“Why am I getting backlinks to my site using words like “read more” and “click here”?”
“Am I getting hacked?”
“Am I getting attacked by a competitor?”
TL;DR: You didn’t get hacked. It’s actually normal! It occurs naturally as the web grows and people share content with one another.
If you’re interested in learning the details of generic anchor texts within the purview of off-site SEO, continue reading!
What are Generic Anchor Texts?
Before I can get into the nitty-gritty of these type of backlinks, I have to clarify what generic anchor texts are and what they are not. It may seem straight forward for some, but it is very common to meet people not familiar with these particular types of backlinks. It is especially more common to meet people that completely undermine their importance in the grand scheme of off-page SEO.
Here are the most common types of anchor texts you will come across:
- Branded: the name of your company to link to the target page, like “Victorious”
- Naked URL: the actual URL of the page, like www.example.com
- Exact match: the target keyword to point to your target page, like “translate”
- Partial match: a variation of your target keyword to point to your target page, like “automated translation”
Generic anchor texts are the type of backlinks that use words like “website”, “info”, “link” or phrases like “click here”, “read more”, “visit this page”, to link to another website. Generic anchor texts provide the least amount of information about the page you are linking to. It’s virtually impossible to know what you can expect to find on the page you’re clicking on by simply looking at the anchor text itself. These anchors have no keyword or topical relevance whatsoever. There are so many possible combinations, but I have compiled a list for you at the bottom of this post.
If it feels counter-intuitive to SEO… you’re right! And I’m proud of you for recognizing this. But generic anchor texts have a bigger purpose in life. You can still have high quality and authoritative backlinks and use generic anchor texts at the same time. These two are not mutually exclusive of each other.
Why Generic Anchors are so Important
To prove my point, I will share a San Francisco relic with you considering we’re also located in San Francisco.
Here’s the world’s oldest webcam: The San Francisco FogCam
The San Francisco FogCam has been online since 1994. Here are the most common backlink anchor texts it has accumulated since its inception:
As you can see from the image above, the 6th most used anchor text on this site is “link”. Remember this site has been online for 25 years now without any optimization for search engines. Naturally, over the years, it accumulated backlinks from all these websites across the web. Yes, there are quite a few branded and descriptive anchors in the top, but 3% of all the websites linking to them are using “link” (a generic anchor text) to link to it.
Generic anchors are found infrequently (in the grand scheme of SEO), but they are naturally occurring. What I mean by this is that people will undoubtedly link to a website using an anchor text that doesn’t describe the page. In fact, the description can be found outside of the anchor text. This is what I mean:
“In this blog post you’re reading right now, I cover the importance of generic anchor text usage in off-page SEO optimization.” – Pablo Villalpando, “How Irrelevant & Generic Anchor Texts Will Strengthen Your SEO”
Yes, I just quoted myself. But if you look closely at the link at the beginning of the quote you can find a generic anchor text that, when evaluated out of context, means nothing, but looking at it in the context of the content around it makes perfect sense.
Let’s take a look at a real-life SEO example.
Generic Anchor Text Example
Say we perform expert keyword research and we decide we want to target the query “translate”, with over 26,000,000 monthly searches in the US and we want to be among the top 3 results for this keyword. If all of the other 200+ ranking signals didn’t matter and we were only looking at the volume of backlinks, we want to know the following pieces of information about our top 3 ranking competitors:
- How many backlinks do they have? (volume)
- Which anchor texts are they using? (distribution)
Evaluating the information above will tell us quite a lot of details about what it will take to be in the top spots for this keyword. But the most important bits are these:
- How many backlinks we need to build to be considered authoritative
- The anchor text distribution for our backlinks to be considered authoritative
- A rough estimate of how long it will take to rank in the top results
My point here is this: Once we analyze the backlinks that the top ranking pages are using, we are able to determine the ratio of each type of anchor text we can use to optimize our target page.
Say, hypothetically speaking in an overly simplified scenario, that the top 3 results for the keyword “translate” are using the following anchor texts:
- 75% Branded
- 5% Naked URL
- 5% Exact match
- 10% Partial match
- 5% Generic
- 30% Branded
- 7% Naked URL
- 20% Exact match
- 36% Partial match
- 7% Generic
- 25% Branded
- 10% Naked URL
- 10% Exact match
- 54% Partial match
- 9% Generic
We then want to compile an average of the top 3 to have a better view of our imaginary link building campaign:
Average of Top 3
- 42.5% Branded
- 7% Naked URL
- 11% Exact match
- 32.5% Partial match
- 7% Generic
Finally, we compare the average we just created to our target page and find the gaps. We now know roughly how many backlinks we will need to be in the top 3 spots, and more importantly, how many of these links will need branded, naked URLs, exact match, partial, and generic anchor texts.
Guess what we just did? We have created a backlink road map for our imaginary SEO campaign! This anchor text analysis is so powerful since we evaluated backlink requirements for a very specific keyword.
Generic anchor usage also helps optimize your backlink cloud for this keyword. It’s not just about exact match anchors!
Anchor Cloud Over-Optimization
The anchor text analysis we just completed above also provides us with an incredibly important piece of the puzzle. Yes, we do get our roadmap for anchor text distribution, but the analysis also tells us how many anchor texts of each type Google is allowing.
In other words, Google is ranking the top 3 competitors for our “translate” keyword because they are deemed the most popular and relevant for this search query. If these top 3 pages use on average 11% exact match anchor text, we are not to go beyond this frequency. This is our maximum allowed ratio of exact match anchors.
If for whatever reason, you go beyond these maximum values (anchor cloud over-optimization), you must use other anchor text types to dilute your anchor usage. The safest one to use is the generic anchor texts because they provide close to zero topical relevance in a situation in which you’ve provided “too much relevance” (like keyword stuffing).
That is to say, generic anchor texts are the most powerful tool for diluting and preventing backlink over-optimization.
List of Generic Anchor Text Examples
Because I like to think I’m a cool guy, here’s a list of 359 different generic anchor texts you can use:
Hope you were able to find value in this article! Reach out to the Victorious team if you have any questions or are in need of powerful link building campaigns to assist you in your quest for online domination.