Choosing Optimal Anchor Text
First of all, what is anchor text?
Anchor text refers to the words that are attached to the link. When you click on these words, they will open a new web page. Most often, these words can be easily recognized because they appear underlined and in blue.
Information Conveyed Via Anchor Text
Google’s search algorithm analyzes anchor text in order to get certain information about the webpage that it leads to.
The anchor text is often considered a keyword, and for search engine optimization purposes, anchor text leading to your site should be comprised of keywords for which you want to rank.
Likewise, if you were to include an external or outbound link on your own website, it would be a poor choice to use an anchor text composed of keywords you want to keep for yourself. Otherwise you’d be giving your competitors a leg-up.
Anchor text is essentially a beacon that says, “Hey Google! This link has something to do with these words.” The algorithm then factors that in when determining which websites to display first in search results for any given keyword.
But Wait! Don’t Get Penalized
Of course, Internet marketers initially ran with this method of search engine optimization. It used to be common to make all of your anchor text the single most important keyword for your website. Keywords were being monopolized by unnatural anchor text.
Here’s the thing: every website has a “backlink profile” that shows information like where the link is located, which page it leads to and the anchor text that is associated with it. If a website is really the best-of-the-best for a particular topic or keyword, it will have a diverse backlink profile. People will create “organic” (unsolicited) links on their own in response to the website’s inherent usefulness.
These organic links will come with all sorts of anchor text. The anchor text profile for an injury lawyer’s website might look something like this:
… and so on, along with corresponding data such as the number of backlinks associated with each of those anchor texts.
An absolutely unnatural backlink profile would be comprised of links that used the exact same anchor text. In the example above, it would probably be “injury lawyer” appearing 100% of the time.
So the folks at Google got wise to the Internet marketers and began to penalize websites with unnatural backlink profiles. The goal of Google’s search engine is to provide the most relevant, unbiased results possible. Google does not like the fact that people try to cheat the system. That’s part of the reason why the search algorithm is always changing … to keep Internet marketers on their toes and to keep them honest.
Being penalized by Google could mean that a site is utterly invisible in the search results, and this is a nightmare scenario for any website owner.
And that’s why a diversified anchor text profile is so important.
Different Types of Anchor Texts
To prevent Google’s algorithm from penalizing you for your link building efforts, the anchor text should actually not be very keyword rich. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the more keyword-rich anchor texts pointing to your site, the more suspicious Google gets that you’re intentionally trying to rank high for a certain keyword. And remember, as far as Google is concerned, you’ll rank high if you deserve to rank high.
Of course, for small up-and-coming businesses, it’s quite a struggle to be noticed without a smart marketing plan. You can speed up the process through honest link building, but if you try to cheat the system, expect a penalty.
So let’s look at the different types of anchor texts you can use to keep your link profile looking as natural as possible:
Different types of anchor texts can be mixed together, of course. Try to use a variety of styles when constructing your network of backlinks in order to avoid penalties.
Deciding Which Keywords to Focus On
There are many keyword research tools you can use to help you choose optimal anchor text. Some are free and some are paid. One of the easiest ways to conduct keyword research is to start with Google itself. Start typing a broad keyword into the search box, and see what Google offers up as a suggestion. When you hit enter, you can scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a list of about ten other suggested or related searches. Use these as keyword alternatives.
Take advantage of Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools to find out which keywords are already driving traffic to your site. You can bolster these keywords with a smart link building strategy, and increase your search engine ranking. You can also use Google Trends to stay on top of newly popular keywords.
While this all might seem a little complicated, you’ll do fine if you remember the Golden Rule of anchor texts: make them diverse!