Anchor Text Tips That Rocket Your Rankings

    May 10, 2004

Google/Yahoo bombing is the practice of placing terms you want a given page to rank for in anchor text that links to that page. Huh? Ok, here’s an example: if I wanted this page to rank highly for the term “President of the Internet” I’d create a link like this: President of the Internet and have all my friends and friendly readers post that link and text on their sites.

Discuss anchor text optimization in WebProWorld.

Ah hoy! Dropping Anchor on your website...
Ah hoy! Dropping Anchor on your website…

With enough pages carrying that same text and link I’d knock the current president from his perch. (He’s also governing in Yahoo, by the way…)

Google bombing is also effective on pages that don’t want to rank for certain terms – Miserable Failure is one example.

The ability to manipulate search results this way indicates the weight that the two most searched engines give to the text webpages use to link to other web pages.

Matt Bailey of The Karcher Group believes search engines attribute this value to the anchor text because it, “is very important to the user; it should describe the content of the target page and the subject matter.”

Joe Griffin of SubmitAWebSite described the way text link works this way: “by identifying your pages through relevant keyword links you are “telling” the search engine which keywords the linked pages represent. The rule applies for both internal and external anchor text.”

“Proper use of anchor text,” said Joe, “can help you show the relevancy of your web pages to key search engines to help rank for desired keywords.”

I wrote to Joe, Matt, and two other SEO experts recently and asked them about their thoughts on anchor text and anchor text best practices.

“Anchor text is extremely important to rankings, especially in Google. I’ve seen some evidence in Yahoo, but not to the extent that Google rankings can be influenced,” said Matt. Jim Hedger of Stepforth said, “I believe in the value of anchor text.”

Anchor Text Best Practices

Matt’s anchor text best practices include excellent general guidelines for you to follow:

1. Do what’s best for the user.
2. Make it easily understood by the user.
3. Don’t try to hide your intentions.
4. Be honest about the anchor text. What it says is what you should get.

Jim’s anchor text best practices offer some specific advice that will help you make anchor text decisions on your site:

Use Judiciously
1/ Navigation maps (the text-links at the bottom of each page) Nav Maps are a great place to put keyword enriched anchor text. These text-links tend to be found at the bottom of each page in a site. An important note is that these links WILL be used by site visitors and MUST be created and phrased with live-visitors and SE Spiders in mind.

2/ Links on the INDEX page
The INDEX page of a site is the most powerful real estate found that URL. Again, all work on the INDEX page MUST consider live-visitors before SE Spiders. When keyword-enriching text on the INDEX page, there are often ways to link into internal pages. This is a good thing as it pushes spider traffic while associating the keyword (anchor text) with the specific page
linked to. An important consideration is that the INDEX page often has a higher page rank than internal pages.

3/ Links on Internal Pages
Links on internal pages are not as important to search engine rankings as on the INDEX page. Nevertheless, each internal page is terribly important to the clients and can add to a good internal linking strategy.

4/ External Links
Links coming from other URLs should use effective anchor text. With larger campaigns we can mix and match the keyword phrases targeted through anchor links in order to associate keyword phrases with specific internal pages.

Fathom, a moderator from WebProWorld, offered these six suggestions to those who want their anchor text to work well for them:

1. Important link positioning top left to bottom right. (throwing tons of links at bottom helps little).

2. Exact anchors that best support the content on the link to page It’s great to use tons of links where the anchor text suggest importance to “web design” however if the page is specific to “web development” then the use of “web design” link anchors will be less effective.

3. The use of “broad” has the benefit of aiding “broadly” e.g. using links to a website about “college degrees” where the link indicates “degrees” has the benefit of gaining associate degrees, bachelor degrees, masters degrees, as well as the specific subject matter for the degree itself link computer science degrees.

A link anchor however about “masters degrees” dilutes the value to other degrees e.g. bachelor degrees – so it is a game of tradeoffs.

4. If attempting to do item #3 for “web” to capture “web design”, “website design”, “web development”, “website development”, a text link anchor looks quite inappropriate. Thus the value of image links e.g. <a title=”web” href=””><img alt=”Web” src=”web.gif”></a> where the broad term is less apparent and the image actually reads “web design”.

5. Avoid “stop words” such as and, with, by, from etc.

6. Internal site linking structure has a significant impact of supporting and propagating weight, relevancy, and PageRank to similar topical pages… e.g. Google’s indented secondary results for a specific query helps show this. If you are listed (ranked) with only a single results listing – your internal linking structure is likely the cause, and fixing this can help improve overall results.

Joe of SubmitaWebSite contradicted some of what Fathom said, however. “In terms of anchor text being found on relevant vs. irrelevant sites I have yet to see any substantial proof supporting the claim that relevant websites will yield a better return in the natural rankings.” From a purely pragmatic perspective though, if you’ve got links on a page that’s more relevant to your site you’re more likely to get foot traffic in that way rather than if you’ve got your text links up on unrelated/irrelevant sites.

Well, I imagine you’re ready to start optimizing your text links. Remember to focus on those within your site as well as those your link partners use to mention you. Anchor text is an important way of showing the search engines, as well as your visitors, just what they’re getting when they land on the page. And, for now, it’s a powerful way to raise your ranking for particular terms.

And don’t forget to cast your vote (on all your Page Rank 10 pages) for the new President of the Internet!

Garrett French is the editor of iEntry’s eBusiness channel. You can talk to him directly at WebProWorld, the eBusiness Community Forum.