Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anchor Text Links and SERPs Rankings

The key to ranking high in the search engine results pages (SERPs) is having a high quality backlink profile. The more websites that link to your website, the more of an authority Google's algorithm will perceive your site to be. The algorithm was constructed to solve a complex problem - how do we return the best possible information to an online user that is searching for something? Links are the exponential factor that help Google partially solve that problem.

Ultimately, links that appear on every website are how the search engine spiders crawl the web. The more links they follow back to your site, the more important the content of your site is understood to be. If a website has very few links pointing back to it from other websites, the spiders assume (algorithmically) that the site isn't very important. If it was, more webmasters would link to it with the idea that, "I want my readers to also see this site, since it has very helpful information or carries a great product."

As a webmaster, the first thing that you must determine is how people are searching for and what you actually want your site to rank for. This can be accomplished by conducting keyword research and determining what search phrases are going to bring the highest value (people that will convert on the site - for example, buy whatever you may be selling) traffic to your site. Using Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool is free and a great way to do this. You are able to identify an approximate monthly search volume for any particular keyword, and also receive additional ideas for keywords that may be related.

Once that range of keyword phrases have been identified, the link building process should begin. And anchor text (the text used as the title of a link - for example - this text that is highlighted is the anchor text) will be the number one ranking factor. For example, if you are trying to rank for, "books on spirituality," it is imperative to acquire as many links that have the link title "books on spirituality" as possible. As the search engine spiders follow these links, the title of the link essentially tells them, "This site has a lot of good information on spirituality books - and likely sells them." There are a number of ways to acquire links when first launching a site, some of which I have discussed in previous posts - for example my posts on blog commenting and paid links - and some I will discuss in the future.

For years, professionals within the SEO community have debated as to whether or not varying the anchor text of the links you acquire is a better strategy to rank for a particular keyword phrase. For the above example, the alternative theory would be to acquire links using the link titles "books on spirituality," "spirituality books," "spiritual books" etc. Studies have demonstrated, however, that if you are trying to rank for a particular search query, using that exact query as the anchor text is going to achieve a higher ranking as opposed to using variations of said query.

That being said - remember, it is an algorithm. As a result, if you have a great website that has helpful, unique content and sells a great product, then there ideally would be links from around the web pointing back to your site with any number of variations of anchor text. The ideal position to be in is when webmasters are adding links to your site without you asking them or having to blog comment ("natural links"). If that is the case, it would make more sense that there would be a variety of anchor text links coming in to your site. Not every webmaster with a link to your site would use the same link title. Arriving at this place takes hard work and patience. Receiving natural links from other webmasters is unlikely to happen until you have built up your site and a respectable backlink profile.

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