Over the next couple weeks, I'm going to do a series of posts about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We may dive into some more advanced topics later on, but for the first few we'll stick to the basics as an introduction.
Today's topic is going to cover anchor text. Anchor text is the text that is linked for you to click on that will take you to another page, website or place. Since you're all here, I'm going to assume you all know what SERPs are already. They're the results you see on a search engine after you perform a search, for example: "Saskatoon real estate". Your goal, as a webmaster is to rank as high as possible for your desired terms. The major ones you want to rank for probably include "your city real estate," "your city homes," "your city houses for sale," "houses for sale in your city," "your city homes for sale," etc. You may also want to rank for specific areas of your city and neighbourhoods. You can find rough estimates of volume for monthly search term with Google's Keyword Tool.
The main way to work your way up the SERPs is by building links to the pages of your websites. Each link to your website acts as a "vote" from the website the link was on. While it is far from a perfect solution, it is still the best one the major search engines have today. Now naturally, websites like CNN, Facebook, Yahoo, etc. are just going to get links. We post links to those websites every day, we post them on here, we post them on our blogs on our own websites, we post them on forums, we post them everywhere. They are authority websites. They don't have to go out and build links for themselves, we do that for them. Now while ideally we would have people go out and build links for our real estate websites, the unfortunate truth is that most people aren't going to link to our content, at least yet. If you don't have visitors, no one's going to read your content, and if they don't read their content, how would they ever share it or link to it? That's why we must work our way up the SERPs, so we get more traffic!
Over time the algorithms that determine these rankings have evolved. Even five years ago, if you wanted to rank for "boston real estate," all you had to do was build a ton of backlinks with the anchor text "boston real estate," to your homepage. But search engines have gotten smarter and evolved their algorithm to look for more natural backlink anchor text, deeplinking and variance in general. Someone that has 100% of their links pointing to their homepage with the anchor text "boston real estate," is probably not going to rank for "boston real estate" at all. I always use this example to explain this concept to people: If you were naturally linking to CNN, would you write "news website" and link it to "http://www.cnn.com"? Or would you probably deeplink to a specific story on their page with the anchor text "this story," "dog eats elephant," or maybe even "http://www.cnn.com/story-about-dog-eating-elphant-in-wherever"? That is naturally how you would link to other content/websites, so in turn is how you want to build links to your own content/websites. Make it natural, watch me link to my website right here. I could have plugged "saskatoon real estate," "saskatoon homes for sale," etc. but if EVERY SINGLE link you have is plugged with keywords you're trying to rank for, that plain and simple does NOT look natural. Not to me, not to you, and certainly not to Google's massive data centers and crawlers. So link how other people would, paste a URL and link it, use words like "this post," "my website," "here," "click," etc. Think "if I was linking to this website and I didn't know what SEO was, how would I link it? And where would I link to? Would I link to the homepage that has no information really, or would I be linking to a page with an article on it about how to buy a home?" Do that every time you create a link for yourself and you'll see your anchor text vary greatly, your links be spread evenly amongst your site and your site will continue to build authority and rise in the SERPs.
Rule of thumb: If you don't get to pick the anchor text of a link, it's probably a very good link for you to get.
Now that we know HOW to link to, where do you find links? Tune in next time to find out.
Also: Please comment and/or subscribe if you found value in this post, as I want to make sure I'm writing for an audience, as this is definitely not being written for the GoogleBots.