Try an Experiment
If you have a
web site, try this experiment when you have some spare
time. Pick a nonsense phrase, like "bed happy meatball"
or anything equally silly. Make sure it's something very
unlikely to appear on a web page anywhere, and make sure
it's a phrase (not a single word). Also, make sure it
does not appear on your own site.
Next, get a few
friends or co-workers with web sites of their own
to post a link to your site using that exact phrase (without
the quotation marks) as the anchor text. What's anchor
text, you ask? It's simply the word or words that form
the clickable part of a link.
Now, wait a while.
Make a note to yourself to check your web site's ranking
in the results for a search of your chosen nonsense phrase
at a major search engine in a month or two. Unless you
picked a phrase that actually appears on other sites,
you'll find that your site is #1! Moreover, that's in
spite of the fact that the chosen phrase does not appear
anywhere on your actual web site. Think about that.
An infamous, large-scale
example of this same test involved the phrase "miserable
failure." Some enterprising bloggers got together
a few years ago and decided to link lots of sites to the
official biography page for President George W. Bush at
the whitehouse.gov site. The goal, of course, was to make
that page show up in the #1 position whenever unsuspecting
(or in this case, many suspecting) searchers typed in
that phrase. It worked. (Side note: at last check, Michael
Moore - famous film maker and Bush detractor, was in the
#2 position at Google for this same search). Again, keep
in mind that the phrase "miserable failure"
does not appear anywhere on either man's web site.
Is There a Point?
OK, so why bother
with this seemingly asinine experiment (that's actually
been dubbed 'Googlebombing')? Ahh, Grasshopper, for the
lesson it imparts. Which is? Well, it points to the power
of anchor text in determining search engine ranking. And
it has definite relevance to your activities as a webmaster.
Many of your fellow
site owners - including a lot of them who run sites
in direct competition with yours - have never heard of
anchor text. Some of you reading this may be unfamiliar
with it. But, as should be clear now, anchor text plays
a major role in search engine ranking positions.
In basic terms,
it works like this...
rely on links to help them ascertain both the theme
of a given web site and its popularity. Knowing that,
consider two scenarios. In the first, your site has built
up a lot of links pointing to it, and each one has your
domain name as the clickable part of the link (anchor
text). Let's say your domain name is your company's name,
JoeSmithBakery.com - and you sell baking supplies. OK,
great - now your site will show up in the #1 position
at the search engines whenever anyone searches for your
domain name! Hmm. Think that one through. If they know
your domain name, why would they need a search engine
to find it?
In the second
scenario, you have lots of links pointing to your
bakery site, but instead of the domain name as the anchor
text, you wisely chose a phrase that lots of people search
for, like 'baking supplies.'
which would you prefer - being #1 at Google when people
search for your domain name or being #1 when people search
for bakery supplies? This is why the anchor text you choose
for the links you build is so important.
A Plan of Action
Now, here's a simple
plan of action to improve your site's link situation and
search engine ranking going forward from this day...
Step 1 - Research
A great service is
provided by the folks at wordtracker.com. They catalog
search activity at the major engines, and then make available
those numbers to the general public. You simply type in
a word or phrase related to your site's theme, and wordtracker
shows you the number of times that entry is being searched
at the major search engines. Cool, huh? The service will
also give you a list of related terms, so you can look
for other important search words to target.
Step 2 - Pick
a Few and Get Some Links
Compile a list
of several search terms that are most closely related
to your site's theme and that get searched for often.
It's up to you, of course, but you should pick those phrases
that get a few hundred to several thousand searches. These
will be the terms you use in the anchor text of the inbound
links you build from now on. Doing so will really increase
your site's search engine traffic - once all your new
links begin to boost your rankings.
Nothing Else Changes
Now, just carry
on with your usual link building activities: reciprocal
links, one-way links from directories and article distributions,
etc. The only change is to make sure you choose a phrase
from your list to use as the clickable part of the link
you ask for (the anchor text). If you rotate your choices,
your site will move up in the rankings for each phrase.
The only downside is that you'll be getting fewer links
per phrase, so it may take longer for any single phrase
to rank high.
Keep in mind
that the phrases you pick will be popular, unlike those
in the examples that began this article. To score high
rankings, you'll need to be diligent and get lots of links.
Never stop! Over time, this strategy will really help
your site's traffic, but it does take time. As the famous
poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, famously wrote: "All
good things come to those who wait."