As part of a campaign called Grassroots SEO, this is the second article in a series on how you can make slight alterations to what you are already doing online so that search engines will help your desired content reach more people. The first article, “Clicks Matter,” was posted on Tuesday.
To stay in touch with the campaign, sign up to receive email alerts on Grassroots SEO tips.
Earlier in the week, we discussed how you can click on certain articles when you conduct keyword searches in order to help your preferred content reach more people. Now, let’s talk about a second power search engines not only grant you, but encourage you to use, in order to help your desired content reach more people. It’s called anchor text..
“Anchor text” is the text that is embedded in any hyperlink you post online. For example, the anchor text in David Harmer wants to abolish public schools is “David Harmer wants to abolish public schools.” As another example, the anchor text in Jerry McNerney for Congress is “Jerry McNerney for Congress.”
In the same vein, the anchor text in “click here to learn about David Harmer’s position on public schools,” is “click here.” And, the anchor text in “visit Jerry McNerney’s campaign website at http://www.jerrymcnerney.org/” is “http://www.jerrymcnerney.org/.”
Wikipedia provides a quick, useful descriptive of what anchor text is, and how to generate anchor text in your own hyperlinks. It’s actually kind of tricky for me to show you how to do it while I am using Daily Kos’s html editor, so check out the Wikipedia link to learn more.
Hugely important. In fact, it might be the most important way you interact with search engines, whether you are a blogger or a commenter. The words you include in your anchor text will impact every keyword search on those words in Google and other major search engines.
Your anchor text needs to two things:
- Be descriptive of the URL to which it is linking, and
- Be phrased like a keyword search that other people would actually use
Other than that, it is up to you. So, whether you are blogging or simply posting a comment in a message board, don’t use non-descriptive anchor text like “click here” or “http://www.jerrymcnerney.org/.” Instead, use descriptive anchor text like “David Harmer on public schools” or “Jerry McNerney for Congress.”
Anchor text like “click here” will only impact searches on words like “click,” “here” or click here.” There is even a Wikipedia article on why “click here” is terrible anchor text. It isn’t relevant to the URL you are linking, or keyword searches others will perform on the topic you are discussing.
By contrast, anchor text that includes words like David Harmer or Jerry McNerney is both descriptive of what you are discussing, and will impact searches people make on keywords like “David Harmer and “Jerry McNerney.” Since you are writing about Jerry McNerney or David Harmer, then use anchor text that actually mention Jerry McNerney or David Harmer. Further, since you want to reach other people who are searching for information on David Harmer or Jerry McNerney, then use anchor text which other people will actually use in their keyword searches on David Harmer or Jerry McNerney.
Really, it’s quite simple. And very powerful. If only a few hundred online progressives start using it properly, the impact will be immense.
If you have a blog, these tips about anchor text apply to all the hyperlinks on your website. For example, take care on the content tags you use--make sure they are visible, make sure there are not too many of them, and make sure they are descriptive.
Proper use of anchor text especially goes for your blogroll. Because your blogroll is embedded in the template of your website, the hyperlinks in your blogroll will update in search engines every time you post a front-page article on your blog. So, pay close attention to the anchor text you use in those hyperlinks. Whatever anchor text you use there will reach a lot of people, so make sure it offers an accurate description of both the URL to which it links, and what you want people to see.
Descriptive use of anchor text is not only approved of by Google and other search engines, but they actively encourage you to do it. For example, on pages 16 and 17 of Google’s approved SEO guide (PDF), they make identical points to what I just wrote:
Now, I should note that back in 2006, I encouraged progressive bloggers to use the power of their blogrolls in a coordinated fashion. Even though it had a huge impact--reaching over 700,000 people in 50 key congressional districts, according to the Google ads we ran at the time--I am not encouraging people to do that this time around.
Why not? For one thing, coordinated blogrolling activism like that is not approved of by Google, and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. (Mind you, it was perfectly legal, but Google is the power here, not the law). For another thing, it wouldn’t work anymore, as sudden upshots in the number of identical anchor texts linking to identical URLs are now ignored by Google.
If we use anchor text in combination with the other SEO tips in this campaign, such as the Grassroots SEO tips about searching and clicking, it is going to have a much, much bigger impact than a one-off “blogroll bomb” ever would. As such, rather than just spamming up blogrolls with identical hyperlinks with identical anchor texts in the service of a single, short-term campaign, it’s time that progressives online make a conscious effort to always be using anchor text properly on every topic we discuss.
Descriptive anchor text is something we must do ourselves, and it’s also something we must remind our sisters and brothers to do when we se them falling short. When you see someone not using anchor text properly, post a comment letting them know. Then, show them how to use anchor text in the proper, Google-approved fashion presented above.
The bottom line is this: you would not be posting content online unless you wanted other people to see that content. So, when you are posting content, use short, descriptive anchor text whenever you use a hyperlink. Encourage other progressives do exactly the same, too. It makes a huge difference in getting our message out.
Coming up next in Grassroots SEO: Social Networks.