What should you use as link anchor text?

You’re an SEO, or a marketer that has a bit of knowledge about SEO and you’re thinking about how to implement a SEO strategy going forwards following the changes to the way Google ranks websites over the past year and a bit.

We’re in a Post-Panda world and it will never be the same again. In this brave new world we’ve got to think about how the SEO community has abused things and work back from there, looking specifically at the things Google has already shut down and the things they are telling us they are going to roll out and then try to imagine how.

Although I’m going to be looking at anchor text use, if you’re wondering about the recent changes in search that you really need to be thinking about these are the elements that you need to think about more carefully:

  • Duplicate content
  • Blog Networks
  • Scraped content
  • Spun content
  • Link Anchor Text
  • Semantic Search

How should you use Anchor Text?

For this post I’m going to look at anchor text – this is a follow-up in many ways to the last post I wrote about Google shutting down anchor text as a ranking factor.

Anchor text is the text that is used for a link, traditionally, this was Google’s best method for working out what the link was about and what strength should be passed through to the destination URL from the referring URL. They improved this system by working out how much the anchor text of the link was related to the context of the surrounding page it was on, thus article marketing, press releases, blogs all became the most effective method of marketing a product. The thing is, this created a lot of rubbish content on the internet, the type of content really didn’t want to have to crawl through because they knew it added very little, if anything to the end user, if we’re being totally honest they probably had to do something about it because it was costing them so much more money in server costs to have to keep processing all the additional content their algorithm has been making marketers create.

Should you use exact match anchor text?

Exact match anchor text is when you select the exact word or phrase you want someone who’s carrying out a search to use to find your website, it passes the strength back to that website for that term. Historically this was the best way to go about getting a ranking and the more of those you had the more likely your site was to rank for that phrase, I think it’s still fair to say exact match anchor text will play a part, there are times when using exact match anchor text in a blog post or on your site is exactly the right way to go about things, I think if you’ve got a lot of legacy links that are all exact match anchor text you also won’t have to worry too much. However, if you are still creating lots and lots of exact match anchor text links back to your website you should probably review your link building procedure.

Should you use partial match anchor text?

Partial match anchor text is when you get have the exact match keyword or phrase within the link, with additional words that may or may not be keywords. This is a better way of going about things, they look more natural and can be seen accross the blogosphere, where the writers use descriptive anchor text that are often a short sentence long rather than 2 or 3 words. I’d also argue that these give Google less chance to decide you’re trying to game the system and in fact what keywords you are looking to use to game the system.

Should you use call to actions in anchor text?

Back in the golden olden days of the internet every website you went to used anchor text that range from visit the website to click here, from read more to view here. It’s a fact that Adobe is probably the best ranking website out there for phrases such as Click Here. When Google came along and make link the central feature of their ranking algorithm SEOs starting saying (and Google’s Webmaster Guidelines still say) links should be descriptive, the thing is SEOs knew that if you stopped using click here in your link you would be able to get the website to rank for the keywords you used in its place.

Over recent years Google has started to work out the relevance of the link to the the page it’s on and the destination page. This was a great leap forward because it meant they wouldn’t count as highly any link that came in from a page that wasn’t about the subject of the link or the destination page, so what did SEOs and online marketers do? theyh created loads of content that was relevant to the link on the page. Simple. Google scratched its head for a while.

The thing is – the signals that tell Google that the referrer is relevant to the link, and the link to the destination page has a stage that can be cut out, namely is the referring page relevant to the destination page, Google works this out using contextual semantics. Easy. So if they can do that why do they have to consider anchor text at all? Probably because that’s how half the web works and they have to give us time to change it, hence their announcement that they will be moving towards semantic search.

So if you think about those factors then it is more probable that using a word or phrase such as click here or view more etc is actually more akin to the way we use language offline. I am now advocating that more often than not we should be mixing click here and view more and learn more as part of the anchor text structure as long as it comes in from a page that is contextually relevant to the destination page.

Should you use brand terms in your anchor text?

Further to the use of call to actions it’s definitely a good idea to start thinking more and more about using brand keywords as anchor text in your link building campaigns. Since 2009 Google has been looking more and more about what makes a website a brand in its own rights, and it’s pretty obvious that people will link out to you using your website or businesses brand. If you’re not doing it already (and lots of SEOs won’t be) it’s time you start addingn this into your strategy.

Conclusion

Google has said that they are going to change the way the are reviewing anchor text. I really don’t think that they are going to stop using anchor text in every occassion however I’d suggest it’s important to start thinking about the anchor text you use, both on site and offsite. I’d suggest it’s more appropriate to have exact anchor text onsite than it is offsite – although there will be occassions where exact match anchor text is appropriate offsite as well.

I’d suggest coming up with a formula of what percentage you are going to do for each different type of anchor text and personally I’d argue that most of your anchor text should be either brand focussed or call to action focussed with a lesser extent partial anchor text and then a relatively small percentage being exact match anchor text.

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