Anchor Text
Internal and Out bound links

The words we use to define our links, for internal navigation, in-line links and out bound links. The should do, can do and should not do with them.

Ok to start off, lets define what the above words mean.

Anchor text: As the name implies, the text or words that anchor a link, meaning where it starts.

Internal links: Links that lead to your own pages, from your own pages.

In-line links: Links you find within the body of the of the text, that lead to your own pages.

Out bound links: Links that leave your site.

Ok so, what about them ?

We have all seen or used the infamous, click here  which leads to somewhere, internal or external, the most common used to be used on clickable banner ads, and in some cases, still is.

The problem with it ,is the word  "here" is the anchor text. Which, in context on a webpage, the viewer most likely has a good idea of what the word "here" relates to, however, the viewer is not the only one reading it. So are the search engines who are indexing your page. Here, as a keyword for any pages relevance is next to useless for indexing purposes, the same goes for words like, link, next and so on ... we have all done it, in fact I think, I still have a few menu pages on my personal site listed that way.

Now, for an internal link is this a cardinal sin ? No, not really, as long as the link is easily understood via context, as to what the words ,more, or next, or here means, your fine.  But, from an SEO standpoint, your not helping the links indexablity either.  As the text used for your links within your pages, do matter, to a point. More on that in a moment.

There are several kinds of text based anchor links, used as your navigation for example, the most commonly used ? The word Home. Now, we all use this one and it's a deliberate violation of the above tactic, as its easily understood by anyone that the link takes you back to where you started and we all look for it, so a wise webmaster provides it.

For search engines however,  better would be, as you can see below, with the "return to how to design a website articles", in which the entire link is a descriptive sentence. There is no question where the link is going, even if you had never seen it before, and saw it completely out of context,  you would have a basic idea of what the page it connects to was about. Which makes it good navigational anchor text.

I often use both a link to "Home" which takes you back to the real "home page" and a "return to wherever" that you came in from, so you have a choice, go back for more, if the page is part of series, or go back to the primary index.

Out Bound links:

Good anchor text for an out bound text link however, is a lot more critical, as those few keywords are often the only information the viewer or the search engine has, to know what is on the page the link is heading off to, as it's not on the site in question, it's somewhere else, that may or may not be in context with the page you want to refer to, so the information load of the anchor text is a lot more important.

Now, there are ways and times to defy this:

Example: Most sites I build for others, have a link on the page bottoms that says, Web design and graphics by, The Web Witch. "The Web Witch" being the linked text, which leads to my art sites home page, or to the sub section of the Web Witch pages. Now, the lead in words, Web design and graphics by, make it clear that linked text, is a company name, to the viewer and to the engines. Now, does it make good anchor text ?

In part yes, as the lead in text gives it context, and I want the company name to be associated with the words web design and graphics, which it does just that. If I had no lead in words however, and just made the anchor text the company name, it could fail to convey the right context to the viewer and the engines.

Lead text and in-line links:

The text around a link matters... as it provides the context. Just as unlinked text near a banner matters, as it provides more clues  to what  the banner is about, as the engines cannot read the banner image. Lead in words, combined with proper image alt text, give the engines enough "food" for thought, to index a banner accordingly.

An in-line link is the most common form of internal link, outside of your basic navigation. You are reading along and suddenly a keyword is underlined and in link colors, ( see alt text above ) which tells you there are other pages that relate to the subject that, one hopes, are within the site your reading.

This is so commonly used, that most viewers know, or at least assume, it's an internal link when they see an in-line and can head off to more details on that topic, or not as they please. The in-line link, simply gives them, if done correctly, the option to read more you have available, about that particular subject.  As a general rule, only one link for that subject, per page, even if the anchor text is listed often.

It is not needed or desired to have multiple links to the same internal link, on any one page. Best use ? Link it out the first time the anchor text appears in the copy, but only the first instance, irregardless of how often the words might be used in context.

( Tip: Try not to take your viewer away from your site with an in-line link, if at all possible. Save out bound links for the bottom of the page, or speical sub-sections, where they are more expected. In-line links are assumed to be internal links. You will confuse and most likely lose the viewer if you violate this expectation, but if you must do so, then make a point to tell them, right in the sentance, that it's an off site link, so there are no suprises if they click it , they will know they are going off site)

In-line text links and keyword stuffing:

Example: The page they are reading is about a type of printer for sale. The in-line link keywords that relate are "ink cartridge" or "toner" or "paper". Now, what is expected here, is the in-line links will lead off to your pages were you sell the ink, toner and paper, made for that particular printer.  All good and perfectly acceptable in-line links.

Warning of overdoing the descriptive keywords on in-line links:

You can, however, take the descriptive anchor text to the point were it becomes spam...

Now you could write that same in-line link as "Ink for printer number 1234 model X", which is good descriptive anchor text, if you have it only once...  but realize how spammy that could make the page sound, if you have, printer number 1234 model X, on there a dozen times in the page as lead in text for:

Toner for printer number 1234 model X
Paper for printer number 1234 model X
USB cables for printer number 1234 model X
Power cords for printer number 1234 model X  and so on ...

Do you see what can happen here? If you have a large line up of additional information for this item. This could become, in the eyes of the engines, keyword stuffing for the printer model type your selling. Not to mention, it feels like a visual hammer over the head to your reader. So we thread a fine line between needed, proper, and descriptive anchor text, and overdoing the links keywords, on any given page. To a point, this is good, sound keywording tactics, but only to a point.

So how to find a good balance for keyword rich anchor text inside your own pages ? Read the copy out loud.  If it sounds too repetitive, meaning there are too many references to the same thing, using the same words, on any one page, back up and use more common words for the in-line links and save the highly descriptive text for your base line navigation links, out bound links, and off site anchor text that leads back to you.

A few "home", "more" or "next" links are much better options, than having the page come off sounding like canned spam, as the potential edge one might gain on the SEO scale, is not worth risking being ranked poorly for overdoing keywords.

More soon

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