Anchor text can help provide users with context; however, is it also an important Google indexing factor? Learn more about the full article here.
Search engine optimization (SEO) with keyword-rich anchor texts has been a long-standing best SEO practice.
It’s a method to let search engines know about the type of web page you’re linking towards. It is believed to play an essential role in determining the website’s ranking in the results of a search.
Anchor text refers to the words or phrases the user clicks to access an URL linked to an article of text.
Anchor text can help give context to visitors to the site they’re about to visit. However, will it affect anything on ranking in search results?
Here are the claims made about anchor words as a factor in ranking, then the evidence that either confirms or disproves these claims.
The Claim: Anchor Text as a Ranking Factor
Anchor text is considered a ranking element in that it aids search engines in identifying URLs with specific keywords or keywords.
The significance of anchor text isn’t just limited only to the things search engines could accomplish with it. It’s also vital to ensure a great user experience by improving the accessibility of websites.
Optimization techniques on the web that enhance the user experience will likely improve search engine rankings. This is why anchor text is often listed as a top-ranking element.
The best general rule of thumb in the case of improving websites’ SEO is to ensure that SEO adheres to the user’s experience.
When a website is constructed to offer the best experience for visitors, the site is usually optimized for the search engines in turn. This isn’t always the case; however, you’ll realize that it is true in the case of anchor text.
How Does Anchor Text Fit With SEO?
Google can get an idea of the webpage linked to (the intended site) based on the anchor text’s words. If a website is linked to a URL using the anchor word “top 10 pizza places in NYC,” then Google can determine what kind of site users are directed to.
When you use generic words (e.g., “click here”), It’s not evident to Google what the site is about. As a website would include descriptive text to help users and users, it should be able to do the same for Google.
Anchor text improves users’ experience by enhancing it in various ways. When a user is looking through an article, the descriptive anchor text can assist them in identifying the pages they’re searching for.
For instance, if users click to read an article which makes a wildly false claim, they might wish to look through the article to determine the origin of the claim.
In such a scenario, the anchor text would not assist users in finding the page they require. It also gives Google little about the destination page. This is why it is suggested to use descriptive anchor text over generic words or phrases.
A different but less conspicuous method of improving users’ experience via accessibility. Imagine how the experience would be for a person with a visual impairment.
People who are blind or visually impaired depend on screen readers to navigate the internet. This requires software that can read all the text on a webpage and even links the user navigates around a website.
If a user is told to “click here” or “read more” for every link they find on a website, they don’t find it helpful. In fact, it could be a complete disappointment, and they might decide not to return to the site the next time.
Accessibility is essential to provide an excellent user experience. Even if you believe it’s not relevant to your target audience, it’s essential for search engines such as Google.
After all that, now is the time to address whether anchor text is an indicator of rank?
The Evidence for Anchor Text as a Ranking Factor
Yes, anchor text is an essential factor in ranking.
Utilizing descriptive anchor text when adding links to pages is recommended as described within Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
SEO is an enormous subject to absorb for those who are just beginning however it’s not an obscure science. Google is determined to give users the best results and requires the collaboration of website owners to accomplish this.
This is why Google clarifies what it expects website owners to do when optimizing their pages to be indexed by the search engines it uses.
If you are optimizing your website to rank in Google, it is essential to pay attention to Google. So, what is it that Google tells us about anchor words?
From Google’s SEO Starter Guide:
“…the more relevant the anchor text you use, the more straightforward it is for users to navigate it and for Google to comprehend the content of the page you’re linking to.
If the anchor text is used correctly, Search engines and users can easily discern what pages are linked to include.”
The Starter Guide continues to suggest these best practices:
- Select descriptive text instead of general or off-topic texts.
- Write a short text rather than a long paragraph or a whole paragraph.
- Make them visible since they need to be easily discernible from standard text.
- Use descriptive text to create internal hyperlinks. However, avoid the overuse of keywords.
In the last few days, John Mueller from Google John Mueller confirmed anchor text remains a critical ranking factor in one of his frequent Q&A sessions with the SEO group.
The subject of anchor text is often discussed during Mueller’s Q&As. Here’s another example: this time, Mueller talks about questions about the user experience that anchor texts provide.:
“If you’re changing internal anchor texts to ensure it’s easier comprehendable by users, this also aids search engines in better comprehending the context of the pages. Therefore, I’d definitely opt for it.”
It is impossible to talk about anchor text as a ranking factor without talking about how crucial it was during the beginning days of SEO. Google’s guidelines regarding not using too many keyword phrases within anchor texts are a remembrance of how this signal was used earlier.
It was easy for websites to alter their rankings by creating links with exact keywords for anchor text. Anchor text was weighed such that websites could rank for terms which never appeared in the text on the page.
For those who have been around for a long time, SEO experts might remember that Adobe was once ranked for the phrase “click here” because that was the most common anchor text site owners used to link with PDF files.
Google eventually realized the extent to which its overvaluation of anchor texts was used by spammers. The company addressed the problem in 2012 by launching its Penguin algorithm upgrade that targeted manipulative link-building strategies.
Nowadays, websites that attempt to manipulate their search results by using anchor text that is an exact match will be more likely to see their efforts discarded rather than be rewarded.
Anchor Text as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Google confirms that anchor text is utilized in the search results to aid in understanding the pages. This can aid in getting the pages found by relevant searches.
The power of anchor words as ranking factors isn’t near the heights before Penguin, where sites could rank for phrases of their choice by creating sufficient keyword-rich links.
But anchor text is crucial for the process of optimizing search engines.