If content is the meat of your blog, links are the vessels. People use links to connect two pages on their website or to connect their page to a page on another website. When you link to someone else’s page, it means that you think that page is valuable to your readers, for whatever reason: it may have some great tips, or you’re disagreeing with what’s written there and you want a point of reference, or you’re further elaborating on a thought expressed on that page. There are many reasons why someone would link to a page or to a website, but it all comes down to one thing: by linking to it, you’re saying to your readers and to the search engines that you think this page is important.
You can link to a page in one of two ways: you can use “naked” URL of that page, or you can cover the URL by a text that you think explains better what’s on it – that text is called anchor text. Now, maybe you haven’t given much thought to the actual words you use as the anchor text, and you think that simple “here” does the job, but these words matter a lot.
• The importance of anchor text
We’ve already established that the search engines count links as votes for a website. However, they need additional help to discover what a page is about. If your page is about the benefits of green tea, and you’re linking to another page that is about different ways to prepare green tea, you can use “here” to send your readers there, but as for the search engines, it won’t make much sense to them; it would be better if you used “different ways to prepare green tea”, for both yours and that other website.
Simply put, the search engines will understand that as the statement you’re making that both of your pages are somehow related to green tea. So, when someone comes in Google searching for the green tea, both of your pages will be considered as relevant; then it depends on the other elements on both of your pages and on the exact words that person has typed in, but in a very simplified scenario, your page should come up as a number one result for “benefits of green tea”, and the page you have linked to would be the first result for “different ways to prepare green tea”.
From this, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that if you want to rank higher for the term “benefits of green tea”, you should get many links pointing to your web page with this exact anchor text. And that conclusion was true until only a few months back. It’s a bit different now.
• Why you DON’T want all your links to have the exact match phrase in them
This was, obviously, relatively easy to do: contact webmasters, create your own links where it’s allowed, give them the anchor text you desire – and your website is number one in Google. The problem is that Google had it with websites that had no useful content on them and were still ranking number one for some really profitable keywords, so they decided to put an end to it.
So if you do that now, Google will not reward you with high rankings; they will punish you, because you’re over-optimizing your website. It’s just another way of saying that you’re trying to manipulate the search results.
That’s why in the past few months are writing about “anchor text variation best practices”. Anchor text variation stands for the fact that you shouldn’t have all, or a majority of your links, containing the exact phrase you’re trying to rank for, and that you should vary the text you use any way you can. Best practices stands for the ways to do vary your anchors in such a way that you don’t raise suspicion with Google, but you’re still getting good results.
Now it got complicated, right? Well, not really. Basically, you should use variations of your exact keyword phrase that are either of the following:
• Your exact phrase (i.e. “benefits of green tea”, no more than 20-25% of all of your anchors)
• Phrases containing your exact phrase, or the words from it (“read about benefits of green tea for your health”, “green tea”, “what are the benefits” etc)
• Your brand name (or your website’s name)
• Naked URLs
• “click here”, “this website” etc (unrelated words)
In some sense, we’re back to the beginning; practically any anchor text will do. Only be sure to mix them – too much of either kind will probably harm your website; with Google in 2012, diversity is the key
Found this anchor text guide useful? Do share your opinion in the comment section, we would love to hear from you.
Written by Jeff Gross – Edited by Nizam Khan
This is a guest post by Jeff Gross. He is a professional blogger and a SEO expert for over 6 years. Currently, he is working as content contributor at SadrzajSerija and is trying to fix the previous problem they had with too many identical anchors.