When it comes to SEO, you’ve probably heard how important backlinks are. What you may not know is that earning successful backlinks isn’t just about getting any old text in blue on an external site: the words in a link can be nearly as important as the link itself.
Anchor text consists of the words that make up the visible part of a link. (For instance, in the last sentence, “link” is the anchor text for the actual link location: https://placester.com.) Anchor text provides a description of the content you’ll find at the web page the link points to.
This holds true not just for humans, but for search engines as well. When you create a backlink, you’re telling Google and Bing that this external webpage is trustworthy and of high quality.
But search engine bots don’t explore the web like we do: following links, consuming and judging content, returning to the source of the link, etc. Instead, they crawl one page at a time. That means they need to be told what the webpage at the other end of a link is about—and since URLs are often inadequate for this purpose, good anchor text is key in getting backlinks that boost your ranking for your target keywords.
What should you use for anchor text? Well, the best anchor text provides a balance between descriptive information about the content users will find when they follow the link, and natural flow of the content users are reading. Push your keywords and phrases too hard, and you’ll end up with a link that looks spammy and detracts from the content around it.
On the other end, words like “click here” and “website” don’t give search engines any information to go on. Instead, try to fold a keyword or two into an smooth, organic sentence.
Keep in mind, too, that search engines only consider the first instance of a link on a page, so no matter how good your anchor text is in the footer, Google won’t count it.
Alas, most of the time, backlinks are something you receive, not something you create. Consequently, your anchor text is usually at the mercy of the site owners who share links to your content—some of whom you know, many of whom you don’t. Nevertheless, there are a few ways you can exercise some control over your anchor text.
Sharing. Whenever you share a link with someone, whether via email or social media, make sure to offer a link that’s already been “branded” with your ideal anchor text. This way, you can start influencing the conversation about your content even before people start to share it.
Guest posts. Take your control to the next level by writing the content yourself. If you’re serious about raising your profile as a blogger, you should already be seeking out opportunities to contribute guest posts to existing blogs. Guest posts give you the opportunity to create solid backlinks not only in the body of a blog, but also in a bio or about-the-author section.
Article submissions. Similar to guest posting, submitting informative articles to places like GoArticles.com based on your expertise in a given subject gives you a chance to create your own backlinks with the anchor text of your choosing.
Blog and forum comments. When you can’t start a conversation about your content, consider contributing something useful to an existing conversation. Try responding to posts by bloggers with a large following. Surf questions on popular forums like LinkedIn Answers and weigh in. You’ll need to offer more than “nice post” or “find your answer at this link” to gain traction here. You’re competing with every other commenter, so be provocative and insightful. Demonstrate that you and your content are worth knowing.
Search engines also use the text surrounding links to draw conclusions about the webpages behind them, so if you get a backlink with a weak description, you still have a chance to earn some SEO juice. Nevertheless, if you want to get the most out of your links, take every opportunity to wrap it in quality paper and tie it with a nice anchor text bow.
As the Brand Manager at Placester, it's my goal to cut through all the jargon and provide real estate professionals with insights and strategies for using our solutions to grow their businesses online.