I like to think of them as relevance, trust, on theme. Some people keep building crap link not realizing in order to rank better they need to actually remove some bad ones. Some people think only about one keyword “anchor text keyword”, they should think “~keyword”, “keyword” , “key word”

    For example “search engine marketing” you might build like “SEO”, “search engine ranking”, “search engine placement” and many other to get the needed anchor to rank on that competitive keyword.

  7. Patrick says


    You always mentioned “trust” and how a “trusted domain” can have any new page high up in the search results quickly.

    One can imagine that you can make clear what the topic is of a new page, and its importance on your website by internal anchor text, and all the other ways people have discussed elsewhere.

    But.. at some point you’re going to need the outside world as well. Obviously external links should serve different purposes at once: targeted traffic, branding and a boost in Google.

    My question is this: people mention that in Google you need anchor text 100.000 x to link to one page, so that this page scores high in Google for competitive (single ?) keywords.

    Is this the only (pretty horrific, time consuming, stupid and costly) way ?

    Is there any guidance on how to do it better. How do you get your domain to be so trusted that every new page, doesn’t need a ton of inbound (external) links to be ranking well. Even though you cannot place each new page in the top menu and have the internal anchor text do the (repetitive) job for you. You quickly compete with many newspaper websites, museums etc etc. Does it matter if it’s a commercial arena or not ?

    And… where does all this trust come from ? Forums can create a nice amount of traffic, although as a spike, but does it help in trust ? Do blogs ? They create traffic but does being listed in a blogroll help ? How does all this balance out into a comprehensive, INTELLIGENT startegy ?

  8. says

    Hello Eric,

    This question is related to IBL and not exactly anchor text. You weren’t specific if the questions have to be related to any specific post or not.

    I’ve always been a fan of the idea that link juice should be approved by the webmaster prior to it counting … an opt in practice instead of an all in practice. Thoughts?

    I think this strategy would hold webmasters more accountable since to date we aren’t really penalized by who links to us unless it is proven that we instigated the link via reciprocal or maybe even paid inclusion.

    While I understand my competitors can purchase a thousand links and that most to all of those links will be crap; I do have to ask if the sheer volume is still considered and largely untraceable in regards to accountability of those links.

    Your thoughts would be appreciated.


    John F. Jones III

  9. says

    A Q&A for you to consider that I received fomr a friend of mine:

    When writing news/articles, you want to cite multiple references, and end up citing your competition (with a link), how do you ensure you are not really promoting your competitors too much in this regard? You want to remain unbiased of course.

    The more original topics/stories that only pertain to your business are ideal. I also realize that over time, the variation of topics over time should also allow you to to only link to any single competitor once or twice, while you get lots. Being able to manupliate hte anchor text a bit, as well as using rel=”nofollow” on the competitors would be nice; as well as making yours more prominent in the message (for human traffic).

    Excluding those, what other methods are avaialble?

    [I have not reviewed every article you have written so I do apologize if you have covered this elsewhere already.]

    p.s. please DO NOT link to my site–jk; I just figured you get tired of those other lame requests.

  10. says

    I also discovered that there may be other factors at work too:

    1. allintitle shows only 7 results for that exact phrase, including yours.

    2. Altohugh there is not anchortext as you describe, I did find at least one article where it linked to you and used the phrase several times.

    3. your site has a high trust rank in general, so its easy to get ranked for new, and not too difficult phrases.

    I wonder if you can test this idea a little more on another less trsutworthy site.