Off-Page SEO Factors – Anchor Text

Links on a Web page are generated with the anchor element. The content that is clickable on the page is contained between the open <a> and close </a> tags. The open anchor tag contains the href attribute, the value of which is the page being linked to. Links generally contain either text or images. Here is an example of a link from our site header:

<a href="http://www.seocipher.com/">Home</a>

This link happens to be a text-based link. The href is the URL of the SEO Cipher home page, and the anchor text is "Home", which we have bolded above.

Images can also be used as part of the anchor element, as shown in the example below:

<a href="http://www.seocipher.com/"><img id="logo" src="http://www.seocipher.com/web_color100_left.jpg" alt="SEO Cipher" title="SEO Cipher" /></a>

In certain instances, some search engines will use the ALT attribute of an image and weight as they would the anchor text of a text-based link. We have highlighted the ALT attribute content in our example above.

How does anchor text affect search engine optimization?

Search engines use anchor text to determine what the topic of the destination page is. In other words, if a page is linked to with the anchor text "how to play poker", then the search engines assume that the page contains information about how to play poker. The page will have a better chance of ranking for that keyword (and related/similar keywords) as a result.

Although keyword-rich anchor text is still a good link attribute for SEO, its value has been discounted over the past several years. Search engines have decreased the value of anchor text because spammers have taken advantage of it. You should still try to use keywords in anchor text throughout your site, but you should avoid stuffing keywords into navigational links that will appear globally or on extremely large numbers of pages. Google may filter your site from ranking for those keywords as a result, especially if you don't have any third party links to reinforce the theme of the page. Additionally, if you are able to effectively build external links to your site, you should try to use varying anchor text. It looks unnatural if a certain keyword appears in a large percentage of your external inbound links.

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