How to Optimize Your Anchor Text for Search Engines
TAMPA, FLORIDA – Google is constantly launching search ranking updates to separate the wheat from the chaff. Google wants to give users high quality results and leave low quality results miles down the results page.
As a result, webmasters face bigger challenges as SEO evolves. The last few Panda and search algorithmic updates pulled down many sites while others climbed up the organic ranking ladder in SERPs.
When I stepped into the field of SEO, I understood the role that anchor text played in ranking a site. The times are changing at a tremendous speed, forcing every good SEO pro to use only the most ethical SEO techniques.
We all know that links pointing to your site are good for Google rankings. We’ve talked before about the dangers of black-hat link building and why you should avoid it. Let’s examine the anchor text links, which makes a difference in how Google uses your link information.
First, what is anchor text?
Anchor text is the actual phrase or word that links to a URL. In the above paragraph, “black-hat link building” is an anchor text. Most sites have easily recognizable anchor text, as it’s normally blue and underlined. You can use anchor text either internally (on your own site) or externally (from other sites).
Usually, anchor text includes keywords relevant to the page they’re linking to. If you want to rank a page for certain keywords, try to create as many anchor text links as possible with those keywords. This will help improve your site’s rankings for the targeted keywords. Anchor text remains one of the SEO practices you can use to climb to the top of Google.
Anchor text linking has always been a critical part of any SEO campaign, but there are some practices to avoid. Google now penalizes sites that indulge in excessive use of exact-match anchor text for ranking at the top of search results. If your anchor text linking looks unnatural to search engines, you can lose your site’s rankings just as quickly.
How to Use Anchor Text Effectively
It’s best to diversify the words or keywords used in anchor links. Follow these:
• Use your brand name or a short description of your company in the anchor text
• Use long-tail and short-tail keywords to hyperlink
• Use different synonyms of words you want to use as anchor text
• Use the desired URL as your anchor text
Notice the difference between these two anchor links:
In the first example, the anchor text includes a keyword that potential clients could be using as a search query. In the second example, “click here” is the anchor text. Clearly this isn’t informative for Google. The first example uses a keyword and lets Google know more about the linked-to site. Shoot for the first example when link-building organically.
Another important point is the placement of the link on the page. Let’s look at the example above one more time. Both hyperlinks point to http://www.mastergoogle.com/, but if multiple links on one page point to the same location, Google will only credit the first link. Therefore, the “free SEO tips” anchor text will be counted, but the “click here” is irrelevant.
SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin gives a quick but comprehensive anchor text lesson in an edition of Whiteboard Friday. The biggest challenge is that in most instances, we can’t control inbound anchor text.
“If you’re earning links and you can’t control the anchor text, maybe at least you can get them to mention what you do somewhere near the link,” Fishkin says.
As Fishkin says in the video, links that point to your site from your site help a tiny bit, but links pointing to your site from an outside source help a lot. Think of ways you can control the anchor text pointing to your site. Guest blogging on another website is an organic way to make this happen. Use relevant keywords in your anchor text whenever you have the opportunity.
Remember that Google focuses on the user’s experience. The best practice is to make the anchored links relevant to your user. Google punishes bad practices, but good, relevant links and descriptive anchor text will be rewarded.