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Monday, December 4, 2023

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Smart Links Can Make Your SEO Sing

Webmasters build links for two reasons: to drive traffic and to influence search engine placement. Neither option is as cut and dry as I’ve stated here but when it gets down to it, that’s why webmasters deliberately build links.

If you’re building links to support ongoing SEO efforts, there are a handful of key tips to keep in mind for a successful campaign. IMO, the two most important are:

  • using keywords as anchor text  (also known as link text).
  • pointing links to pages which have been optimized for the keyword terms you’re using in your anchors.

Almost all working links will add to your link graph and influence your link popularity; but smart links, or those strategically written and placed, work best. Here’s an example of how you can optimize your link efforts for maximum ranking affect.

(Disclaimer: I’ve used Google engineer Matt Cutts personal blog in my examples, doing so ensures I avoid outing anyone or calling attention to someone else’s marketing strategy)

Linking smart

As you work, try to place your links on pages which are topically or geographically similar to your own. Doing so helps drive targeted traffic and reinforce the relevancy (or credibility) aspect of link popularity. If you sell diamond engagement rings you’ll benefit more from placing links on pages related to weddings and brides over pages selling  data recovery services.  To reinforce this point, here’s a quote from Bing’s Webmaster Blog:

when seeking an endorsement with an external, inbound link, the theme of the site you want to link to yours should be relevant to your site’s theme

Anchor text, or the clickable part of the link you see, is a query ranking indicator and one of  the most powerful components of link popularity. When you drop links on relevant pages and point them to your site, use a keyword phrase the page has been optimized for as your anchor text. By doing so, you’re telling both visitors and search bots what they can expect and what the upcoming page is about. Here’s what both Bing and Google specifically say about anchor text:

Bing: …”anchor text helps define the theme of a linked page…”

Google:  …” In addition, anchor text influences the queries your site ranks for in the search results…”

I think the Google quote says it all. Your keyword anchors help influence how you rank for a particular phrase. If a lot of sites are hosting your keyword rich links and the engine can determine those links were not injected to manipulate the search results, your target page is on it’s way to ranking well.

Let’s take a look at these two points in action.

Here’s a screen shot of the page on MattCutts.com I’m using as my example. The blog post is about taking a digital cleanse or getting off Twitter for a week, the phrase “digital cleanse” is our keyword phrase.  (Keep in mind Matt didn’t write the post to pimp the words “digital cleanse” but the example fits what we’re talking about.)


Notice the term “digital cleanse” in the Title,  in the post heading, as a hyperlink and in the content. This is solid SEO optimization and what the text link anchors into. This on-page reinforcement of our anchor text term gives us far more SEO weight than a “click here” type anchor.

Let’s take a look at the other point being made here and that’s the relevancy factor. Again, links sitting on any ol’ page will pass link popularity to some degree, but links on topically relevant pages pass more. Here’s an example of a topically relevant page hosting our keyword rich “digital cleanse” anchor:


The host site (Computer Weekly) is topically relevant and points to a page optimized for our term  (“digital cleanse”) which makes this a great link to have. (If he was trying.) Search on the term “digital cleanse” and you’ll see our MattCutts page ranked #1 on Google and #5 on Bing. Granted, it’s not a competitive term but again, it does a great job as our example.

But dropping keyword anchors is hard

It is hard in some cases, but it’s also why they have the influence they do. This is where the push to get “quality” links comes into play, getting keyword rich text links on topically relevant pages is easier said than done. But it’s possible with good content, smart promotions and a solid media presence. It can also be done with an exact match domain if you’re lucky enough to have one. But even exact match domains need what I outlined to be successful long-term. Not all of your links will be as relevant as our example, but work to get as many as you can. Make your SEO links work hard and smart and you’ll see the benefits in better rankings.

One last thing

Rick DeJarnette from Bing has written three very good link building articles on the Bing Webmaster Blog:

Links: the good, the bad, and the ugly—Part 1 (SEM 101)

Links: the good, the bad, and the ugly—Part 2 (SEM 101

Link building for smart webmasters (no dummies here) (SEM 101)

While nothing he writes is earth-shattering new, they are excellent refresher pieces on what a webmaster can do to rank well. Don’t skip the comments especially on the last article, some of what’s shared is very enlightening.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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