Elsewhere in our blog, we’ve covered the idea of backlinks and the importance of building a portfolio of them to your site. When a search engine sees a healthy grouping of links pointing to your site from the rest of the web, they think that it’s a strong indicator of your site’s value. However, not all backlinks are created equally. Those that come from reputable websites are more powerful than those that come from suspicious ones and, as we’ll discuss here, even the anchor text that is used for a backlink is a factor in how much weight it carries.
Backlinks: A Refresher
A backlink is a link to your site, from another site. Search engines count the number of links that go to a site from other sites knowing that, the higher that number, the more likely it is seen as a legitimate website, full of information that search engine users are interested in seeing. As a result, websites with a high number of backlinks to it have better search engine rankings than those that have a low number.
However, as we just covered in our blog about J.C. Penney’s black hat backlink move, if this were all so simple, it would easily be abused. That’s why it’s not so simple. Search engines have piled nuance upon nuance when they look at backlinks, making some of them good for your site, some of them less good, and a few even bad for your site.
One of the factors that search engines notice in a backlink is that link’s anchor text. Anchor text is the actual word(s) that a link is attached to. Here’s an example:
There are three links there. The first is a link to www.myersfreelance.com, with the anchor text “Myers Freelance”. The second is, again, a link to www.myersfreelance.com, with the anchor text “legal blogs”. The third is a link to www.myersfreelance.com/blog, with the anchor text “click here”.
Link 1 is an example of solid anchor text usage. It links to the homepage of Myers Freelance, and has anchor text that, literally, reads “Myers Freelance”. The anchor text tells the search engine what the page is about, pushing the search engine to rank it better for searches associated with “Myers Freelance,” which is one of the site’s targeted keywords.
On the other end of the spectrum, link 3 is an example of how not to write anchor text. When a search engine sees a link to the Myers Freelance Blog, but with the associated anchor text of “click here,” what does that say about the Myers Freelance Blog? The ranking boost that this backlink provides is muted by the fact that the anchor text is something irrelevant to the site it is pointing to.
Finally, there’s link 2. It has all the same characteristics of link 1 – a backlink to another site, dressed in anchor text that is one of that site’s targeted keywords – but with one crucial difference. Link 2 is the second link pointing to the Myers Freelance Homepage. When there are multiple links going to the same destination, Google only reads the anchor text for the first link. Link 2’s anchor text – “legal blogs” – is ignored.