All you need to know

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Keyword rich anchor text has long been a good SEO practice.

Why?

Because it’s a way of signaling to search engines what type of page your link is pointing to. Many believe that this information plays a role in the page’s ranking in search results.

Anchor text refers to words or phrases that a user clicks to visit a URL that is linked in a copy.

Anchor text is useful for providing context to users about the page they’re about to visit, but does it impact search rankings?

Here are the claims about anchor text as a ranking factor, followed by the evidence that supports or disproves those claims.

The claim: anchor text as a ranking factor

Anchor text is considered a ranking factor in the sense that it helps search engines associate URLs with particular keywords or keyphrases.

The importance of anchor text isn’t limited to what search engines can do with it; it is also essential to provide a good user experience by improving the accessibility of the website.

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On-page optimization techniques that improve user experience tend to correlate positively with search rankings, which is another reason you’ll see anchor text listed as a higher ranking factor.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to website optimization is that SEO tracks user experience.

When a website is designed to provide the best experience for human visitors, it often ends up being optimized for search engines. This is not always true, but you will learn that it is true for anchor text.

How does anchor text fit in with SEO?

Google can get an idea of ​​what the page is linked to (the target page) based on the words used in the anchor text. If a page links to a URL that uses the anchor text “New York’s 10 best pizza restaurants,” then Google knows what type of page users are invited to visit.

With generic text (eg “click here”) it is less clear to Google what the target page is talking about. Just as a site would provide descriptive text to help users, so should Google.

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Anchor text improves the user experience in several ways. When a user is browsing a post quickly, descriptive anchor text can help them immediately identify the links they are looking for.

For example, if a user clicks on an article that makes a wild claim, they may want to browse it to find the source of the information.

In a case like this, generic anchor text wouldn’t help users quickly find the link they need. It also doesn’t tell Google anything about the target page. This is why descriptive anchor text is recommended rather than generic words or phrases.

Another, less obvious, way to improve the user experience with anchor text is accessibility. Think about the experience of a visually impaired website visitor.

Blind and visually impaired users use screen readers to browse the web. This involves the use of software to read all of the text on a page, including links, while the user is browsing a website.

If the user hears “click here” or “learn more” for all the links they come across on a page, they won’t find it very useful. In fact, it would be downright frustrating and they might choose to stop visiting the website.

Accessibility is essential to provide a good user experience. Even if you think it’s not important for your specific audience, it’s important for search engines like Google.

That said, it’s time to answer the question: is anchor text a ranking factor?

Evidence of anchor text as a ranking factor

Yes, anchor text is a ranking factor.

Using descriptive anchor text when inserting links on a page is a good practice listed in Google’s SEO starter guide.

SEO can be very difficult for newbies, but it’s not a secret science. Google aims to deliver the most relevant results to users, and it needs the cooperation of site owners to do this.

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This is why Google makes it clear what it wants site owners to do when optimizing pages for its search engine.

When optimizing pages to rank in Google, it is wise to listen to Google. So what does Google say about anchor text?

Of Google SEO starter guide:

“… The better your anchor text, the easier it is for users to navigate and for Google to understand what the page you’re connecting to is about.

With the right anchor text, users and search engines can easily understand what is on linked pages. ”

The Getting Started Guide then goes on to recommend these best practices:

  • Choose descriptive text rather than generic or off-topic text.
  • Write a concise text, rather than a long sentence or a whole paragraph.
  • Make the links visible, as they should be easy to spot among the regular text.
  • Use descriptive text for internal links, but avoid excessive use of keywords.

More recently, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that anchor text is always a ranking factor during one of his Q&A with the SEO community.

The subject of anchor text comes up often in Mueller Q&A. Here is another example; this time, Mueller discusses the user experience aspect of anchor text:

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“If you update the anchor text internally to make it easier for users to understand, it usually helps search engines better understand the context of those pages as well. So I would definitely go for that.

We can’t talk about anchor text as a ranking factor without discussing its importance at the start of SEO. Google’s advice for avoiding keyword overuse in anchor text is a reminder of how this signal has been abused in the past.

Previously, it was easy for sites to manipulate their rankings by building links using exact keywords as anchor text. The anchor text was so weighted that pages could rank for keywords that never even appeared in the copy on the page.

Long-time SEO professionals may remember that Adobe was once classified for the term ‘click here’ because it was a common anchor text used by site owners when creating links to PDF files.

Google finally figured out how its anchor text overvaluation was being abused by spammers. He addressed this issue in 2012 with the release of the Penguin Algorithm Update, which partially targeted manipulative link-building tactics.

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Now, sites that attempt to gamble on their search rankings with exact match anchor text are more likely to have their efforts ignored than rewarded.

Anchor text as a ranking factor: our verdict

Google confirms that anchor text is used in search rankings to better understand pages, which can help make those pages appear for relevant queries.

The strength of anchor text as a ranking factor is nowhere near the level it was before Penguin, when sites could rank for whatever phrase they wanted by building enough keyword-rich links.

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However, anchor text is still important to the search engine optimization process.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita / SearchEngineJournal

Anchor Text as a Google Ranking Factor: Everything You Need to Know


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