What is Anchor Text?

Simply, it is the actual clickable text that is displayed for a link.

How does this play into SEO?

Anchor Text is an important signal for Search Engines to determine the quality of a URL. The relevance of the Anchor Text to the content of the URL can either promote, or demote, the quality score of the URL – In some cases, the entire website. (link farming, spamming, etc.)

How does it work?

Let’s take a look at normal everyday usage of links and the websites we land on. You’re reading a news article about a planned gasoline tax hike in California. The article speaks about historical gas prices and how it’s been trending over the last presidential term, international conflicts and political events that may have contributed to the proposed tax hike, and suggests a statewide boycott of gasoline companies on July 4th, Independence Day. The author goes onto suggest that we write a letter to the governor to express our feelings about the tax hike:

Let the Governor know that we’re going to boycott on July 4th against the tax hike!

If we examine this, we can identify the anchor text as “we’re going to boycott” and the target URL is http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php.

Now, while this action flow makes sense to a user, it doesn’t have strong relevance from a SEO perspective; as “we’re going to boycott” is not directly relevant to the content of the governor’s contact page. Search Engines will try to make the connection between the concept of “boycott” and “contact the governor”, and will likely deem the connection to be “related”, but not “relevant”. This equates to a weaker relevancy score, and therefore affect the ranking of the governor’s contact page for queries including the keyword “boycott”. It also diminishes the confidence of search engines that your links are accurate and relevant.

What can I do?

The previous example highlights how the anchor text of a link can affect the relavancy of a URL. While you can’t always control how other people link to your website, you can improve your own internal links. The benefit to this is two-fold. One, you give your users more confidence by providing accurate and relevant links to your content; and two, you give more confidence to search engines to crawl through your links deeper. And that’s the secret to understanding how Anchor Text works and how to use it effectively. This is especially true for cross-linking/promoting content on the rest of your site(s).

Related

Here’s an awesome way to take control of Internal Anchor Text, Page Title, and the URL structure of your WordPress Posts!

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