One thing that I dislike the most is when I go to a restaurant, sit down, open the menu and there are pages and pages of options…
The menu typically goes a little something like this:
It is completely overwhelming.
So, after spending about 30 minutes glaring at all of the options I have been presented with, I often end up going with the first one to catch my eye. Or, if they note which ones are customer favorites, I might choose one of those.
Well, the internet is kind of like that overwhelming restaurant menu – it is full of a million clothing store sites, a few thousand content marketing sites, and several hundred food delivery services.
So, how is it that anyone ever makes their decision on which site to select?
Well, when you do a Google search for something like “content marketing services,” typically you will click on the first few sites that pull up on the first page. Most people assume (sometimes wrongly) that the first sites they see are the most credible.
But why? Because of search engine optimization.
You see, search engines order their database of content based on complex algorithms that take into account hundreds of different factors. But of these many factors, the most important is the number of links that a website has to it.
You can think of a backlink as a “vote” – if your website about hamster juggling has a mention (a link) in the New York Times, that is a strong quality signal that tells Google that there is a good chance that you are a best-in-class hamster juggler.
Along with link quality comes anchor text, which is the text that links to a website. For example, this is anchor text. But before we jump into the joys of anchor text, and tell you exactly how to choose it, let’s do a quick primer on link building.
By definition, link building is the process of obtaining links back to your website via other websites.
For example, let’s just say I sell my hamster juggling website for a tidy profit and decide to open a chocolate E-commerce store. To get my new site to perform well in search engines, I would focus on building quality links to it.
Wait, did I just lose you when I said “quality links” without ever specifying what the heck those are, like every other generic SEO blogger? Let me give you the easiest definition ever:
A link’s quality can usually be assessed by the barrier to entry in obtaining that link.
Can literally anybody with an internet connection replicate your link, like they can with a comment link or a directory link? If so, it’s probably not a good one.
Or, do you have unique relationships with website editors or a truly press-worthy edge to your company or a personal story? The links you leverage from these are going to be much harder for copycats to steal.
Again – links matter because the web is built on them. A hyperlink in content is a convenient way for users to navigate between pages on the internet – leading them to relative content, products, or services.
Following links is also the easiest way for search engines to crawl the web, discover new content, and ultimately order that content.
One example of link building for my new chocolate shop might involve something called “guest posting”. To guest post, I would first come up with a list of qualified blogs in my niche, whether petcare or marketing. While I might have exceptional relationships with other bloggers in the hamster juggling industry, the links they could provide me aren’t optimal.
Instead, I might go find a blog that is all about the holidays and write a guest post about reasons why chocolate makes the best Valentine’s Day gift. Of course, I’d have to make that title sufficiently clickbaity, so I’d probably call it:
97 Reasons Why Chocolate on Valentine’s Day Will Save You From An Early Death
In that post, I would add a few links back to my site – maybe to my Valentine’s Day chocolate box. Therefore, once the post is posted to that specified blog, I have now obtained a backlink to my site – which is link building.
The answer to this question is simple – link building is important because it is one of the most efficient ways to boost your site above other SEOs and your competition.
The process of link building helps search engines discover your page and then helps them determine how high your page should rank in their results. In fact, using links as a ranking factor is what allowed Google to begin their domination of the search engine market in the late 1990s.
Before this, search engines would give preferred placement in organic results to paying advertisers. In other words, by clicking on the first result, you’d be clicking on an ad but it wouldn’t be labeled as one.
Shady, I know.
So then Google comes along with this brilliant ranking method:
Do you remember in high school when someone was running for student body president?
They might have pins or stickers made with their names on them and would pass them out to fellow students who agreed to vote for them.
Then, those students would wear those – promoting the candidate and showing their support for them.
Well, to search engines, links are like those pins – they are seen as a vote of confidence and support in the page they link back to. The page containing the link back to your site is basically saying, “Yes, that is a good resource.”
An anchor text is simply the clickable text in a hyperlink – you determine your anchor text and attach the hyperlink to it. But, when you dive deeper into the study of anchor texts, you will find there are several types of anchor text such as an exact match anchor text, naked link, or a partial-match anchor text. And it’s easy to screw this up.
But, of course, you can’t just go around attaching links made with random text to various pages on your website. And you definitely can’t build repeated examples of exact match anchor to your website, because Google has a tough-ass algorithmic enforcer named Penguin, and he now destroys businesses in real time.
So unless you want a taste of the back of that penguin’s wing, you’d better not build a bunch of links to your website with exact match anchor text like:
Juggling with hamsters
Best hamster juggling website
Google knows that a site with the above anchors probably has artificial links built to it. Think of how people link on the web: the majority of the time, a website’s anchors are going to be brand anchors (HamsterJuggalos), naked URLs (hamsterjuggalos.com), or generic anchor (visit this life-changing website).
Google uses the anchor text of a link, a well as the text surrounding it, to determine what a website is about. And building multiple instances of exact match anchors to your site is the easiest way to reveal your hand to Google and declare to it that you are actively trying to game it.
Like Vito Corleone says in the Godfather: “The best SEO looks like natural SEO.”
Sometimes you might not have reign over what anchor text is used – in the event that the site your content is posted to chooses for you. However, if you are able to select your own anchor text, promise me two things:
For most people, the time to turn to highly targeted anchor is when their site is ranking but needs that extra boost. For example, if my hamster juggling website was stuck in position three for “hamster juggling”, I might give it ONE powerful longtail anchor like: learn how to juggle hamsters.
And here is a tip that I hope makes your link building easier: Save your targeted anchors for your most powerful links.
When it comes down to it, you should try to mimic the anchor distribution of the other sites in your niche, as some niches are going to have far more aggressive anchor profiles than others.
For example, cars.com probably has a whole ton of backlinks with “cars” in their anchor, but it doesn’t mean it’s over-optimized. It just means that their brand has a keyword in it (cars), and there aren’t a whole lot of synonyms for the word car, although I would like to bring horseless carriage back into use.
So in sum:
SEO is about a lot of things but mostly links.
Link quality (the website giving you the link) and relevance (the anchor text) determines your site’s performance in Google and other search engines.
If you consider buying link building services, be careful and do your homework (and lots of it) before buying.
Better links = better life.
Annabelle Short is a writer/blogger and management consultant. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles. Annabelle has worked with many startup companies providing guidance and advice on different topics like marketing and startup financing. Moreover, Annabelle has experience in leading and managing different project teams. Annabelle is a mother of two, and in her free time, she likes to sew and make crafts. Annabelle works for Content Blossom.