Blog Post

How Anchor Text Secretly Influences Your Web Browsing Experience


By: Shannon Delaney

Imagine you have two articles in front of you. Both articles are about animal camouflage, and their content is pretty similar. In fact, you read exactly the same content until you get to a section about the black and white colors of the panda bear. As it happens, you're pretty interested in panda bears to begin with, so you get excited when you notice that both articles have hyperlinks to other websites. Here's what you end up reading:

Article 1: According to panda experts at the Smithsonian National Zoo, these colors might camouflage the panda as it traipses through snowy mountains. Alternatively, these colors might produce a reverse camouflage effect in green environments, scaring away any predators. Click here for more information!

Article 2: According to panda experts at the Smithsonian National Zoo, these colors might camouflage the panda as it traipses through snowy mountains. Alternatively, these colors might produce a reverse camouflage effect in green environments, scaring away any predators.

Which link would you want to click? Probably the link in the second article, right? You want to know more about panda bear camouflage, and you'll know exactly what topic to expect if you click on that second link; but the first link, for all you know, could lead you to an unrelated page asking for donations just because the Smithsonian zoo has panda bears.

Without consciously knowing it, your entire decision to click (or not to click) has been based on something called anchor text. Anchor text is what appears in an article or blog post, usually underlined and written in blue, and it leads you to another target page. In these examples, the anchor text links are "Click here for more information!" and "reverse camouflage effect."

You'll encounter anchor text quite often on news websites, linking to other articles their writers have already published, and on blogging sites. But anchor text isn't just about reader-friendly convenience, or creating a simplistic page aesthetic, or being able to provide a reference for your statements. Anchor text actually has a strong influence on a page's ranking in a search engine result list, and search engines like Google have created complicated algorithms that analyze the anchor text itself, the content of the site providing the link, and the content on the site of the provided link.

It's a intricate process, but believe it or not, a page works best with Google's algorithms when it contains natural, human-sounding anchor texts and natural, sensible links to related content. Google's goal is to give legitimate websites the high rankings that they deserve, and when anchor texts contain keywords that reinforce the legitimacy of the page and the content, that webpage will be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking -- ultimately leading to more traffic. The problem is that many web developers are always one step ahead of Google; past "cheat sheets" have included posting links to unrelated pages, and stuffing links into one page to make it look more relevant. When you hear about Google updates like "Penguin" or "Panda," those updates include revised algorithms that aim to eliminate poor content.

Ultimately, anchor text is just one more detail that needs to be part of your SEO strategy.