SEO Mechanics - Anchor Text

The Internet has done a lot to make it easier to spread and digest information at a faster pace than ever before, but the really great thing that Web content is able to do is insert supplementary information right into the text on a page in the form of a hyperlink. However, what many up-and-coming Web pros don't realize is that these hyperlinks, when paired with the right anchor text, can actually play a significant role in improving their SEO efforts, as well.

Quite simply, "anchor text" is just the clickable text in a hyperlink; that is, those specific characters and/or words that a hyperlink displays in the text portions of a Web page that link out to other locations or documents on the Web. When it comes to the coding on a page, anchor text looks like this:

Anchor Text

But you may be wondering just what kind of a role this actually plays in search engine optimization. Well, as it turns out, search engines tend to use anchor text to figure out the subject matter of the linked-to Web page or document. This means that they get a chance to learn what a page is all about, so if they see that a number of websites link to the page using terms related to its content, Google, Bing and others will note that the page seems relevant to those keywords, and it will begin to rank the page higher, even if those terms never appear in the actual text. Like at all.

See, since search engines tend to heavily weigh inbound links, it is important that they have as much information as possible about the page's being linked to. In other words, it kind of tells Google or Bing or whoever not only which Web pages the linking site is vouching for, but also why has selected them.

Seems pretty simple, right? The problem is that that many people don't use anchor text correctly, and that makes it difficult for search engines to glean information about the content of the Web page or document being linked to. This more or less cancels out the SEO benefits of using anchor text in the first place.

The Right Anchor Text Says A Lot
For the most part, the biggest problem that people seem to have with anchor text is that they tend to put links inside text that reads something like, "Click Here," "Next," "Read More" or something of that ilk. Of course, by now it should be clear that these sorts of link "descriptions" are inadvisable, as they don't provide any information about the actual contents of the linked-to page, which makes them virtually useless for search engines and, thus, doesn't improve the page's standing in the SERPs.

Instead, anchor text should include targeted or branded keywords often as possible, or at least some sort of descriptive information about the page being linked to. That way, crawlers will be able to quickly find the keywords in their directories.

Just remember that people tend to link to content using anchor text that is made up of either the linked-to website's domain name or the title of the page in question, so by naming your page with particular keywords, you'll be able to ensure that *most* of the links you get should include anchor text with those terms that you want to rank for.

Anchor text is a very powerful tool when it comes to SEO and ranking higher on the search engines, but all of its power comes from being descriptive and helpful, not only to the search engines, but readers, as well. It's important to not force anchor text awkwardly into a Web page; instead, find a way to make it natural and readable, even if that means just including the page title.