Since Google has come on the scene and become the powerhouse of search it has used links as a way to measure website relevance. Anchor text is one factor in the calculation used to determine the value of those links.
Let’s step back a bit and break each of these pieces down.
Links as a measurement of value & authority.
Google uses inbound links linking to a website to gauge the value of that website. This of course coupled with many other factors. As of 2016, links are still a very strong authority signal from Google in determining the value and authority of a particular website.
The number of inbound links coupled with the types of links create a metric or value in which Google uses in its algorithm to then calculate the value of a particular website. This is then used to determine where that website should rank in Google’s search results.
Anchor text as a measurement of value.
Anchor text is simply the text that is used when linking from one site to another. For example, if an article has the text “click here” and that “click here” text linked over to another website, in that specific instance, “click here” would be considered the anchor text.
When google evaluates links to a website, it does so by looking at the anchor text of that link. It then calculates a linking value based on the anchor text and surrounding text around the link.
Now – The Importance of Anchor Text and Its Diversity
Now that we’ve briefly touched on the components, we take a deeper look at the importance of Anchor Text.
Importance prior to 2010
Prior to 2010 search engines, especially Google, was extremely easy to manipulate by using link building tactics with very heavy anchor text tailored towards the keywords you wanted to rank for. So for example, if I wanted to rank for stuffed penguins on Google in the top of the search results I would create inbound links to my website with the anchor text: “stuffed penguins”. The more exact anchor text I had with “stuffed penguins”, the higher I would rank in Google.
So prior to 2010, anchor text was extremely important in terms of ranking factors, but it was also easy to manipulate.
Importance post 2010
Right around 2010 – 2011 Google started to crack down on anchor text manipulation. So much so, that websites started to get penalized for anchor text that was very heavily keyword phrase focused. This created a shift in the SEO industry, with many website’s working on de-optimizing their keyword phrase heavy anchor text or trying to learn the new ways and adjust strategies off the bat.
This brings us to present day anchor text diversity. Anchor text is still just as important as it was prior to 2010. Anchor text is still a strong signal to Google about what your site is about and what your site should rank for. The difference now is that your anchor text portfolio needs to reflect that of an organic / natural effort. It’s Important to remember that Google has tons of data and can understand what a natural vs unnatural anchor text portfolio looks like.
Because of this shift, I came up with a simple breakdown to help industry professionals ensure they kept anchor text in check and worked towards natural link building methods.
It’s called the Anchor Text Diversity Wheel. It’s important to keep in mind that there are other anchor text diversity charts that exist, but the purpose of my chart is to make it simple. I wanted something that could be presented to bosses, CEO’s and SEO analysts who needed to understand the high level concept — That we need more diversity in anchor text and we need our efforts to start out from an organic / natural perspective —
A Hypothetical Situation
You’re an SEO Analyst at a 100 employee business that sells specialty ribbon. As part of your position / job, you’re tasked with increasing placements for all the major product categories on the ecommerce website, including the Christmas Ribbon category due to the upcoming holiday season. Through research you’ve determined that you want to rank for some of these core keyword phrases:
- christmas ribbon, christmas tree ribbon, wired christmas ribbon and red christmas ribbon
The page on the site you will be targeting is the company’s specific Christmas Ribbon category: http://ultimateribbonexpo.com/ribbon/christmas/ (for illustration purposes only)
A few additional points to note:
- The site is fairly new and has a very limited amount of authority and inbound links to the homepage as well as individual category pages
- The company’s brand name is Ultimate Ribbon Expo
Putting together your strategy to, you determine that creating inbound links to the Christmas ribbon category page is important and needed. Along with that strategy, you come up with a diverse guide of anchor text using the “Anchor Text Diversity Wheel”. It looks something like this:
Anchor text breakdown for inbound links to the Christmas Ribbon category:
- 33% Brand Variation
- Ultimate Ribbon Expo
- Ultimate Ribbon Expo, Inc.
33% Random Variation
- product information
- url: http://ultimateribbonexpo.com/ribbon/christmas/
- compare products
33% Keyword Variation
- Christmas ribbons
- various colored Christmas ribbon
- shop Christmas ribbons
- browse our Christmas tree ribbons online
It’s important to note in this hypothetical situation that this is a made up brand so we’re assuming certain components of this strategy.
Overall, utilizing the anchor text diversity wheel is a great way to help control your anchor text and it’s diversity. It helps provide the understanding that anchor text is extremely important, but it’s also extremely important to ensure diversity and complete natural / organic link building methods for an SEO campaign. It’s also important to note that if you practice organic / natural link building methods from the beginning, anchor text diversity becomes less of an issue and guidelines are within normal limits.
Note that this diversity wheel is only a guideline and is not an exact template to perform better in search engines like Google. It’s to help provide guidance to proper link building. It’s also created as a guide to ensure link building strategies adhere to search engine guidelines about organic link building methods and tactics.
For a more in-depth look at anchor text diversity and the diversity wheel, visit Ki’s blog.