What Is Anchor Text and Why Should You Care?

What Is Anchor Text and Why Should You Care?

Imagine that you’re out surfing the web for a new point-and-shoot, and you stumble upon some really awesome blog post that you want to share on your own blog. You copy the link and write a sentence that goes something like, “I just found this killer roundup of point-and-shoot cameras used by the pros – check it out here!”

While we definitely appreciate the fact that you shared our post on your blog, the link isn’t as valuable as it could be in terms of SEO.

The reason is simple: crappy anchor text.

What is anchor text?

It’s the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink, and is usually blue and underlined. A link that would have incorporated better anchor text in the example above is digital point-and-shoot cameras used by pros. If you Google the term “digital point-and-shoot cameras”, you’ll see that PhotoShelter’s blog post on this topic is in the top results (under all the darn ads and shopping results, of course).

Part of the reason that post ranks so highly on the search engine result page (SERP) is that 142 backlinks point to it. You already know the importance of backlinks in building good SEO, but it’s really important to understand that there are links, and then there are GREAT links. A great link is one that uses anchor text that matches or is related to the terms on your keyword hit list.

Both Brian Smith and Dave Pattinson graciously link to the PhotoShelter blog post on point-and-shoot cameras with relevant and SEO-friendly anchor text.

Why is anchor text so important?

Remember that search engines are just robots at the end of the day, and they need your help in figuring out what your website is all about. If someone links to your website with the anchor text “click here”, that tells the search engines nothing. But if they link to your site with something like “Washington DC stock photos”, then the search engines have a better idea that your website is about Washington DC stock photos and thus your site is relevant to someone who searches for that term.

Just like on-page SEO, we have to do everything in our power to make search engines see that our website is relevant to the keywords that we’re trying to rank for. Getting backlinks to your website with relevant anchor text is also like giving your site a vote of confidence from the Internet world. Imagine that when Google scans your site, it looks for backlinks as a sign that other people trust your website and what it’s about.

How do I get the anchor text I want?

Anchor text is like an extra boost for your SEO – as if saying to Google that not only do other people like and trust your site enough to link to it, but they also all agree that it’s about Washington DC stock photos (or whatever your keyword terms may be).

Problem is, not everyone understands this concept, and so plenty of people will link to you with bad anchor text. You might have to be a little pushy. If you know that someone is blogging about you, or if you’re contributing as a guest blogger, be explicit: ask that when they credit you, to please link to sports photojournalist Jamey Price, for example. It might seem silly, but it’s your best bet in guaranteeing that you get the right anchor text and benefit most from the link.

We try to help boost photographers’ SEO on the PhotoShelter Blog by linking to their websites with good anchor text.

People who are clued in about anchor text will often look to your page title for keywords that you would want included in your link. They can easily find this by opening your website and hovering over the tab. So there’s one more reason to pay attention to your page title.

Takeaway

Now that you understand the importance of relevant anchor text, you might be asking yourself if there’s an equivalent for your images. There is, and it’s called the ALT attribute (see the SEO For Photographers guide). Ensure that the ALT attributes for your images include your keywords, since this is what search engines read when they come across an image. Whether it’s on your own blog or your comfortable sharing your photos on other websites, the right ALT attribute is just as important as relevant anchor text when getting a backlink

Want more strategies and insights to improve your website’s search engine rankings? Sign up and get the free 39-page SEO for Photographers Workbook, plus more tips sent right to your inbox with our 4-week Bootcamp.

SEO for Photographers - PhotoShelter

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There are 7 comments for this article
  1. Milton Barber at 2:56 pm

    I find it kind of interesting that you hype the use of the ALT attribute in the tag, but Photoshelter gives its users no control over what appears in their ALT attributes. Photoshelter blindly puts the IPTC description there. A parameter to the [[image]] widget would permit the users some control.

  2. Wesley at 3:22 pm

    Interesting post on a critical component to gaining search rank. I know it’s meant as a primer, but it’s worth mentioning the importance of anchor text diversity.

    Once you identify the terms you wish to rank for, and set about building links from credible sites that incorporate relevant anchor text (great advice on how to ask for these, by the way), try to create variations on the anchor text phrase. By doing so, you avoid the risk of ‘over-optimization’, which is a great way to lose rank.

    There are very thorough posts on this subject that you can find pretty easily, as well as a good discussion within Google’s support forum.

    And, of course, anchor text only works for your business when people seeking your products and services search using your targeted terms, so do your research!

    Thanks for the post, Lauren.

  3. Allen Murabayashi at 6:13 pm

    @Milton: We’re trying to balance automation and usability. I agree giving very granular control would be ideal, but for 99% of the users, populating the ALT attribute with the image caption is accurate.

  4. Milton Barber at 12:57 pm

    @ Allen: A somewhat off-topic reply, Allen. I did not call into question using the IPTC Description as the default. I did suggest a simple addition that would let manual customization users have more control. Nobody would feel that PS’s usability had been compromised if you added one parameter to one widget!! (This kind of addition is, after all, something you have been doing regularly anyway.)

    By the way, I would certainly have guessed that more than 1% of PS users use manual customization.

  5. Simon Brown at 7:46 am

    A useful post. We’re too often pushed these days to “keep the word count low and language simple”. For some things this works but out in the real world it too often shoves out detail and diversity. Things it appears are as essential in SEO as good books.

    On Milton’s point about IPTC captions populating the ALT tag. I’m using a template site from PhotoShelter and am happy with the system. The ALT tag describes the image, so does the caption. Populating automatically like this seems an ideal solution for an essential and repetitive task. Perhaps I’m just naturally lazy.

    I’m also unsurprised that apparently few people use the manual customisation. I’m competant with CSS and HTML and realise how big and complex a job it is.

    PhotoShelter recognise they are here primarily to serve photographers. We want to get our photos out there quickly and effectively, without having to learn or hire in web programming.

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