The Great Anchor Text Debate


January 13, 2011

anchor text vs page relevance

Opinions are like…well we all know what they’re like. Everyone has one. Here is my opinion about the link anchor text debate that has been going on since Pubcon ’10. (At least that’s when the debate popped up on my radar. Apparently Greg Boser’s been talking about this since 2009)

In one corner of the ring, we have those who obsessively build anchor text-rich links with exact phrase anchor text that looks unnatural as all get-out but adds boatloads of relevancy to whatever page the link points to. In the other corner, we have those who seem to have forsaken the building of purposefully keyword rich anchor text links in favor of pursuing any kind of link from high authority, relevant pages.

And then there’s the rest of us who have been patiently working on a nice well-rounded backlink portfolio that includes both anchor text-rich links and domain name links from powerful pages and some directory links and some blog comments and all the lovely natural links that are generated by a nice, good quality link bait generation campaign.

See, in my opinion, anchor text is still really important. It’s hard to get (quality, organic-looking, contextual) keyword-rich links. If it’s hard, it’s not easily controllable, and in my experience, the search engines tend to place a lot of emphasis on elements that webmasters and we evil system-gaming SEOs can’t easily influence.

That being said, I was there when Matt Cutts said that they were going to start taking notice when a website’s link profile contains only keyword optimized links. The thing is, if you’re doing a good job creating link bait, this is never going to be a problem. You’ll have people linking to the site naturally — probably using the domain name, brand name or the word “here” or somesuch.

Those links will far outnumber the ones you spend your precious time on generating. But let me tell you something, if I spend the hour or two (on average) of building a relationship with someone so that they’ll link to a site from a nice, juicy page, you bet your ass I’m going to ask for a link with relevant anchor text.

And I bet, given the option of having a link with good anchor text from an authoritative but non-related page vs. having a non keyword rich link from a page with similar authority, most SEOs will still choose the keyword rich link. I would.