Using Primary Keywords as Anchor Text for External Links: An In-Depth Look at the SEO Implications

Primary keywords used as anchor text for external links in SEO optimization.

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), anchor text is widely regarded as an important ranking factor. Anchor text refers to the visible, clickable text that is used in hyperlinks linking out to other websites. When done right, anchor text can help pass authority and relevance from your site to the site you are linking to. However, the anchor text you choose can also have unintended consequences if you aren’t careful.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the implications of using your target primary keywords as the anchor text for external links. We’ll cover the potential benefits, risks, best practices, and expert opinions on this SEO tactic.

Defining Primary Keywords and Anchor Text

Before we dive in, let’s align on what exactly primary keywords and anchor text are.

What Are Primary Keywords?

When creating a blog post or content, you likely have certain main keywords in mind that you want to rank for in search engines. These keywords that capture the main topic and intent of the content are referred to as primary keywords or target keywords.

For example, if you are writing a review of cowboy boots, your primary/target keywords might include:

  • Cowboy boots
  • Western boots
  • Boots for men

These are the high-value keywords you want to optimize the page for and rank highly for in search results. Identifying these main keywords is crucial for on-page optimization and SEO.

What Is Anchor Text?

Anchor text refers to the visible, clickable text that is used in hyperlinks linking out to other webpages. Anchor text is placed within the HTML anchor tag <a> and is what users see and click on for the link.

For example:

<p>For more tips, see the <a href=””>SEO blog</a>.</p>

In this case, “SEO blog” is the anchor text. Optimizing anchor text is important in SEO to convey relevance and pass authority between sites.

Now that we’re aligned on the key terminology, let’s look at the implications of using your primary keywords as anchor text for external links.

Potential Benefits of Using Primary Keywords for Anchor Text

At first glance, using your target primary keywords as anchor text when linking out to external sites seems like a logical SEO tactic. Here are some potential benefits:

  • Passes Link Equity and Relevance: When you link out using primary keyword anchor text, it helps pass relevance and authority for those keywords from your site to the site you are linking to. This sends signals to search engines about the topic of both pages.
  • Indicates Relevance Between Sites: Anchor text containing primary keywords also indicates a strong semantic and topical connection between the content of your page and the site you are linking to. This shows engines the relevance between the sites.
  • Provides Good User Experience: Anchor text containing keywords users are actually searching for provides a better user experience. Visitors are more likely to click on informative, keyword-rich anchor text.

On the surface, using target keywords as anchor text appears to be an effective SEO technique. However, there are also some potential downsides to consider.

Potential SEO Risks of Using Primary Keywords for Anchor Text

Although primary keyword anchor text comes with benefits, overusing exact and partial match keywords could also hurt your site if you aren’t careful. Some potential risks include:

  • May Appear as Over-Optimization: If your anchor text uses exact primary keywords over and over, it can seem manipulative and like overt optimization to search engines. This could lead to manual penalties.
  • Keywords May Not Flow Naturally: Your primary keywords may not fit naturally within anchor text from a readability perspective. Forced keyword stuffing creates poor user experience.
  • Could Trigger Ranking Penalties if Overdone: Too many instances of exact match anchor text has triggered ranking penalties for over-optimization in some past cases. Duplicate anchor text patterns can appear unnatural.

While search engines have gotten better at understanding context, excessive primary keyword anchor text still poses some SEO risks. Moderation is key.

Best Practices for Using Primary Keywords in Anchor Text

Given the potential benefits and risks, what are some best practices for using primary keywords as anchor text to external sites?

  • Use Target Keywords for Some Anchor Text: Do use your primary keywords for some anchor text to pass relevance and authority. But don’t make them the only or excessive anchor text.
  • Vary Your Anchor Text: Use branded anchor text, URLs, descriptive phrases, and other variations – not just target keywords. Diverse anchor text looks natural.
  • Use Partial Match Keywords: For example, use “western boots” rather than “cowboy boots” – this conveys relevance while avoiding overt optimization.
  • Keep Anchor Text Natural and Useful for Users: Avoid forced keyword stuffing. Keep anchor text readable, useful, and compelling for human visitors. Prioritize user experience.

Following these best practices will allow you to gain benefits from using target keywords in anchor text while reducing potential SEO risks related to over-optimization.

The Consensus from SEO Experts: Moderation is Key

Given the nuanced pros and cons, what do SEO experts actually recommend when it comes to using primary keywords as anchor text?

The overall consensus seems to be moderation and high-quality content above all else.

According to Backlinko, using your target keywords carefully for some anchor text is fine, even encouraged. But anchor text should vary, and primary keywords shouldn’t be overused or forced.

Moz also recommends using partial match anchor text more often than exact match to avoid looking unnatural. They advise using brand name, URL, and descriptive anchors as well.

Yoast argues that some exact and partial match anchors are fine, agreeing that moderation is key. They say up to 10% exact match is reasonable for authority sites.

The key takeaway is that using your primary target keywords sparingly and naturally as anchor text to external sites can provide SEO value without harm. But be cautious of over-optimizing, and keep high-quality user experience as the top priority.

The Bottom Line

Using primary keywords carefully as anchor text can help pass relevance and authority between sites when done in moderation. Excessive usage of exact match keywords may appear manipulative and pose risks related to over-optimization. Best practice is to use primary keywords for some natural anchor text, but vary anchors and avoid overuse. Quality content comes first. The consensus from experts is that some primary keyword anchor text is fine, but should be done sparingly and naturally. Anchor text optimization is certainly an important part of SEO. But always keep search engines’ shifting algorithms and user experience in mind.

Hopefully this in-depth look provides a balanced perspective on the implications of using your target primary keywords as anchor text when linking out. Let me know if you have any other questions!