Without a doubt, on page optimisation has become a much more important factor in ranking well in search engines. The value associated with linking has declined, but even more importantly, linking with anchor text and keywords is a potentially delicate component of SEO these days. Various iteration of Penguin punishes webmasters who does not get the linking right.

With Penguin 3.0 expected shortly (according to Barry Schwartz). I wonder how top SEO practitioners implement their linking strategy to ensure a Penguin safe linking campaign. Do they use anchor text in their link building or do they just link to a page with the website url? Here is what the leading SEO specialist who took part in my Link Building Roundup have to say.

A BIG Thank you to SEO experts who participated in this link building strategy roundup, they are:

The question I asked them was “Do You Use Anchors With Targeted Keywords For Link Building Today?”


Chris Gilchrist

Typically never nowadays. Assuming a domain had a decent profile volume though and didn’t include any anchors (unusual, yes) other than brand then I wouldn’t be too worried about including KW anchors within a sentence style link but going forward there’s far more important things to concentrate on to boost a domain.


Zac Johnson

When building links (which isn’t as often lately), I’m usually focusing on getting backlinks with the domain name as the backlink. This is mainly due to the type of sites I am running and ranking for (ie: and — as you can see, the domains are both exact matches for keywords I want to rank for anyway. With all the changes and movements from Google lately, link building hasn’t been a main focus lately.

Gianluca Fiorelli

Gianluca Fiorelli

I do! Not using them editorially if justified is silly, as they are a recognized search entity and because they still have a strong correlation with rankings.

The important is not using them in some manipulative “toxic” pattern.

dimitar dimitrov

Dimitar Dimitrov

– First I’d like to thank you for your time reading this interesting article! If I answer “No” I’ll lie. Me and my team we use targeted keywords for link building but in more holistic approach than ever before. We are doing more link baiting and we give our best to actually navigate people (with indirect messages and words) to use the desired keywords in anchors when linking to the desired page or domain.

About an year ago it was damn hard to actually create something good as a result without paying real money for it (even for editorial links). People were using all sorts of keywords – from term-related to totally nonsense words in anchors. It was our fault because our campaigns were unclear as a message and call to action. Few months ago we finally managed to get a pretty good results with one eCommerce project. All we did was give clear message about the product and the desired keyword or phrase. We just used it in our bait message. Now we are doing it almost all the time because it simply works.

Overall exact keywords are still a major factor when it comes to rankings. There are many, many proofs out there although search engines (especially Google) are getting pretty good at penalizing the bad manipulative tactics. But the usage of exact match keywords, combined with brand term still delivers very good results. It is just harder to do it than few years ago because now you must be creative and give your best while trying to make users like whatever you’re trying to sell them. But it is way more exciting and fun… and cool when you manage to do it right.

kane jamison

Kane Jamison

No, we don’t request or specify any anchor text while doing outreach. If we want a specific anchor text, we’ll include it in the title and headline for the page, and the targeted anchor text will happen naturally. For a website doing everything else pretty well, that will be sufficient in most verticals.

neil patel

Neil Patel

I used to use rich anchor text when building links 3 plus years ago, but I have stopped since. It is an easy way to get penalized.

A better way to build links is through content marketing. If you write great content or create awesome infographics you will find that people will link to you using random anchor text. Eventually this will cause your site to rank for all kinds of long tail terms, which will drive more traffic than head terms.

patrick coombe

Patrick Coombe

Ignore Anchors Like the Plague!!

I think the people with the hardest time with this fact are ex-blackhat SEO’s that saw instant results with this type of link building with targeted anchor text.

As an agency SEO, I see a lot of SEO companies “take matters into their own hands,” buy link packages, and use all of their money keywords in a few hundred spammy links all at once.

For me everything is about risk / reward. Sure, getting a bunch of links with your targeted anchor text might get you some more rankings. But what if those links send you over the edge and into the penalty box?

To me, it isn’t worth it. Being that I promote / manage small to medium sized businesses, it just doesn’t make sense.

simon penson

Simon Penson

This is a question we revisit regularly but our consistent internal conclusion is always that we should not try to affect anchor text. It should be set naturally, either by the influencer we are working with our our own writer if we are providing ready-made PR features etc.

We are aware that using a certain percentage of partial and/or exact match anchor text does still work but our view is that we would rather not unnaturally effect that process in terms of how others choose to link to brands and/or content. Eventually Google will look at those that are using it and that carries a level of risk that we are just not comfortable with taking with our client campaigns.


richard merriot

Richard Marriott

I use anchors with targeted keywords all the time. I know it’s a little frowned upon and a lot of people say you shouldn’t do it, but as long as you do it sparingly I think there’s no harm in it.

There is, however, a difference between onsite and offsite links.

If I earn an offsite link, I don’t care what keywords are used in the anchor, as long as the page it’s on is in context with what my post is about.

Onsite inner links are where I play around with using targeted keywords in my anchor text because I can keep an eye on them and also change the anchor text whenever I like.

This is a lot safer for SEO!

One tip I’d definitely recommend is when using inner link juice to shift a post in the SERPs, use targeted keywords in your anchor text on the pages that have higher page authority (PA) and use more loosely targeted keywords on the pages with less PA.

For example, let’s say I wrote an 8,000 word guide on shaving sheep and my target keyword is “sheep shaving”.

To give this page a boost in the SERPs I want to add some inner link juice from a handful of pages on my site.

I’ve chosen 3 onsite pages to add a link to my sheep shaving guide, and these 3 pages all have different PA:

a) PA16

b) PA44

c) PA21

Because option b) has the most PA, this is the page I will put a link to my guide on with an exact keyword match:

a) freshly shaven sheep

b) sheep shaving guide here

c) been shaving sheep since 1881

And as you can see the other pages have looser variations.

Why does this work? Who knows.

I treat SEO like an art, not a science. This formula has worked wonders for me and will work for you too if you give it a try.


dan steller

Dan Stelter

5% of the time, I’m willing to use exact-match targeted anchor text. I never use it on guest posts anymore. I’m willing to use partial-match anchor text 5% of the time as well. Google wants a natural link profile, so I focus on creating as large of a diversity of anchor texts as possible – mostly brand name and URL.


victoria ignatieva

Viktoria Ignatieva

I’d gladly answer that we don’t use targeted keyword phrases in our work, but actually it depends. In about 90% we use only URL or domains as anchors, because in other ways it’s easy to get Google’s manual actions for spammy links. But in some cases, when it’s a small website it’s hard to get results without targeted keyword phrases. But we don’t use exact match phrases anyway and use anchor phrases that sounds naturally. We also add brand’s name to keywords.

At least this how our SEO specialists works with links by themselves. Our seperate link building department don’t use targeted keyword in their work, because such links won’t harm your link profile and will help to gain good results.


Dan sharp

Dan Sharp

No. We don’t ever use or request links with specific keyword anchor text. If someone wants to link to you, then they will decide how they link to you quite naturally. You don’t lots of anchor text to rank anymore and it’s the fundamental signal the search engines use still to identify manipulated link profiles.


bill sebald

Bill Sebald

I still think anchors have value. I still think about them in my link building; maybe it’s the old-head SEO in me, but now far less than I used to. I almost always leave the anchor text creation up to the publishers’ discretion. The power of the anchor text, in my opinion, seems very conditional – much more than 3 years ago. I believe the line for where a commercial anchor text is valuable vs. spammy is so algorithmically complicated, I don’t even try to guess. It’s like trying to solve keyword density or text/code ratios. On top of it, with so many other signals, it just doesn’t seem like a question worth trying to accurately answer. There’s plenty of other SEO and marketing work where time can be better spent.


Harris Schachter

Harris Schachter

Yes, I use anchors with targeted keywords not only because they work, but because they are a natural feature of communication. When people write content and want to provide their visitors with as much relevant information as possible, they use phrases within links to suggest what the person will find on that linked page. This is probably the reason why Google adopted a link-based system to begin with; because they found that the frequencies and the ways in which links are used actually mean something. So for this reason, I think anchor text will never lose it’s value, just as apostrophes, commas, or semi-colons will never lose their value. These are simply features of written communication.

robbie richards


Robbie Richards

It’s common knowledge in the SEO world that over-optimizing anchor text is a sure fire way to trigger a Penguin penalty. As a result, I focus on building balanced anchor text distribution.

When building links I try to include a healthy balance of non-brandedlong-tail keyword variations, synonyms, branded terms, naked URLs and generic CTAs (eg. click here, read more etc) in the anchor text. When I have direct control over the contextual placement of the anchor text, I focus more on placing relevant keywords in close proximity to the anchor, a great way to build co-citations, which is a much safer (and more powerful) way to boost the relevancy of your link profile.

bob jones

Bob Jones

Link building needs to be done in a way that makes Google think that the links they are seeing are the result of a natural occurrence. What we do is look at trusted seed websites that rank high and do a backlink check on them. We then categorise the types of anchor text, such as “click here”, “read more”, “”, “anchor text” etc and compare ratios.

Our link building project will use those ratios as a guideline to distribute branded, targeted and generic anchor text.

We know for a fact that Google is in constant flux and even ranking signals such as exact match domains seem to have increased in importance again, even though Google tells us differently. People are scared to use anchor text as links these days, but think about the amount of people with websites that don’t think about or even know SEO. They often still link with descriptive anchors and Google can’t completely discount those signals.


As you can see, even TOP SEO specialists do not have very clear position on link building with anchor text. Some of them do not use anchors with targeted keywords to be in safe. Some of them are still using it because it is almost impossible to rank for high for any competitive keywords without using anchor text

Others use a mixture of anchors text with targeted keywords and with not keywords.

One thing that is clear is that you have to approach this very carefully because it is quite difficult to recover from manual or algorithmic penalty if you get your linking strategy wrong.

Happy Link Building!

Evgeniy Garkaviy About Evgeniy Garkaviy
I'm SEO specialist and certified Adwords consultant. I have been working in Search Engine Marketing for over three year. In addition working in SEO, I love writing about the subject and contributing to forum discussion in forums about various aspects of Search Engine Optimisation from link building to content development. Read more about me here