The Anchor Text SEO Tutorial was updated January 2020 to reflect any changes in the Google search engine algorithm: not a great deal has changed regarding anchor text recently, but a lot has changed since I first wrote this tutorial in 2005, so the SEO tutorial has seen a lot of changes.
- What is Anchor Text?
- Anchor Text HTML
- Anchor Text Importance in SEO
- Miserable Failure GoogleBomb
- How Effective is Anchor Text?
- Anchor Text & Backlinks Declining SEO Value
- Anchor Text SEO Tests
- Incorrect Use of Alt Attribute SEO Test
- Alt Attribute SEO Test of Linked Images
- Title Attribute SEO Test of Text Links
What is Anchor Text?
Anchor text is the text part of a text link, screenshot below shows how much anchor text there is just at the top of the home page of this site. Majority of links on a website will have anchor text and anchor text is a Google ranking factor.
Anchor text SEO wise has always been important to Google, many years ago it could be argued the anchor text of incoming links from high PageRank webpages was pretty much off-page SEO in a nutshell.
Today anchor text is important, but as Google now takes at least 200 ranking factors into account it can’t be as important as it once was. Imagine there were say 50 ranking factors in 2005 and today there’s 250, some of the value from the old 50 ranking factors MUST have been diluted into the 200 new ranking factors.
Basically the older Google ranking factors like anchor text, title tags, keywords in URLs, alt text of images etc… can not hold the same importance, BUT that does NOT mean they aren’t important at all.
Anchor Text HTML
Anchor text is the visible text of a hyperlink, for example the text link below links to the home page of this site (https://seo-gold.com/) with the anchor text SEO Gold:
The HTML code for which is-
<a href=”https://seo-gold.com/“>SEO Gold</a>
The red text SEO Gold is the anchor text and the green text https://seo-gold.com/ is the URL for this hyperlink or text link as it is also called.
The code above is the minimum required for a hyperlink/text link.
We can add other code like CSS (change a links colour, make it bold, underline etc…), a few link attributes like the title attribute (title=”phrase here”) as hoverover text (not to be confused with the Title Tag and the rel=”nofollow” attribute so Google ignores the link SEO wise: nofollow not a good SEO idea mind you, deletes link benefit!
Anchor Text Importance in Search Engine Optimization
Google and other search engines weight their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) ** towards the anchor text of links to a page.
Basically the text you add as anchor text has direct ranking value to the webpage the link is to and also to the page the link is FROM.
In practice it means the following text link
Passes anchor text SEO ranking benefit to the linked TO webpage (this page: https://seo-gold.com/anchor-text-of-internal-links-seo-test/anchor-text-seo-test-of-internal-links/) giving it a small boost for Google SERPs including these words and related words:
This webpage (the one you are reading now) also gets a small SEO boost for the above words as well because it’s linking out to a webpage about those words.
The SERPs boost can be demonstrated by looking at extreme examples where a pages high Google ranking can ONLY be attributed to anchor text and no other SEO factors. Googlebombs used to be the easiest examples to find and understand how anchor text effects SERPs, but Google made changes to it’s algorithm to discount Google bombing :-( Still, GoogleBombs they are worth a review.
The miserable failure Googlebomb of late 2003 aimed at the biography page of George W Bush (whitehouse.gov/president/gwbbio.html) clearly showed the SEO power of anchor text.
The US Presidents biography page which fell victim to the Miserable Failure Googlebomb (and a few other Googlebombs) did not include the words Miserable or Failure anywhere within the code, yet years (up to 2008) after the Google bombing it was still at number 1 for the Miserable Failure SERP at Google (see screenshot): in 2014 we can’t find the ex Presidents page in the top 50.
Its consistent search engine placement at number one for this phrase could only be attributed to the anchor text of links to the page: lots of bloggers linking using the anchor text Miserable Failure.
Googlebombs took advantage of the combined effectiveness of anchor text from thousands of links.
A similar phenomenon was occurring with the Computer and Computers SERPs in Google. As of January 2005 a search in Google for the word Computer ranked dell.com as a top 10 result and a search for Computers ranked compaq.com as a top 10 result. Looking at the code of these two webpages reveal neither use the word Computer or Computers respectively: at least not in a format Google understands.
Update: Although the principal that anchor text is very important to Google is still true today (2019) the two domains above now use the keyword computer in their code: maybe they read my SEO Tutorial :-). Interestingly if you looked on page 2 of the results in 2014 the listing for “CA Technologies — Business Rewritten by Software” : ca.com doesn’t use the word computer in the code: valid June 2014.
How Effective is Anchor Text?
Back in 2014 the Computer SERP would be (and still is) considered a highly competitive SERP, it’s a one keyword SERP I wouldn’t target unless it was for a website that has a LOT of aged backlinks: it is a super hard SERP.
In June 2014 there was “About 815,000,000 results” reported in Google for the Computer SERP. Checking page 2 out for the computer SERP at the time at around 15th was a site that is ranked relatively high due to the backlinks using the keyword Computer as anchor text.
Over the years I’ve checked this SERP I’ve seen Dell, Compaq, Gateway and in 2014 CA Technologies listed top twenty (first three companies top 10) for this super hard SERP without using the Computer(s) keyword within the content of the webpage ranked high: nothing on the webpage that would warrant the high rank, the keyword completely missing from the text, title tag, URL filenames for images, alt text….
The computer(s) SERP could only be explained by Google considering anchor text of backlinks as a major SEO ranking factor.
What’s particularly interesting is every time I’ve updated this SEO tutorial (almost a dozen times since 2005) I’ve found a site (4 sites) for this SERP that can only be ranked high due to anchor text: for the record didn’t check in 2018, I think the point has been clearly proven!
The reason these sites have ranked highly for those SERPs was due to the power of anchor text. With hundreds of thousands of pages linking to these home pages with many using the anchor text Computer/Computers it was enough to rank highly with no on page SEO optimization!! Imagine where they could be with a little on site SEO!
Anchor Text and Backlinks Declining SEO Value
Through both experimentation and real sites it is clear anchor text and backlinks in the past was almost always the deciding factor for very hard SERPs. As I update this SEO tutorial in 2019 this is still true, but not as true as it used to be. In 2019 Google uses so many ranking factors it’s rare to find the ONE thing responsible for a great hard SERP and Google has moved from a simple search engine to an answers engine due in part to the Hummingbird updates.
What you should take away from this is if you can get anchor text right it will go a long way to good Google rankings, especially if you also have a decent number of quality backlinks and have some of the other important factors right.
A site can do OK with good on site optimization, but with poor use of anchor text/few links.
A site can do quite well with good use of anchor text/links, but with poor on site optimization.
When you have a highly optimized site (lots of keyword rich content) and good use of anchor text from reasonable PageRank (PR) pages there tends to be very good SERPs, lots of traffic from Google.
Anchor Text SEO Tests
Over the past 15+ years as an SEO consultant I’ve setup thousands of SEO tests. I keep the vast majority of the SEO tests private so they won’t be damaged inadvertently: if I’m testing if the following home page link with a made up keyword ZEZGoodBud will result in this webpage and the homepage ranks for the made up keyword, the last thing I need is others using the made up keyword on other sites or copying the link etc… It adds additional variables I don’t want!
It’s really easy to setup anchor text SEO tests, the home page link above is now an anchor text SEO test. We know Google counts anchor text as a ranking factor for both the linked from and linked to webpages, but what happens when there’s multiple links to the same page?
There are at least FIVE home page links from this webpage, there’s three with anchor text SEO Gold (header area, navigation menu and a link earlier in this article), there’s a footer link with anchor text Freelance SEO Consultant and there’s the test text link above with the made up keyword.
The SEO hypothesis to test is does Google pass anchor text SEO benefit through all links to the same page?
If Google does pass anchor text benefit from ALL links we’d expect to find the home page ranking for the made up keyword. A Google search for the made up keyword BEFORE the SEO test went live shows there are ZERO webpages online using the made up keyword.
It’s a unique word, ideal for an SEO test.
The reason for using a made up keyword is it excludes a lot of variables, imagine trying to do this test with an actual SERP with real competition! We are trying to discover the principle if all multiple links anchor text counts, NOT can I rank a webpage high with one link from a single article!
If Google passes SEO benefit through all links there’s an argument for adding the same link with different anchor text (different keywords) to target more SERPs: if a webpage is important we could add 10 links to it from an article like this and get 10x the SEO benefit! On the other hand if Google only counts one links anchor text there’s no point adding multiple links with different anchor text. We also need to figure out which link Google counts, is it the first link, the last link or a random link???
I have about a dozen private copies of this anchor text SEO test online with various variations and the results are clear.
- Google does NOT count the anchor text of multiple links: doesn’t pass ranking benefit to the linked TO page.
- Google ONLY counts the anchor text of the first link found in the HTML code: since only the first link counts make sure it’s got perfect anchor text.
So from this webpage only the first of the five homepage links counts anchor text wise, the first home page link in the code is the header link at the top with anchor text SEO Gold: that passes ranking benefit to the home page. The four other links appear to be treated by Google as standard body text: Google indexes the text of a text links like the link part doesn’t exist (it’s just text).
Also see my other public anchor text and alt text of linked images SEO tests.
Incorrect Use of Alt Attribute SEO Test
The earlier “Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)” link (marked with **) includes an alt text SEO test.
View HTML source of this webpage and search Google for what is in the alt=”SERP#Test##”. Search Google for “SERP#Test##”, but replace the 3 #s with 3 zs to confirm the SEO test and you will find “No results containing all your search terms were found.” confirming Google does NOT count alt text added to text links: valid test between June 2014 and October 2018.
Image above is a screenshot of the Google SERP with the code of the incorrectly formatted link. Shows adding an alt=”text here” attribute to a text link is invalid code, which is why Google ignores it for search engine ranking purposes. However, Google does use correctly formatted alt text that’s associated with images as a ranking factor.
Alt Attribute SEO Test of Linked Images
The alt text of linked images is indexed and ranked the same way anchor text is, so alt text (red text below) of a linked image (the image is linked to the URL in green below) is the links anchor text SEO wise.
<a href=”https://seo-gold.com/“><img src=”https://seo-gold.com/images/alt-text-seo-test.jpg” alt=”Alt Text Equivalent to Anchor Text”/></a>
Note updated these SEO tests with new text in October 2018 makes sense to change the text from time to time in SEO tests so sites that scrape content don’t mess with the test results.
Linked Image ALT Text SEO Test
The linked image above is a quick SEO test to determine if Google is still counting the alt text as part of the SERPs, go to Google and search (include the “speech marks” for an exact search) for:
“SEO Gold Alt Text VALID SEARCH TEST 98″
But replace “SEARCH” with “SEO”: I made the substitution so this page only uses the exact phrase including SEO once (as the alt text of the image above). View HTML source of https://seo-gold.com/anchor-text/ and find the alt text for the relevant image.
There’s only one instance of that exact phrase on the website, so if the Google search for the phrase lists two pages from this site (https://seo-gold.com/anchor-text/alt-text-seo-test/ and https://seo-gold.com/anchor-text/) it shows Google passes ranking value through the alt text of a linked image.
The screenshot below shows the Google results at the time of creating the SEO test (before the test existed October 2018). As you can see there were:
No results found for “Test Phrase”.
Linked Image ALT Text SEO Test Results
Below is a screenshot (taken October 2019) of the relevant Google search, you can see the two results from this website.
This could not be a better or clearer SEO test result.
Update May 2020: The above alt text SEO test is still valid, still gives the exact same result, so Google hasn’t changed it’s algorithm regarding pass ranking value through the alt text of linked images for at least 15 years.
This webpage is indexed (it’s the 2nd result in Google) showing the alt text is indexed and ranked like normal body text. The text we searched for is ONLY located within the alt=”test search phrase here”, there’s no other webpage in this site using that exact phrase, it’s ONLY found in the alt text of the one linked image above.
If Google didn’t treat alt text on a webpage in a similar way to how it treats body text, why would this webpage be ranked for the test search phrase? It proves Google indexes and ranks alt text of linked images.
The other webpage ranked for the test phrase is https://seo-gold.com/anchor-text/alt-text-seo-test/, which is what the linked image links to. Again this is a clear SEO test result, the text we searched for is NOT located on the above webpage, the only reference the page has to the text is via the image link using the alt=”test search phrase here” showing the alt text is being treated the same way as anchor text in terms of passing ranking benefit.
Basically by linking to a webpage via an image link with alt text, the webpage being linked from and to are being ranked for whatever phrase is within the alt text attribute in the same way anchor text works.
Title Attribute SEO Test of Text Links
As covered above the anchor text of links is very important to Google search engine rankings, over the years as their algorithm has developed it’s importance has shifted, but it is still very importance for SEO 2020 and beyond.
One of the great things about anchor text and links in general is it’s quite easy to setup quick SEO tests that informs us how Google counts anchor text, alt text, title attributes etc…
Next we test if Google counts text within the title attribute added to text links.
<a href="https://seo-gold.com/" title="some text here that will show when hovered over">Anchor Text</a>
The code above shows how to add a title attribute to a text link, in 2020 Google does NOT give the content of the title attribute any SEO value, it’s ‘invisible’ to Google.
The link above goes to another webpage on this site and includes a title attribute with a made up unique keyword. Hoverover the link and you should see the made up keyword: it ends in seo: I’ll periodically change the made up keyword so no one can destroy this SEO test.
When I searched for this keyword (bz.tg.rtz.seo: remove the 3 dots) in Google in January 2020, there were no results on the Internet. It’s been this way for this public SEO test for over 5 years, I have similar SEO tests with the same result.
I can’t use this made up keyword within this article (hence the .s version) as it will damage the SEO test, it has to be ONLY within the title attribute above. Feel free to View Source of the link and search Google for it.
If any webpages from this website shows up Google has changed the way it treats the title attribute of text links or the SEO test has been broken.
If Google counted the title attribute towards search engine rankings you’d expect to see one or more of these conditions:
- This page ranking in Google for the made up keyword.
- The page the above link goes to ranking for the made up keyword.
As you can see above it’s not hard to setup SEO tests, basically isolate one SEO variable and test it. The benefit of having a science background, I studied for a Bsc degree in genetics over 20 years ago and planned to go into scientific research (had to give up my first career for medical reasons).