How does the actual text in a hyperlink play a role in SEO?
Todd D. Malicoat
You are what your links say you are. That applies to both internal and external anchor text. Anchor text (and the surrounding text) plays a critical role in rankings. See: "Amish GoKarts."
It's one signal, similar to the way a weatherman looks for certain mathematical signals to make a forecast. The visible text within the link (aka anchor text) can help the search engines make a forecast as to what content lies at the end of that link if clicked. If that happens often enough, and if the originating sites are of high quality, then the engine can use that signal as part of the ranking process. For example, search the phrase "click here," and not surprisingly, the top three results are for Adobe Acrobat, Shockwave, and iTunes. That's because there are millions of web pages that have the words "click here" as the anchor text of the link pointing to those sites. Think how often you come across sites that say, "To download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat, click here."
Link text, or anchor text, plays a key role in how a web page ranks. It's the clickable part of the link you see and is considered a strong query ranking factor used by both humans and search engines to provide information on destination content.
For example, if the term "running shoes" is hyperlinked, you expect to be taken to a page hosting additional information on running shoes. A search engine has the same expectation and imparts importance to the anchor text and the page it points to whenever it finds and spiders links using the term. The more links it finds using the term and pointing to your URL, the more it associates the phrase with your web page. Which hopefully means the next time someone searches for "running shoes," your pages will show in the top search results. The goal of most link building campaigns is to secure a large number of links from quality pages using a mixture of keyword anchor text and pointing to a variety of your internal pages.
If we think of a link is an endorsement between two sites, the text of the link (called anchor text) provides context. For example, a link with the text, "computer equipment" is interpreted by search engines as an indication that the origin site trusts the target site as a provider of computer equipment. As such, search engines will rank the target page higher when users are searching for computer equipment.
Anchor text is used by the search engines as a measure of what a page is considered to be about. If many links point to a page with a given keyword, the engines will often rank that page very highly when someone searches for that term because so many relevant votes are pointing in its direction.
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