SEO – Beginner Level
Although Google has hundreds of factors when indexing sites in order to decide which are the most relevant to a user’s search, there is no question that links pointing back to your site, with the appropriate anchor text, from other, also relevant sites, is chief among these factors. Optimizing for this is called SEO – Search Engine Optimization.
Let’s qualify something first: anchor text is a bit of code that is used to identify a word or set of words so that you can point a link to it. The actual words that are the target of the link are the “anchor text.” Typically this code was used to help navigate around a long page of text. For example “Back To Top” is something we have become familiar with, halfway down a page, that will allow us to click on it and jump back up to the top of the page. In this case the words “Back to Top” are the Anchor Text of that link’s target.
But what we are talking about in this article is the importance of good anchor text and its relevance to search engines like Google.
Search engines look at the label for a hot link for an indication of what it is linking to: this is a major factor in the search engine deciding what the link is about. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with a mistake that many people make when building links on their site.
Look at the following sentence and ask yourself which words you would expect to hotlink to the subject of interest:
If you are interested in seeing more photos of Brad Pitt click here.
Conventionally people will create a link out of the word “here”. The problem is, that the search engine will think you are most interested in the word “here” and not “photos of Brad Pitt,” and thus if you are trying to get people to visit your site based on your mentioning Brad Pitt, or celebrity photos, or any combination therein, you have lost one opportunity to let the search engines know to suggest you; all you have reinforced is the very popular term “here.”
Rather than simply shift where the anchor text is, however, I would recommend changing the structure of the above sentence:
Take a look at More photos of Brad Pitt -
is a stronger choice.
Think of it this way: your site is an island way out in the Pacific Ocean. The big sites like Amazon and Ebay are the “mainland” – North America. Heck, let’s say they represent the US. Now your island of Kaua’i has no obvious connection to the mainland. Sure, you might take a small charter plane to the US from Kaua’i, but that doesn’t mean they are otherwise relevant to one another.
So you decide, you want some of the business from the US, and not knowing better, you put up a little flag on your shore saying “Americans Welcome!”
Problem is, unless an American just happens to stray out into the ocean and land on your shore, they will have no idea you are there, no causeway to lead them that way, no funnel, no indication.
Now, let’s say that on the mainland US, someone puts up a sign that points out into the Pacific and says “Other stuff that way.” OK, it’s a start – now maybe someone will get curious and stray out in that direction, very slightly increasing the chance that you may receive visitors/customers to your island, but you have no way of knowing exactly what sort of people you are going to get – they may hate your kind of island, or they may have been interested in something altogether different, so getting them to arrive on your shore isn’t guaranteeing any sort of benefit or even basic relationship.
Now, let’s imagine that the sign posted up on the mainland US shore says “Beautiful, lush island, for those who want to get away and explore a different and exotic, rich culture.”
Suddenly things are happening – people not only become aware of you, they become aware of what you are, the tone you use to describe yourself, what you offer/promise and so the ones who are interested, or who become curious, may start heading your way, and when they arrive, they will be satisfied that they got what they came for. Furthermore, you now have a presence on the mainland point towards you. Eventually, those first adventurers return and tell others and the traffic builds until they built a “causeway” in the sky headed in your direction – direct flights are scheduled, and at the airport terminal, posters of the beautiful flora and fauna on your island.
This is the idea behind contextually relevant anchor text and “backlinking” or a “linkback.”
But – you may ask – that is dependent on other sites properly linking back to me, and I don’t always have control over that.
True, but the beauty of a blog, is that you are generating dozens of URLS over the course of a year. In fact, every new article you post has its own unique URL. And those posts also have Tags and Categories. So you are able to link to other articles you have written within your posts, your tags can have contextually relevant phrases, and your categories should have subject-appropriate descriptions as well.
For example the word “General” is not good for a blog category. “General Blogging Tips” will serve you much better.
The idea, is to help the search engines build and reinforce an accurate neural network of your site, one that reinforces the key concepts or “keyword phrases” for which you are interested in attracting traffic and visitors, and then get the mainland to point at you with a sign that says ->when it comes to this subject, they sure have it covered.
I will go further into these SEO concepts and latent semantic indexing in future posts.
I look forward to any questions you may have.
*(This idea of islands and the mainland as an example of how networks form online is based on concepts discussed in the excellent book Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-László Barabási)