Google’s John Mueller recently explains the best practices for anchor text on internal linking in a Google Webmaster Central hangout. While answering a question, he explained some other information about the impact of internal link anchor text on search.
Anchor text refers to the ‘text’ used when linking one page to another. For example, the term “click here” is used to link to another page. This “click here” term is the anchor text.
What was the question?
The ‘context’ of the question is – anchor text is generally used to link to another page that helps the page rank better. In the past, using keywords in the anchor text of external links would help a page to rank on Google automatically. But this has been stopped a few years ago.
One publisher asked Mueller what can be the best practices for linking different kinds of pages that have the same topic.
His question was:
“Let’s say I have two strong URLs about cheese in my website. One is an e-commerce page where you can buy cheese. The other is a complete guide about cheese. So, two different pages talking about the same topic but both really relevant.
What’s the best practice for internal linking? Is it okay to link to both pages using the same anchor text cheese? Or should one be linked differently? What are some suggestions?”
John Mueller replied positively that within the same site, the internal link from one page to another would help Google to find pages in a site and understand what the page (that is linked) is about.
In Mueller’s word:
“Essentially, internal linking helps us on the one hand to find pages, so that’s really important. It also helps us to get a bit of context about that specific page.”
Then he again said that the “context” part comes from both the anchor text and the page that is linking out. The main page, from where a page is being linked, can say something about the page that it is linking to. A link can involve multiple meanings or coherence when the main page and the other page it is linking to are of the same topic. For example, A link has more meaning when a page about “cheese” links to another page about “cheese.”
What Mueller explained is:
“And we get some of that from the anchor text from the internal linking. And some of course from understanding where these pages are linked within your website.”
- Reasonable Anchor Text:
While explaining about anchor text, Mueller encourages the publisher to use reasonable anchor text. However, he did not specify the meaning of ‘reasonable’ here.
By using the word reasonable anchor text, he might mean the anchor text that is concise and relevant to the page and maintains low keyword density. In short, accurately describing what the user expects to get when they click the link.
In case of a commercial page of ‘cheese’, an anchor text shows the sale of cheese accurately. However, if it is an informational page, then the publisher should choose an anchor text that indicates an informational article is required.
Here, many publisher make a common mistake. They use the keyword that has the highest search volume as the anchor text. And they choose a not so relevant anchor text.
The publisher also asked if it was okay to use the anchor text “cheese” for both the pages, while one is ‘sells page’ and the other is ‘informational page’.
The answer is definitely a ‘no’ since it is not a good practice when user-experience is considered. The anchor text must describe the page accurately what the viewers are expected to get when they click on the anchor text.
Here Mueller advised the publisher to use reasonable anchor text that makes sense to the users.What Mueller said:
“So, with regards to that, thinking specifically about the anchor text here, I don’t think you need to do anything specific there if you’re already linking to those pages. If you’re using a reasonable anchor text for cheese in this case, that sounds perfectly fine. I don’t think you need to kind of change the anchor text to be “buy your cheese online here” and it’s like, “the ultimate guide to all types of cheese here”.”
- Do internal links have any effect on search?
John Mueller added that anchor text on the internal linking does not have any visible effect on rankings.He says:
“It’s something you could do if you wanted to if you think it makes sense for your users but it’s not something where you would see a visible effect in search.”
Though he advised to not expect to see a visible effect on search, Mueller added that internal links help Google to understand the context of a page.
What does it mean? Does it mean that internal linking can be a useful but weak signal? Well, Mueller did not explain it. It is up to you how you want to understand. It is recommended not to give too much ranking factor influence to internal linking. Let it influence the non-ranking factor part of the algorithm in terms of providing some context of what the page is about.