How Anchor Text Can Help – or Harm! – Your Search Engine Rankings

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Think of your website’s SEO as if were a chair. A good and relevant linking strategy would be one of the legs. Anchor text would be the screws that keep that particular leg in place and help it perform its function. Take away the screws – in this case, the anchor text – and the whole thing becomes a bit wobbly.

The State of Anchor Text in 2013

The standards and best practices for anchor text – like all SEO – have evolved over the years. This is particularly true in the wake of Google’s newest Penguin algorithm. What worked in the past probably won’t work now and following the old rules could actually harm your search rankings.

Just what is anchor text, anyway?

Anchor text is the word or phrase that appears – via “hyperlink display” – to a reader and links to another web page, document, or web site. Google and other search engines use this data to learn more about the linked-to content or page.

Anchor text should consist of relevant keywords or phrases that give the reader a clear idea of where they will land should they click on the link. Anchor text that reads “click here” without any context, for example, is bad anchor text and linking practices.

Here’s an example of good anchor text: “Photos of baby penguins are just about as cute asphotos of baby pandas.”

In the example above, “photos of baby penguins” is the anchor text that points to a photo-heavy story on Huffington Post about baby penguins. “Photos of baby pandas,” meanwhile, is anchor text that links to a Time story about – you guessed it – baby pandas.

How Anchor Text Can Help Your Website’s Rankings

An inbound linking strategy – that thoughtfully uses anchor text – can send a message to the search engines that your website is an authoritative source for certain topics and keywords. In the penguin and panda example above, the anchor text tells Google that Huffington Post and Time are reliable matches on the topics of cute baby penguins and pandas.

The more websites that link to the same pages with similar keywords – such as “adorable baby pandas” and “cute baby penguin pictures” – the louder the message. For your own website, the more reliable websites that link to your pages using your desired keywords as anchor text, the better.

How Google’s Penguin Changes the Face of Anchor Text

Some SEOs and online marketers would previously pay other websites to link back to clients’ websites using over-optimized anchor text. An example might be to pay dozens of websites (aka link farms) to use the exact same, keyword-rich anchor text to link back to a client’s site.

Google, in its never-ending quest to reduce spam and improve search results, has cracked down on shady anchor text and linking strategies. The Google Penguin algorithm penalizes poor-quality linking strategies, such as those included in comment spam or guest posts on questionable or dangerous web sites. It also dings over-optimized anchor text, making it a bad idea to use the same keyword phrase – for instance, “car crash attorney in St. Louis” – over and over (and over) again.

Tips on Creating Quality Anchor Text in the New Era of SEO

Google Penguin does not render quality link building and anchor text irrelevant. Best practices still call for using logical anchor text when linking between relevant pages within your own website. Variety is critical, however. Focusing on just one or two keywords and using those as the anchor text at every opportunity won’t help your search rankings: It could actually hurt.

Likewise, when building inbound linking opportunities, focus on quality over quantity. Work only with reputable websites and link only from sources that make sense for your own industry or business. Ensure that your SEO doesn’t use the exact same keyword phrase as anchor text with every linking opportunity, lest the Penguin think of your site as spam.

(Pssst…the “building inbound linking opportunities” anchor text above is an example of an internal linking opportunity that uses a keyword phrase to link to a relevant internal page. Feel free to give this a try in your own web content.)

The SEO team at We Do Web Content stays on top of the latest trends and innovations in search engine optimization. This includes how to handle anchor text in the wake of Google’s Penguin update. Don’t have the time – or inclination – to worry about following the newest rules in SEO? We can handle it for you, from content creation, to optimization, and even social media marketing. Contact us today to learn more – 888-521-3880.