Anchor text is the text shown for clickable links, this is useful for users, to inform them of the content being linked to, as well as to indicate to search engines the topic the source page is covering. Anchor text is an important factor for both internal and external linking and is used as a ranking signal by Google. Our compilation of key takeaways from Google’s SEO Office Hours sessions below provides details and best practice recommendations for optimizing anchor text.
For more on optimizing your website’s links for search engines check out our additional resources:
5 Internal Linking Strategies to Boost SEO and Drive Organic Traffic.
An SEO’s Guide to the Different Types of Links
Alt text associated with a linked image is treated the same as anchor text
A question was asked regarding an “a href” tag that contained anchor text and an image with alt text. Which one helps Google to better understand what the linked page is about? And does the order in which they occur within the tag matter? John replied that the order of these two elements within the tag would not matter. With just an image, it wouldn’t be as valuable as anchor text, but if alt text is associated with the image they would treat that the same as anchor text. It would be converted into text on the page and treated the same.
He did further clarify that this news shouldn’t mean that all visible text should be removed and alt text relied upon. But it should help to know that you’re not losing anything by including both. Other search engines may not see alt text and anchor text as equivalent and for accessibility and usability reasons it may make sense to have visible text there too.
Use Alt Tags as Anchor Text when Linking with Images
When using links within images, make sure the alt attribute is being used in order to provide the anchor text that you want associated with the link.
Google Uses Alt Attribute as Part of Anchor For Linked Images
For linked images, Google sees the alt attribute as a descriptive part of the page it is on, but it is also used as part of the anchor for the page the image is linking to.
Anchor Text is Used as a Ranking Signal to Understand Link Context
Google uses anchor text as a ranking signal to help understand the context of a link. John recommends implementing more useful anchor text which provides more meaningful information than "click here".
Anchor Tags Are Seen as Textual Content & Can Contribute to Keyword Stuffing
If there are too many anchor tags which duplicate a keyword, then these can contribute to keyword stuffing as Google sees anchor tags as a part of the textual content of a page.
Anchor Text Helps Google Understand Topic of Target Page
The anchor text in a link helps Google understand the broader topic of the target page.
Significant Onpage Changes Can Impact Google’s Ability to Crawl Page
Rankings in search can change after a migration even if the URLs haven’t changed. This can happen if the layout of a page changes significantly meaning that Google’s ability to crawl a site can get better or worse. Pay particular attention to changes in internal linking and anchor text which can impact Google’s ability to crawl a site.
It Doesn’t Matter if Internal Link Anchor Text is Branded or Not
Having a brand name in the anchor text of your internal links makes no difference in terms of ranking, as long as the anchor text is descriptive for users.
Make Sure Internal Link Anchor Text Provides Context
Internal link anchor text should provide Google with the context of the target page. Avoid using anchor text like "click here" which doesn’t tell Google anything about the page you’re linking to.
Use Descriptive Anchor Text for Internal Links
Use descriptive anchor text for internal linking to give Google a better understanding of the content of the page you’re linking to.