Anchor text, the visible words for a link that can be clicked or touched, may become a liability when too often containing non-branded keywords when on external websites.
SEO expert Fili Weise, who used to work for the Google Search Quality team, says, “Google has restricted the descriptive nature of the anchor text, because of the abuse by the SEO industry with over-optimized commercial terms in an effort to manipulate rankings.”
Furthermore, as famed linkbuilder Eric Ward (RIP) said, “The fastest way to create a suspicious looking inbound anchor text profile is to pay too much attention to it.”
Anything that seems to manipulate keyword rankings is risky, as those with a manual penalty from Google can attest. If in doubt, request branded anchor text or even a nofollow link.
A safer way to improve SEO is through context surrounding your link. The page linked from and, ideally, their whole site should have keywords related to yours.
During these tough times, linkbuilding through existing partners is worthwhile since it optimizes what you have already earned, if done properly.