Anchor text is another area where there can be a lot of discussions and, I believe, analysis paralysis. In the world of SEO, we often reverse engineer to try to understand ranking factors. We take a look at what pages are successful and then put all of the data from large samples of those successful pages, and see what they have in common. It leads to one of the most heard phrases in SEO, especially when dealing with ranking factors. “Correlation does not equal causation”. That being said, some correlations do seem to matter consistently. As I’ve written in the past, sometimes meanings change and there is nuance or arguments over semantics.
On the heels of a recent article in Search Engine Journal about anchor text ratios for SEO, I wanted to try to explain to small business owners how I believe this works. One of the reasons I love SEO is that it is a nice blend of art and science. Often, the scientist brains in the field are searching for solid metrics or numbers to work to. This is where anchor text ratios come from. They want to be able to sculpt and work to a specific number. The art side of SEO wants to write great content that is useful and entertaining to the user. That takes uniqueness and individuality.
What is Anchor Text?
Let’s step back a second. What is anchor text? Sometimes we get going on an argument and those that just dip their toe in the industry aren’t totally sure what the basic premise is, and then just get lost from there. Anchor text is the text that is actually used for the link in a piece of content. The below image will illustrate this. In the paragraph, the highlighted words link to other pages as references, examples, or extra info on the subject. Sometimes this text is relevant wording and other times it is something generic like “Click here” or “here”.
Anchor Text Ratios
The science minds look at the big sets of data and the text that is being used and decide that there are certain ratios that are optimal because they generally agree with what the data says works or the correlations. As is the case with many of the content-related signals for the Google algorithm, this may have been more cut and dried in the past, but I believe to be much more nuanced now. First and foremost, links are supposed to come naturally because you have great content that people want to link to. In that sense, you shouldn’t have control to sculpt or control what words other site owners use to link to your content. Therefore, aiming for a ratio is somewhat contrived. However, I understand the science mind wanting to try to control the signals as much as they can. In actuality, the data is measuring what played out in the real world and the ratios are the results of some sculpting, but also a lot of natural links by content creators naturally linking to your content in the context of their own article or piece of information. They will link to it in the best way for the user optimally. That may or may not include the keyword you are aiming for.
Though it may have been more important in the past, as the keyword evolves to a more wholistic meaning, where the context and information around a keyword are important for the ranking as much as the keyword itself. This is most likely the case for anchor text as well. The paragraph and words around the link to your site tell Google what the link means. It is all about context and how the information is shared with the user. I would view anchor text data as more of a way to see red flags of clearly contrived links than as a ranking signal. A site with 90% of their links using the exact same keyword is not natural and screams out link manipulation. That is where I think link ratios matter most. We may use them to see why a site may have dropped in the rankings. Google has figured out that they aren’t natural.
The Bottom Line for Small Businesses and Anchor Text
If your small business can get a link from a blog or news site, or even your chamber or a local charity, the link is more important than the link text. Links are supposed to be natural and if someone is willing to link to you with your main keywords, that may be helpful to you and the user. The user would view you as a good source of that information as seen by the referring site. However, this isn’t something to get overly concerned about. Especially as a DYI SEO. Getting that link relationship is the most important and if you are spending time worrying about the wording someone uses and it takes away from time getting other links or even costs you that link, it isn’t worth it.
For your own internal links on your site, it is worth looking at. You should always be thinking about the user and should add convenient links in your content when referring to the products and services you offer on other portions of your site. This makes it easy for the user to jump back over to your main product or service page if they would like when reading something more in-depth. In this case, it is helpful to have relevant and helpful anchor text that helps explain where they are going. Here you can use the general label of where you are sending them. In this case, it is natural anchor text sculpting that is good for the user. Both you and Google are working for your users. Again, always think of your users. You are in business for your customers.