Link Building: The Anchor Text

In this article we will discuss link building practices. Instead of focusing on methods, however, we focus on what you need to do when you put the methods into action. Specifically, we’re going to pay special attention to anchor text: what it is, why it’s important, and how to use it correctly so that the search engines will notice you and not penalize you.

Search Engines and Links

In the early days search engines relied on meta-data and on-page analysis to analyze and rank websites. Search engine optimizers decoded ranking algorithms and started stuffing keywords in meta tags, titles, H tags and paragraphs, producing low value, spammy, but high-ranking pages.

Search engines were flooded with spam, because it was too easy to manipulate results. There was a need for better algorithms. That’s when Google arrived with Page Rank and changed the game. Instead of looking at on-page factors, page rank analyzed links throughout the World Wide Web. The formula was clearly a winner, as Google gave credit to super-hub sites in most industries and left the spam out. A new era of SEO arrived – the era of links.

Search engines, especially Google, look at hundreds of link factors. Some of those factors include:

  • The anchor text of the link

  • The site from which the link comes

  • The age of the link

  • The page on which the link is located

  • The text surrounding the link

  • The real page rank of the page (not the one shown in the toolbar)

What is anchor text?

The anchor text of a link is simply the text that you see on the page. You can click on anchor text and hover over it. Anchor text shows the actual words associated with a link, while the address of the web page is hidden in the code. Here’s an example:

<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_text">anchor text </a>

And here’s how it looks: anchor text

You do need to know some HTML for search engine optimization, so if the above example seems unclear to you, you will want to brush up on your knowledge of HTML. 

Anchor text is one of the most important factors that affects your rankings. Here’s what Aaron Wall has to say about anchor text:

You can see how powerful this is just by adding a new related word or two in your inbound anchor text and seeing how quickly you start ranking for phrases including that word.”

A great example of the power of anchor text was demonstrated when several bloggers pulled a little prank on G. W. Bush and linked to Bush’s bio located at whitehouse.gov using the anchor text “miserable failure.” As a result, Bush ranked #1 on Google for “miserable failure.”

This is called a Google Bomb. Though Google has defused Google Bombs, you can see how powerful anchor text is in search engine optimization.

To get the best SEO results, vary your anchor text. If you want to rank for “home mortgage,” don’t get 100 links that all say “home mortgage.” Search engines will figure out you’re optimizing and penalize your website. This is exactly what happened to GoCompare, which used overly aggressive link building tactics. Google spotted it and “slapped” the website. As a result their traffic went down 80%.

Here’s how your anchor links should look if you’re optimizing for the phrase “home mortgage.”

  • Your Brand (whatever it is)

  • “home mortgage”

  • yoursite.com

  • click here (next to keyword rich description)

  • “home mortgage loan,” “mortgage loan,” "home loans," "home loans for mortgage," etc.

The point is to create natural-looking links. If other webmasters would link to you, how would they do it? Would it be your brand name, article name or something else? Mix those links with your top keyword.

Reserve the Top Anchor Text For Authoritative Websites

A basic link (a simple address without keywords) from an authoritative website is more valuable than 10 keyword-rich links from low and mediocre websites. For this purpose, if you can get links from authoritative websites, save your anchor text for those sites. It is better to get “home mortgage” from three authoritative websites and get 20 links with different anchor text from lower quality sites (remember you need to vary the text) than the other way around.

With variation in mind, you are somewhat limited as to the number of times you can use your top keyword phrase in anchor text, so keep it for the best and most authoritative sites you can.

Age of the Link

A one-year-old link is more valuable than a two-week-old one. If you have old links pointing to a page, make sure to keep that page live. If you must redirect, learn about search engine friendly 301 redirects.

If you’re in the mortgage business and get links from flower websites, those links will not count. You must get links from relevant, financially focused sites. Links from insurance sites, on the other hand, are still valuable, since insurance is topically related to financial markets, and the phrases “insurance” and “mortgage” often occur on the same page throughout the Internet.

It’s pretty straightforward. Just think of how much the site is related to your industry. If it’s close, than the link will be of value.

Search engines also look at the text surrounding the link. If, for example, you get a link in the middle of an article which has a lot of related content, then this link is more valuable than the exact same link from a page that doesn’t have this content. There’s actually a little industry created around this, where you pay bloggers to write theme-related articles and include links to your website in the middle of the content.

Again, you have to be careful with this. If you go out on forums, give out your address and say that you want to buy links from blogs, you can be sure that Google will find out. The key here is to keep a low profile and make sure that you DO NOT mention “buy links,” “sponsor” or similar keywords and your website address in one place.

Use Anchor Text To Get Long Tail Phrases

As you get links, do not forget long tail phrases. Long tail phrases not only convert better, but are easier to rank for. If you optimize for “home mortgage,” for instance, be sure to throw in longer phrases like “home mortgage loan lender” and “home mortgage loan company.” This way you can rank earlier in the search results, make some sales and vary your link profile without affecting your progress in getting a top ranking.

Follow the variety rule and don’t get 20 “home mortgage loan lender” links. The more natural you appear, the better.

Getting Links From Directories

When including your site in a directory, the goal is to get the best listing you can in the most relevant sections. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Submit to the correct category.

  • Check other websites in the same category. See if they have keyword stuffed descriptions. If so, then you can assume it’s safe to get aggressive with your description. If the descriptions are mild, then make your description look natural, because you may get penalized by the editors.

  • If you’re submitting to high quality directories, make sure to mention why your site deserves to be in the directory. How are you different from 1000 similar sites? Why would visitors find your site special?

Be sure to clearly state the anchor text you want when you’re doing reciprocal linking. If a webmaster proposes “super keyword rich links” to you, then they shouldn’t have a problem giving you the same.

Include a link to the page in your email where you have the link to the site for which you’re asking. This shows professionalism and efficiency. Most people are nice, so you’ll likely get a link back.

Be personal in the email. People encounter a lot of fakeness and put-on “niceness” throughout the day, so being to the point, while speaking as though you know someone, gets warmer responses. Don’t cross the boundary, of course; keep in mind some basic standards. Still, it’s a good idea to throw away the official garbage.

It’s important to have value on your site, because personally, having a quality website, I do not want to link out to a low quality site, even if I’m doing search engine optimization. This brings us to the core of SEO – give and receive. If you can give a lot, you will receive a lot. If I benefit my visitors by pointing to your pages, I will do it on my own, without requests, so be sure to invest heavily of both time and money in your website first. Invest in links second.

Over the years, Google has gotten better at detecting link exchanges, so the time spent asking for links can be invested in content and site development to entice more of the natural links.

Go for reciprocal links only from valuable resources. Hundreds of mediocre link trades have no value. The tactic has been overused and abused, so search engines discount the value of reciprocals. The best ways to get links in today’s web economy is to invest heavily in content. Content may be written, or it may come in the form of software, tools, entertainment or whatever makes your industry tick. Check forums and social networks to learn what people want. Then give it to them.

More link building methods.

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