The Rise Of Anchor Text Links In SEO
Once upon a time, it was a common SEO practice to use a ton of keyword stuffed links all going to a site’s homepage in online content – including press releases. The idea was that with content published offsite (not on a company’s own website), such as with guest blogs and press releases, the more links from third party sources a site had pointing to it, the more credible the site appeared. When combined with the technique of using high-ranking keywords in third party links, websites that practiced this SEO strategy saw an instant and lasting boost in their rankings.
It was such a popular and effective strategy, that agencies sold “link building” packages, promising website owners a certain number of “backlinks” (links from third party sources linking back to a website) each month. It worked. Search results were riddled with crappy, keyword-stuffed, over-linked content that was effectively clickbait for users conducting legitimate searches for legitimate answers. The result? A website may rank #1, but visitors weren’t staying on the site, much less converting on anything.
Users were annoyed. And Google caught on.
In 2012, Google launched Penguin, an algorithm update that stopped giving juice to low-quality content with spammy links. It buried that content in the furthest reaches of the SERPs where no one goes, and in some cases even penalized sites that continued trying to game the system.
SEO experts agreed that anchor text links were dead. But then something incredible came of the change that tanked the rankings for so many sites. The top results in the SERPs were suddenly filled with USEFUL information. RELEVANT content that actually made sense, provided value to readers, answered questions, and helped users have a better search experience.
That was Google’s intention. And really, isn’t that the ultimate goal when creating content for your brand? Create great content FIRST… then figure out how you can link to related and relevant materials (maybe it’s on your website, maybe it’s not!) to support your content and create the best experience for readers.
Now let’s dig into some specific best practices for using anchor text links in press releases.
Tips For Using Links In Press Releases
#1 – Write a great press release first
The overarching goal of distributing a press release is sharing relevant news about your company to a specific audience (customers, investors, etc.). News that matters to people is more likely to get picked up by prominent publications, catch the attention of journalists, reach a greater audience, and ultimately get read and shared by your target audience.
#2 – Less is more when it comes to links
Five links in a two-sentence paragraph is too many, and Google will see it as spammy. Resist the urge to link to every applicable page on your website. Less really is more if you take the time to plan out your links and make them count by linking to relevant materials that truly support your news.
If you use Online PR Media to distribute your press releases, we allow a maximum of 4 anchor text links. We do this specifically help protect you against accidentally spamming your release with too many links.
#3 – Use keywords strategically in links
The problem that Google Penguin addressed was not just too many links, but too many anchor text links in a site’s link profile that matched their onsite optimization 100%. Meaning, if a website is optimized for the phrase “weight loss supplements” and all, or most, of their backlinks are exactly “weight loss supplements,” it is clear they’re attempting to build links artificially to rank higher. This is the content Google penalizes.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use keywords in your links. It just means the words and your strategy need to be varied. Here are some considerations:
- Use longtail keywords – In addition to your core keywords, longtail keywords are more specific, have less competition, but more total searches. For example, if your core keyword is “weight loss supplement,” some related longtail keywords might be “safe weight loss pills,” “medically proven weight loss supplements,” “natural weight loss pills,” and so on, depending on your niche. Not only does using different keywords in your anchor text links keep you on the right side of Google, but it helps to create context, which search engines love because they can more accurately index and display your content in searches.
- Use branded links – Even if you’re not a well-known national brand, using your company name in your anchor text links is a great way to build recognition and visibility, and create a varied link profile.
- Use generic links – How often do you see links that say, “For more information, click here.”? More, click, here, this site, this blog, etc. are safe anchor text links. As an added benefit, if you do a good job writing the content around the link to be a teaser, people won’t be able to help themselves. They’ll have to click out of sheer curiosity. And every click is SEO currency that signals to Google that your content is useful, relevant and helpful. (See where we’re going here?)
- Use full URLs – While we often talk about anchor text links as being words or phrases, using a full URL also counts as a “link” to Google. The caveat? Short, recognizable links are best. Think about the difference between seeing a link such as www.example.com in a page of content, versus www.example.com/resources/blog/how-to-write-a-blog-post . In the latter, you might as well just say “Learn how to write a blog post here.”
#4 – Understand the difference between do-follow and no-follow links
Getting links back to your website is a normal part of any comprehensive online marketing strategy. Google knows this. Google also knows there are going to be places where you publish regularly – and get backlinks from regularly – that, while not necessarily artificial and spammy, are not organically earned links you want accumulating in your link profile. On the other hand, there will be some mentions and one-off publications and subsequent links back to your site that you definitely DO want in your link profile!
When you create a link, you are allowed to tell search engines whether you want it recognized and indexed, or not.
A “no-follow” link tells search engines to ignore it. It won’t be indexed and it won’t be counted for or against your link profile. A “do-follow” link is the opposite; it’s added to your link profile and the content is appropriately indexed.
Why would you want a no-follow link? Let’s talk specifically about press releases. If PRs are a part of your regular marketing plan and you send several (think 2 or more per week), you’re going to quickly accumulate lots of backlinks in your link profile. Even if you’re varying your keyword and linking strategy, you’re going to have some overlap with that frequency. In this case, you may decide to only make the most important and newsworthy releases do-follow links, and set the others to no-follow.
The opposite is true if you seldom send press releases, and you have a really stellar topic. Do-follow links will help your content get found, and ensure the credible third-party links are added to your link profile.
When you upload a press release to Online PR Media, your anchor text links are “no-follow” by default. Again, this is to protect users against accidentally adding unwanted links to their link profile. If you want to make your links “do-follow,” simply check the box at upload.
#5 – Optimize your anchor text links
Your linking strategy will be specific to your business, your news, and the resources you’re linking to. However, this is a general guide for optimizing the 4 links and full URL in your OPM press releases.
- Link your company name to your homepage, ideally in the first paragraph.
- Link one keyword phrase to a relevant internal page or blog on your website, ideally in the first half of the release.
- Link a different keyword phrase to a piece of your content published offsite (Guest posts, Medium, LinkedIn, Slideshare, etc.)
- Link the name of the person you quote to their LinkedIn profile.
- Use a full URL linking to your homepage or relevant landing page toward the end of your release. For example, “Learn more at https://onlineprnews.com/.”
Online PR Media Is Here To Help
We hope this resource has been helpful in understanding anchor text links and how to use them in your press releases. The best part is that we have expert SEO press release editors on staff who can provide recommendations and editorial tips to help you get the most from your PRs.