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Anchors Away! Understanding the Role of ‘Anchor Text’ in Google’s Ranking Algorithm

For many years, SEO’ers ‘in the know’ realized that using a Client’s important keywords in Anchor Text was a great way to improve their page’s rankings. However, times have changed, and these days being too obvious about how you link to these pages of your website could prove costly. In this clip, Dave walks us through the concept of anchor text, how it was ‘intended’ to be used, how it was abused, and the future of anchor text in an ever changing Google landscape. (p.s. – there *may* have been a Halloween Store on the way to this video shoot. Argh.)

Video Transcription –

(Pirate voice) “Ahoy Thar! Have you ever been to SEA…O? S-E-O” (end pirate voice)… search engine optimization? No, well (pirate voice again) “in any event, welcome to a video titled ‘Anchors Away!’ All about anchor” (end pirate voice)… text. Anchor text. No? (sound effect: wah wah wah)

Anyways, welcome to our video on anchor text, in which we hope to cover: what is anchor text, how is anchor text used? How was it abused? And what is the future of anchor text?

Well, let’s start off talking about: what is anchor text? If we take a look at a link on a website – anchor text is actually the text – the words that make up the substance of a link. So, looking at these three examples here, in this example, the anchor text would be “Adster Creative.” In our second example, the anchor text would be “click here.” And in the third example, our anchor text would be “Edmonton Web Design.”

Now, anchor text is used by search engines like Google to determine what the link is pointing to – the webpage the link is pointing to, what that page might be about. So, in our first example, with anchor text, “Adster Creative,” Google might think that this page that’s being linked to is probably about Adster Creative. In our second example, Google might feel that this page might be about “click here,” which isn’t very useful. And in our third example, our anchor text is “Edmonton Web Design,” in which Google might think that this page has something to do with Edmonton web design.

Let’s talk about how anchor text has been abused. Considering that Google uses this anchor text to determine what a page might be about, using anchor text, using competitive anchor text like in our third example here, “Edmonton Web Design,” may make Google think that this particular page or this site is relevant to Edmonton web design. Now, I tell you for a fact that “Edmonton Web Design” is a very competitive keyword, and therefore, getting a bunch of anchor text in place that tells Google that our site is about Edmonton web design could prove to be very beneficial and help us rank better.

And you know, the issue or the problem was, is that for a long time, it didn’t matter how much of this anchor text you used or where the anchor text was, anytime you had a link that said “Edmonton Web Design” and it pointed to another page voted for it with that anchor, and ultimately, pushed it up in the rankings. Now, over the last couple of months, Google has been really really cracking down on people that have abused this anchor text. And it helps us to, or it causes us to think about, well, should we be doing away with anchor text? Should we not be using key words in anchor text? What percentage of key words should we use in our anchor text?

What I like to tell customers when thinking about how to use anchor text and the future of anchor text, think about how you might describe a business as it came up in a normal conversation you might hear. Like, “Hey, you know, we should go down to see my friend Troy over at his restaurant The Poor House. Poor House, good restaurant here in Edmonton.” You wouldn’t say, “Hey, let’s go over and visit Troy at Best Restaurant in Edmonton.” You wouldn’t say that, and neither should you use anchor text that way intentionally.

As you can see, anchor text is a very powerful way for Google to determine what a page might be about, however it can also be used as a signal to tell Google that you are intentionally trying to manipulate its search engine rankings. So, in talking about the future of anchor text, ranking factors are moving away from – and they have been for a long time – moving away from precise anchor text match. It’s becoming more about what is the overall substance of this page about that we’re linking to from, how much authority does this page have that the link is contained on. And ultimately, how much trust in authority does the entire website have that this link is coming off of.

So, that is a video on anchor text. And if you have any questions about anchor text, or search engine optimization, (pirate voice again) “Our Door” is always open. We’ll see you back here soon.