Search engine optimisation is a complicated topic. Let’s focus on one incredibly powerful technique that is so easily overlooked because it may be physically the smallest, but a the same time the most influential: anchor text.
Anchor text, of course, is the text contained in a hyperlink that leads you to another page. For example, the anchor text in the following link makes it clear what the linked to page is going to be about: learn about our search engine optimisation services.
What your anchor text looks like, and where it is on the page, can affect your page ranking as well as your click-through rate.
When gaining an inbound link from another website, it is in your interest to arrange it so that from time to time the anchor text gives visitors a keyword rich picture of where they will end up if they click on the link. One obvious reason for this is it will encourage visitors to click if they understand the destination webpage. Crucially, however, anchor text pointing to a web page plays a significant role in influencing that page’s ranking in the search engines. Having generic anchor text like “click here” or “read more” or just the URL means you’re losing out on a potential keyword ranking boost.
If having anchor text that is relevant to your company looks out of place on the site it’s coming from, the link is probably not worth having anyway. This is because another thing the search engines consider when ranking your pages for keywords is the content that surrounds anchor text pointing to your site. If your links come from sites that are completely irrelevant to your page, then at best they won’t improve your ranking, and at worst will cause your links to look like spam.
Variety is key
While it is important to include keywords in anchor text, there are a number of reasons why you should use a range of anchor text. Firstly, you can help your page rank for specific keywords that might not be relevant to other pages on your site. Specific anchor text also gains you the best kind of visitors, ones who are interested in your products or services.
Most importantly though, like having duplicate content, having identical anchor text pointing to your site can flag the links as artificial or unnatural. While you will benefit from keyword-rich anchor text up to a certain point, past its peak it may gain you nothing more than a Google penalty that destroys your optimisation efforts. You should make sure the majority of your anchor text looks completely natural, such as your website’s address, using anchor text containing keywords less than 25% of the time.
Location, location, location
What’s the point in having a link if no one can see it? Anchor text above the fold is far more effective for both SEO and gaining traffic than text a site visitor has to scroll down for. Having anchor text that points to your site from within the first header or paragraph of the linking page will have more of an impact on ranking than a mention at the bottom of an article.
As well as where your anchor text is on the page, you should also consider placing it strategically within a keyword-rich paragraph or phrase. Something like “read Hallam’s blog, How to Know Your SEO is Working”, within a paragraph about monitoring your SEO progress, will be much more effective than having the link on its own, not part of a phrase or paragraph. Not only do the search engines recognise your page as being relevant to the keywords that surround links to it, helping it to rank more highly, but you are more likely to have visitors click through to your site if the anchor text is in close proximity to a persuasive call to action.