You’re Up A Link Creek Without An Anchor

Hey everyone, Happy New Year!  I wanted to start the year off talking about one of the most important components of link popularity – anchor text.

As far as I’m concerned, getting an anchor text link on an authority site ranks right up there with hitting the Powerball or finding out you’re having a baby. The rush is indescribable and something worth celebrating.

Most people involved in SEO knows about anchor text and its benefits; Sphinn has over 250 articles on the subject and the term “anchor text” has already been tweeted 15,000 times in 2009! With that much information flying around it’s difficult to know what to listen to when you’re building links. Let’s look at the strongest component of link popularity and do a little Q&A on the more popular questions surrounding links and anchor text.

A brief history

In 1963 Ted Nelson and Douglas Engelbart coined the term “hypertext” after conducting a research project called Hypertext Editing System, or HES. They got the ball rolling on how links work but it wasn’t until 1993 the first appearance of the term “anchor text” was used by the World Wide Web Consortium in a step-by-step guide on how to embed “hypertext links into the document text”. They also used the term “link label” but that one didn’t seem to stick.

Let’s break it down. What is a hypertext link exactly?

A hypertext link refers to the word(s) placed within an anchor tag or the text between the <a> and </a> tag. This is where the term “anchor text” comes from.  Let’s look at the link:

<a href=”runningshoes.htm”>Running Shoes</a>

The <a denotes the beginning of the anchor tag.

The href is an attribute of the anchor tag and refers to a specific location within a web page.

Running shoes is the anchor text. This is the HTML inside the hyperlink.

</a> finishes (closes) the tag and hypertext link.

We refer to the term “Running Shoes” as the anchor text but really, any verbiage between the tags is anchor text.

Is anchor text as valuable as they say? Do I really need to bother using it?

In a nutshell, yes and yes if you’re interested in ranking well. Anchor text is a query ranking indicator and considered the most powerful component of link popularity. Since link popularity is what (mostly) drives search rankings, I’d say it’s a pretty important part of your SEO program.

But don’t take my word for it. In a rare instance of black and white confirmation, Google posted a comment on their Webmaster Central Blog confirming its importance as a ranking influence. Then Googler (now my Editor:) Vanessa Fox said:

…”How sites link to you has an impact on your traffic from those links, because it describes your site to potential visitors. In addition, anchor text influences the queries your site ranks for in the search results..”

So yeah, getting sites to host your anchor text links is important from a ranking standpoint – and a usability standpoint. I know it’s not easy but you need to try a wide variety of linking tactics and keep at it.

Do internal links using my keywords carry as much weight as links from external pages?

Nope they don’t. Since webmasters control the on-page content they’ve become just that, on-page content. Internal links don’t carry a “vote” like their external counterparts and therefore don’t carry as much weight algorithmically.

Recently we’ve learned the second hyperlink on a webpage is discounted and probably not used toward your overall link popularity factor. Google Engineer Matt Cutts answered a question on this very subject, you can read the whole post (it’s short) and his comments on the Link Spiel.

I keep hearing people talk about .edu links like they’re some sort of Holy Grail. Do they carry more weight as links? Do I need to pull a Rodney Dangerfield and go back to college to snag some .edu links?

I’d highly recommend you rent the movie and save yourself some tuition dough, that whole “edu links are golden” issue really isn’t what it’s made out to be.

There are no TLDs (Top Level Domains) weighted more heavily than others. All links accrue their authority based on the number and type of links pointing at them. By their nature, edu links have higher (visible) PageRank because they’re linked to by other highly credible and authoritative webpages in the academic and business community. If you secure an anchor text link on an .edu page, the weight of the link is no different than if you secure a link on a dot com provided both had the same backlink patterns.

Frequently when we talk about securing links from .edu domains the tactic is focused on getting links from student blogs. Keep in mind student bloggers are a transient bunch, making your partnership potentially short term. We’ve found they prefer communal places like Facebook and MySpace over solitary blogging so they eventually slow down and/or stop blogging all together. If you’re interested in developing link partnerships with colleges and universities, find out what motivates them to link out. Do they have a job placement center? Do they accept discount coupon promotions? Create a link incentive and target the academic and fraternal organizations on campus over individual bloggers.

Another little item regarding colleges: most of your state funded schools require businesses register through the vendor registration office, they won’t do business (which includes hosting links or referring your company) unless you’re a registered vendor with your state or commonwealth. Look for your state portal and search on “vendor”, you’ll find the sign-up spot.

Will It work against me to accumulate a lot of links quickly?

Maybe… maybe not. We’ve launched lots of links without incident but then we’ve heard the opposite from many so we recommend you keep a balanced landscape when you’re building links. If you engage in aggressive linking tactics and accrue a large number of inbound links, chances are you’ve done something promotional to attract attention. Balance that by adding content as you build links.

Keep in mind a natural accrual of links means getting them from a wide variety of sites.  If they’re coming from a “type” of site or have the same PageRank score,  you could be missing a crucial faction of customers as well as raising flags. Keep the content coming and promote your site to your demographic without PageRank prejudice.

A link is a link is a link but links using anchor text phrases your site has been optimized for makes a link golden. Create anchors using optimized keywords and link your way to higher rankings in 2009.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Week Column


About The Author: of and Alliance-Link is based in Fairfax Station Virginia and offers link marketing consultations and content partner services.

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  • seoauditors

    This article has some good information. I would like to add that relevancy and age of the site are also big factors, which can have a positive impact on rankings. We also suggest that you build links in a timely manner and stay away from site wide links.


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