Choosing your anchor text for incoming links

It would be pretty nice if we could just select our top chosen keyword phrase as our anchor text and then use it for all incoming links we gather for our website. Unfortunately, it isn’t year 2000, and this technique just doesn’t hold the weight it once did, not to mention the fact that you very likely have more than one keyword phrase you want to rank well for.

So this brings us to the question of not only how to choose anchor text for brand new incoming links, but to also use anchor text in a way to make your backlinks look as natural as possible (even if they aren’t!) to the Google (and other search engine) powers-that-be. Here are some tips when it comes to selecting that crucial anchor text as well as things to consider once you start gathering (or buying) backlinks.

But first off, what is anchor text? Anchor text refers to the text used in your linking structure. And the keywords you use contributes to relevancy on the page it links to, meaning that Google (and the other search engines) will give a bit of a boost to that page when someone searches for that phrase. Now, keep in mind that you will need to utilize other optimization techniques in order to rank for that phrase, unless it is a totally non-competitive phrase. But your anchor text is definitely one of the factors used in the ranking algorithm to decide which pages rank higher than others.

For example, if I was linking to JenSense, linking with the phrase “contextual advertising” or “Google AdSense” would make a lot more sense than using “Jen’s blog” or a slightly less relevant keyword phrase.

Another important reason to ensure you vary up those incoming links, especially if they are paid links, is that having variety in the anchor text of your inbound links is a signal that those links are natural. If you go out and get/buy 500 links, and every single one of those links has “buy green widgets” as the anchor text, there is definitely nothing natural looking about that. Same with using only two or three anchor phrases, and splitting it evenly across all 500 of those links.

Concerned if most people link to you without getting your input for chosen link phrase? Don’t worry about it. Natural linking (where you aren’t supplying the linkage information) tends to have variety in anchor text, where people most often link using the site name or a top product or service the site sells, so variety shouldn’t be an issue at all.

So definitely ensure you have variety in your anchor text, even going so far as having some links linked with “click here”, your company/website name or simply your URL. Then make a list of all the possible anchor text combinations and when you get a new link, choose a different keyword combo off the list. Then once you get more than a handful, you can go back and get additional links for your most important phrases, but again being careful to unevenly distribute the anchor text of those links. Yes, you can definitely give more links to your most important keyword phrases, just resist the tempatation to do them all on your top phrase.

You should also make sure you link using anchor text that is actually relevant to the destination page, ideally a page that includes some or all of the keywords that you are using in each keyword phrase for the anchor text. Because a signal of Googlebombing (making a page rank for a phrase that is not relevant to the page) is irrelevant anchor text, you want to ensure that those keywords are indeed relevant to the page and site so you aren’t inadvertantly discounting those links.

There is also some evidence that Google is looking at keywords surrounding the anchor text as well, so if you are able to suggest or change the text surrounding the linked anchor text, optimizing that entire sentence to include additional keywords (although ensuring the sentence still reads properly) you might see a slight optimization bonus given to the destination page for the additional words or a boost on the linked phrase.

And yes, while we are on the subject of anchor text, you should also consider these factors for your internal linking within your site as well as those sites you link out to. It is worth going back and making changes to ensure when you are internally linking to articles within your own site as something more relevant than “click here” (yes, we all seem to do it at one time or another, usually when in a hurry and not thinking carefully enough!)

Backlinks and anchor text are a crucial part of any search engine optimization campaign. And if you are buying links, rather than obtaining them naturally, following these tips for selecting your anchor text can be even more important if you are trying to make Google et al think they are natural.