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The link magic of anchor text

January 29th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Even if a keyword doesn’t appear on your Web page, you may end up with high search engine rankings for it, if enough other pages link to it using that keyword or related keywords. That explains the long-time search results for “miserable failure” on Yahoo (and Google too, before they fixed their algorithms.)

Your visitors want to assume that your clickable text, usually called anchor text, indicates exactly what they will see after they’ve clicked on it. Here’s a bigger challenge: can you write anchor text so informative that it can make clicking unnecessary? Here’s a possible example:

This spring, if you want to drop courses with no penalty, the Q-drop deadline is April 6, 2009.

Anchor text should only be a few words long, so make it pack a punch. Don’t dilute its power by making it excessively long, or by adding irrelevant keywords.

Use descriptive, short anchor text. Sometimes it can be the first part of the page title, which you’ve already carefully crafted, right? You shouldn’t use the URL as the anchor text, unless you want to promote the URL itself. Anchor text should be able to stand on its own and make sense on its own. Avoid using anchor text that has no meaning in itself, such as “Click here” or “here” or “there”. Bloggers sometimes use such vague anchor text (as I did above), but they do it to be cute or playful, not to increase their usability or accessibility. Your navigation menu is a more serious affair.

Anchor text is a vote. By linking to a page, you’re voting for it, recommending it (“Lincoln for President”). The linking text specifies how you’re voting for it (“Lincoln for Congress”). We gave more examples when we discussed Google’s concept of Page Rank.

Get others to link to you. Obviously, if anchor text is a vote, you can’t win an election if you’re the only one voting. Your page’s search engine rankings will increase as more pages (including your own) link to you – using relevant anchor text, of course. Stuffing your links with irrelevant keywords won’t help your visitors in the short run, and it won’t help you in the long run. In a future post, we’ll talk about link building – how to get more links to your page.

Links should look like links. Don’t make your visitors play Minesweeper or Battleship to find them on your page. Sighted visitors are used to links being underlined and blue. At least make them look different from the rest of the text. Make sure that they can tell which links they’ve visited and which they haven’t.

Next in our series on search engine optimization: how to use heading tags effectively.

Thursday, January 29th, 2009 Search
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1 Comment to The link magic of anchor text

  1. […] our next thrilling installment on search engine optimization: the weighty subject of anchor text. Want to […]

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