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12 Ways to Vary Your Anchor Text

I’ve been reading a lot lately about varying anchor text. While it’s a practice that has been pretty customary, it seems I’ve come into contact with a lot of websites that have over optimization of anchor text in their backlinks.

With recent changes to Google’s Algorithm(s), these backlinks (may) have caused penalties and very upset business owners are asking why. It’s all about the anchor text and Benjamin’s baby“¦.

When link builders are given a budget, there’s feasibly only so many links you can build with that budget. The layman’s short route to achieving rankings is by focusing all those efforts on a short list of keyword phrases. But in the long run, it can hurt.

Julie Joyce at Search Engine Land recently wrote about backing down from our reliance on keyword driven anchors, and here on SNC, David wrote about understanding search user behavior.

Both of these posts are a great read if you haven’t had a chance to view them yet, and are important in understanding what we can do as link builders and SEOs to improve our chance at showing up in SERPs.

I searched around the web looking for some good posts on tips to vary your anchor text, and while there are some decent ones, I figured I’d write a post myself which lists just about every one of them that I could think of (with the help of my SEO-expert co-worker Jason Hendricks too!).


Elements to consider for anchor text

Company Name

It’s only natural that a diversified backlink profile would have anchor text linking to the homepage AND internal pages using the company name. If you’re manually building links don’t forget your company name with and without spaces, company name home, company name home page, etc”¦. In press releases you’ll naturally see the company name as an anchor text, along with guest blog posts, in the author bio of articles, etc”¦



Similar to company name, your URL should be used as the anchor text on occasion as well. Varying it up with both and, as well as www and non-www variations is recommended.


Synonyms and Antonyms

The Thesaurus can be your friend when trying to come up with varied anchor text suggestions. Simply enter in your key word and let the Thesaurus do the work for you. Check out the concept thesaurus, which gives even more suggestions of synonyms relating to the keyword. Even throwing in an antonym here and there can be useful, depending on the industry of course. My co-worker Jason also suggested using,,, and even Delicious to see how users are currently bookmarking sites and the phrases they use to describe them.


Phrase Match

Focusing on the phrase match instead of the exact match in your link building is important. So for the keyword “˜debt consolidation’ try out: consolidating your debt, one payment for credit cards, consolidation of debt, debt consolidated, money consolidation, credit card debt consolidation, etc”¦


Long Tail

Adding words such as “˜in’, “˜an’, “˜the’, “˜of”˜, in addition to plurals, and modifiers like “˜best’, “˜cheap’, “˜buy’, “˜online’, are all ways to vary your anchor text. Creating long tail words often involves adding these words to your anchor text, so keep a list of them handy when you’re looking to vary your anchor text.


Click Here” “Read More”

Naturally, you’ll receive natural links using the anchor text “Click Here”, “Read More”, “Download Here”, “Visit Here”, and others. Make sure you integrate these anchor texts in your link building efforts.



Somewhat irrelevant or long phrases can be seen in the backlinks of a site who has received many natural links. Linking a whole sentence, a quote, or just a long phrase that might not have much to do about your site is yet another way to vary anchor text. See the first link in my post? I’d consider that a long phrase, un-optimized, but natural link to SEOMoz.



If you’re not already doing so, you should: build links with images. Host a few good images on your site, and insert them in your regular guest blog posts, articles, banner advertising, and press releases. Or use user-domain (free to use) images linked back to your site as well. When possible, add descriptive text to the image alt tag as well. Try for both optimized and non-optimized images image alt tags.


Mix of Homepage URL and Internal Page URL

It seems like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised looking at some websites backlinks. Mix up the anchor text AND the URLs you’re pointing to with that anchor text. Naturally your homepage is expected to have somewhat targeted anchor text, but with internal pages really try to focus a lot more variance on anchor text.


Upper and Lowercase

I almost forgot this one, thanks to Jason for pointing it out: vary your anchor text with both upper and lower case letters. It would seem unnatural to always link using lower case anchor text to your site, right?


Hyphens in Anchor Text

Another one Jason pointed out to me: hyphens in anchor text. Hyphens are seen as spaces to search engines, so vary it up a bit and add some hyphens.



Misspelling a company name or keyword is very common when viewing the backlink profile of any naturally linked to site. Integrate a few misspellings in with anchor text for a more varied approach when link building.


Did we miss any? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.



  1. Ian Artimovich December 1, 2010

    Great post Kaila, I’d add that one should not go overboard with this tactic as well. I think varying anchor texts is more of a pressing issue for sites that fail to attract links naturally. If people link to you, you don’t really need to imitate those types of links.

    It would be nice to see some estimates of what percentage of links with exact match anchors is safe. Any thoughts on this?

  2. Michael Martinez December 1, 2010

    I don’t think changing the case will matter but some of your other suggestions are pretty good.

    Still, if people are simply changing their linking patterns, the search engines will eventually detect the new patterns and adopt to those patterns where excess and abuse are present.

    Maybe the 13th man in your list should be: Randomize it.

  3. Kaila S December 2, 2010

    Great question Ian. Some experts I’ve talked to and that I work with suggest the 80/20 rule. That internal pages should have at least 20% varied anchored text. This is a little bit different from homepages, as it’s understandable they’ll have a bit less variation in anchor text.

    I agree with your caution: don’t go overboard. In a truly perfect world you wouldn’t have to build links to your site at all, you’d receive the organic links you need to make your site a success. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I suppose my intention for this post wasn’t saying: use ALL these different types of link variation. Use everything within moderation, and know what your options are.

    Thanks for the comment!


  4. Ian Artimovich December 2, 2010

    80/20 rule makes sense, but if we get at least 20% of natural links where people will vary the anchors, we can prolly focus on building just the exact anchor ones.

    On a side note..

    Just came across an interesting thing in GWT. In ‘Your site on the web’ > ‘keywords’ where the most significant keywords are listed I see:

    seo (3 variants) on roll-over on the variants it says (seo, seo’s, seo’s).

    Similarly, Google might group anchor texts and treat them as clusters. Just a thought.

  5. Ian Artimovich December 2, 2010

    *(seo, seos, seo’s) that is

  6. Ana | Traffic Cafe December 2, 2010

    Great points, Kaila.

    I’ve always been a big fan of natural anchor text, but you gave me some tips I’ve never thought of.

    Ana Hoffman

  7. Craig Daniels December 9, 2010

    Helpful post, thanks for the tips.. Time for me to look up and remind myself to change things up every now and then..

    Craig Daniels

  8. David Jenyns January 2, 2011

    Hi Kaila,

    These are spot on tips to vary your anchor texts. On my end though, aside from doing most of the ones on the list, I also follow certain percentages (someone mentioned 80/20 rule)in using my target anchor texts for building links.

    For example, I distribute 50% of the links to build to the home page using the actual url. For example, if we were building links to our website (Melbourne SEO Services) we would use

    Then, I use about 30% of these links and use the actual keyword phrase in the anchor text.

    Last is to distribute the remaining 10-20% of these links linking to the home page using the rest of the variations of the keyword. For this example, you can use “SEO Services”, “search engine optimisation services” and other relevant keywords.

    I also monitor and evaluate the results accordingly. That way, I would have the chance to tweak and implement some quick changes as needed.


  9. business directory March 22, 2011

    great article on the effort to appear natural!

    i do like Ian’s comment above that suggests that getting a diverse profile is something that will happen naturally for most sites that have content that people want to link to, in which case it frees up seo’s to focus less on anchor text diversity and misspelling words etc.

    anyway, i’m a bit of a spelling bee type, so misspelling words doesn’t come “natural” to me, even if it’s for the cause! 🙂

  10. Link Building July 27, 2011

    Great idea . . . using the Thesaurus to come up with words related to one’s anchor text. While it would have seemed obvious/elementary sometimes we all think a little too technically. The obvious is sometimes not the obvious to all. LOL

  11. Ling December 29, 2011

    Misplssings… never tried that.. oops… 😮

  12. eugened rewer March 29, 2012

    I truly liked how you have created your site, it’s simple, neat, easy to navigate and extremely easy on the eyes. Could you tell me which theme or designer did you use.sameer thapar

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