Backlink Anchor Text and SEO: A Simple Overview

The text that’s used when linking back to your website tells both users and search engines a lot about what you offer. It also helps paint a picture of how trustworthy you might be without even having to look at your site.

That clickable text is known as the link ‘anchor’ or ‘anchor text’, and your anchor text profile is simply an overview of how that text is distributed. Let’s look at an example to make this clearer.

If I link to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, the anchor text for the link I just included is “Site Explorer”. Looking at a snapshot of their anchor text profile below, we can see a breakdown of the most common ways people link to their website. We can see that most sites that link to them either use their brand name, website or the name of one of their tools (as I just did).

Screenshot of Ahrefs' anchor text profile

This is a healthy looking profile, let’s take a closer look at why that is and some anchor text best practices to help your link building efforts.

Understanding the bigger picture

Google essentially considers active link building to be spam. BUT, if you don’t have enough links, your rankings will suffer. (Isn’t SEO fun?)


With that in mind, what you’re trying to achieve is a profile that hits all of the points below but still looks natural.

Be descriptive. Tell users what the link takes them to.

Remember, users buy your product, not search engines. Descriptive text should be your first priority. This feels like a safer click for users and also gives them a reason to click that link in the first place.

If they understand what the link is offering and it sounds like it’d be helpful to them, they’re more likely to click it. Which brings me to my next point.

Referral traffic is the most important thing a backlink brings

SEOs tend to focus solely on the intangible ranking improvement you get from quality link building. Really though, the most important thing is referral traffic.

Real. qualified users having a good reason to visit your website and build trust with your brand. Don’t lose sight of that when considering your anchor text options.

Relevance makes for good anchor text

The distribution of your anchor text profile is a relevance signal for search engines. If you’re a cannabis ERP platform but the most common anchor in your profile is “paint brushes”, you’re immediately raising some serious red flags.

Your profile should typically look something like Ahrefs’ above. The most common anchors are variations of your brand name and website, followed by products, services, features and integrations that you offer.

No matter how diligent, you will get random anchor text show up in your profile and that’s fine. So long as the majority make sense and these random ones are the most common, you’re all set.

Don’t over-optimize your anchor text profile

Like many things in the world of SEO, a healthy profile is about balance. You want your most common anchor text to be relevant to you, but you don’t want it so curated that 100% of your links are spread across just 10 different anchor variants.

Since a naturally-occurring link profile will have a lot of variation, if yours is nothing but a handful of keywords, that’s another red flag that you’re up to no good.

Achieve a more natural profile by prioritizing better writing

In other words, if you’re writing or contributing to content that’s getting posted on another site, don’t force your optimized anchor text where it doesn’t fit.

This is an old and obviously spammy tactic that we still see around. For example:


“… this is where best hiring software 2023 comes in.”


“… this is where hiring software comes in.”

By using anchor text that feels natural, you’re making sure it’s still relevant to your site but not forcing over-optimization.