Link-building is often an uncertain practice: You don't know for sure that you'll get any backlinks; and, if you do, you can't guarantee they'll be on the sites you want, with do-follow status, and the anchor text you prefer.
Luckily, there is one piece of the puzzle you can stop worrying about: anchor text.
Say Goodbye to Old Ways of Using Anchor Text
At one time, anchor text was one of the primary factors in determining how valuable a backlink was. Marketers wanted to gain links with anchor text that was an exact match for the target keyword of the page that was linked to.
For example, a software review company might create a page on its site listing the best CRM systems. The target keyword for the page would be "best CRM in the world." The company would then try to gain links on other sites that point back to its page, and it would try to get backlinks to use the anchor text "best CRM in the world."
That is a tedious, uncomfortable, and uncertain practice—and, thankfully, it's a thing of the past.
Why You Shouldn't Control Anchor Text
There are multiple reasons why you can—and should—stop trying to control anchor text when link-building.
Exact anchor text is increasingly less important to search engines
From a technical perspective, exact anchor text is becoming less and less important to search algorithms. Search engines are becoming more sophisticated and no longer rely on exact match keywords to make connections between topics.
Google algorithms now semantically identify themes rather than particular keywords; that is, they use what words mean as much as what words are. They can easily tell that "list of the best CRMs worldwide" is closely related to "best CRM in the world," even if it's not an exact match.
Though exact match anchor text can help, it matters less than it used to—and it will continue to become even less relevant in the future as Google gets better at using semantics.
Organic, varied link profiles can boost SEO
Google continually changes and improves its algorithms to make it harder to game the SEO system.
Its Webmaster Guidelines state that you should "avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings." Google wants website and search experiences to be as organic and natural as possible. Not focusing on anchor text allows marketers to follow this best-practice. It leads to more natural and organic links as well as more natural and organic link portfolios.
An ideal link portfolio (a list of links that lead back to a website) has a variety of link types and anchor text. It looks as though the links were spontaneously earned, not strategically manufactured through targeted campaigns. That's what Google wants to see; therefore, natural link portfolios can lead to higher search rankings and visibility.
Not restricting publishers' editorial freedom helps secure links
Fewer restrictions on anchor text please the search engines, and they also please publishers.
Trying to control the anchor text used by publishers can be difficult and awkward. It makes the link-building process more complicated, and it can even result in publishers' not wanting to link to your content at all.
Allowing the publisher to link to your content how they want gives them more editorial freedom. They can determine the most relevant and natural way to share the content with their audience. Telling them exactly how they need to refer to your content could box them in, force them to take a certain editorial direction, and, ultimately, end with them deciding not to link.
Plus, giving the publisher more control makes the relationship feel less transactional. Publishers are aware that many marketers are running self-serving plans to gain links rather than share valuable content. Dictating how the link should appear perpetuates that feeling and makes the relationship seem even more one-sided, which could cause the publisher to avoid you.
You really don't have much control over anchor text anyway
Even if you do tell publishers to use a specific anchor text (and they agree), there's no way to guarantee that it will happen. Writers (and their editors) have the final say in what they publish on their site; and even if they agreed to a certain anchor text, they can always change their mind—and the anchor text—when they publish (or even after they publish).
You don't control content on other sites, and trying to do so can be a drain on resources, time, energy, and even relationships. Going back and pushing publishers to change anchor text can create tension that ruins relationships and prevents future linking opportunities.
Ditch the Fixation on Anchor Text
Instead of using time trying to secure exact match anchor text, you could be working on other tactics that can actually boost your search visibility and online authority, such as these:
- Getting links on high-authority sites. A few high-quality links with a variety of anchor texts are better than a lot of low-quality links with exact-match anchor text.
- Creating insanely linkable content. Spending more time crafting link-worthy content will lead to more overall links.
- Treating link-building as digital PR. Shifting your mindset to think about link-building as a form of digital PR can lead to more natural and relevant partnerships with publishers.
- Seeing value in all links and mentions. Yes, dofollow links with an ideal anchor text are great; but even if your link building efforts lead to an unlinked mention on a high-traffic site, it can still benefit your brand and lead to links from other sites.
Link-building will always be challenging and uncertain, but at least now there is one less factor to focus on. You can stop fixating on anchor text and start focusing on building a more natural and effective link portfolio.
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