I have a number of blogs that I maintain and yesterday, over on the IBCC website I was blogging about the mistake that most web design companies make when getting other sites to link to them.  It’s important enough that I figured I should mention it here too.

So Google loves it when you get a lot of sites to link to your site.  Essentially every site that you get, counts as a vote for your site.  This may be over-simplification but basically it’s a popularity contest.  The site with the most votes wins.  Now I know I’m going to be flooded with emails from web design companies and developers who understand the ins and outs of SEO.  I know.  I know.  This is way too simple.  It’s not that simple, but for the purposes of this post, that’s as in-depth as we’re going to go.  Want to go deeper?   Visit the IBCC blog.

So back to the popularity contest.  If you can get a bunch of other sites to link to your site, that’s a good thing.  Google sees that and thinks you must have a pretty good site if all of those sites want to link to your site.  But how do they know what kind of content those sites are actually voting for?  By the anchor text that they are using.  Anchor text is the blue underlined text that you click on in a hyper link.

Here’s an example of anchor text:

Click here to see pictures of dogs and cats.

The words “pictures of dogs and cats” are the anchor text in this link.  Generally, when you click on a link that says “pictures of dogs and cats,” don’t you assume that you’ll land on a page that contains pictures of dogs and cats?  Google realized that people tend to use words in their links that describe the content on the destination page and they started using that as one of their primary means of ranking a site.  Now, the webmaster, who used to be able to cheat and manipulate the system by making pages that would rank well on Google, has been disarmed and the power has been given to the voting public.  Now the other webmasters have the power to judge your site, see if they think it’s worthy of a vote and only then cast their vote by linking to your site.

But here’s the catch…

If you get a ton of sites to link to you and they all use bad anchor text, you’re up a creek.  What’s bad anchor text?

Here’s an example of bad anchor text:

Click here to see pictures of dogs and cats.

All that’s doing is casting a vote for your site to raise your site in the Google rankings when someone searches for “click here.”  Do you really want to rank well for an obscure phrase like that?  It doesn’t do you any good if you’re selling pictures of dogs and cats.  Frankly, no one will ever be searching for “click here” so it’s a total waste.  That link that you fought so hard to get is worthless.

So what can you do?  Afterall, it’s not your site.  How can you persuade the other site to link to you with good anchor text?  Just ask them.  When you’re asking people to trade links with your site, tell them exactly what you’d like them to put on their site.  It’s that easy.  Before you know it, you’ll have a whole host of sites linking to you with the words that you want people to use when looking for you on Google.

Hope that helps.

Chadd Bryant

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