The SEO of the HTML Anchor Text

You finally finished your website and uploaded it to the Internet. Maybe it is a blog, a personal website, or an e-commerce website that sells products. In all of these cases, you now wait to see how many visitors come to the website or read your blog article.

Frustrated with SEO?

It is all too common for new website owners to give up on their websites, because no visitors, or very few, are arriving to view their content, purchase their products, or read their article. This is a frustrating experience. All of your hard work in creating the website seems to be in vain. But, with a little planning, and using proper keyword rich anchor text for your on-site linking, you can maximize the potential to attract visitors.

While a thorough examination of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is beyond the scope of this article, one factor that can greatly impact the amount of visitors that a website brings in is using the right keywords in the anchor text on HTML links. Before examining how to choose the right keywords, we must define what an HTML link is.

The Proper Usage of Links

A HTML link, or more formally a HTML Hyperlink, is used on your web page when you wish to go to another page on your website (internal linking), go to a different part of the same page you are currently viewing on your website (jump linking), or go to an external website (external linking). This article will cover the requirements for designing and implementing internal and external linking. For information on how to properly use jump links, click on this link Jump Links.

The syntax of a properly formatted HTML Hyperlink, according to the World Wide Web Consortium is illustrated below:

<a href=”” title=”Visit W3C Website.”>Visit WC3 Website</a>

The first part of any HTML Hyperlink is the <a> tag. This tag tells the browser to create an anchor or link exactly where it is placed in your HTML code on your web page. You must use an opening <a> tag to start the link and then a closing </a> tag as illustrated to finish the definition.

The href is an attribute of the <a> tag that instructs the browser of the location you wish to go to when the link is clicked. The href can either be another web page on your website or an address to an external website.

Link Attributes

The next required attribute is the title attribute. When a visually impaired person using a screen reader encounters your link, the screen reader will read the title to let the person viewing your page know what the link is about. The title is required by U.S. and international law to meet accessibility standards.

The text between the > and the < in the above example is called the anchor text or the keywords of the link, and it is the most important part of the link statement in regards to helping potential visitors interested in the topic of your website or article find you on search engines like Google.

This part of the hyperlink tells Google and other search engines what you think the destination of the link is about. This allows the search engines to place importance on these words. If your website is about “Ming Vases” and you are linking to a page within your website about “White Ming Vases” then those words need to be used as the anchor text for the link that goes to that page.

If done properly, then Google will assume that your page is about “White Ming Vases” and when a searcher goes to Google and types those words in as a search query, your page is more likely to appear at the top of the organic (non-paid) search links. Obviously, the object is to get as high-up on the search links as possible to garner the most clicks and get more visitors to your website.


Google, as well as other search engines, use what is called suggested search or auto-suggestion. Auto-suggestion is the text that appears below the text you are typing in the search bar. This text is a gold mine for selecting what anchor text to use in your links for a particular page.

As an example, when you use Google to search for “Butterflies”, it auto-suggests the following keywords:

  • butterflies and bikinis
  • butterflies for kids
  • butterflies are free

This list shows that Google assumes people who search for butterflies are most interested in clicking on those search topics. If you target your anchor text for those words (if relevant to your website) then searchers will be more likely to find you and click on the link to your website or article. Google Adwords is also an excellent way to find targeted anchor text to use in your website links.


Google Adwords has a keyword research tool where you can test the relevance of different keywords related to your website topic for ideas The following video shows you the steps in applying Adwords in keyword research:

All of the keyword research you do will be in vain if your visitor does not click on your carefully crafted link. When a visitor searches for information, they tend to start general and get more specific as they narrow down their search. Your website should “funnel” a visitor to allow them to find the information that is most relevant to them in the shortest amount of time possible.

You can use this tendency to your advantage by using longer, more general, multi-word anchor text that leads them to single-word anchor text as they narrow their search. Using this technique they will find relevant information faster. Another efficient way to help visitors find information is by using actionable anchor text in your links.

Actionable Links

Anyone who has viewed many WordPress websites is familiar with the phrase “read more” under a snippet of a blog post. This is an actionable link that describes the action that you want your visitor to take. Research has shown that telling a visitor what you want them to do will translate to getting more clicks on the link.

Brian Clark, in his article, Does Telling Someone to ‘Click Here’ Work, describes the gains that using actionable anchor text offers.

It’s been a bit since I’ve seen any independent testing data on the use of actionable link anchor text (outside of my own), so I thought I’d share the results of a Marketing Sherpa experiment performed with their newsletter readers. The goal was to find out if the wording used in hyperlinks could make a difference in click through rates.

The answer is yes. They found that the right two or three “click” link words can lift click through rates by more than 8%.

Here are the results:

  • Click to continue: 8.53%
  • Continue to article: 3.3%
  • Read More: 1.8%

While these gains are not huge, every little bit helps.

Keywords and Patience

Selecting keywords for the anchor text on your website links is a vital part of getting visitors to your website, but it is only one step of a long process. Many other SEO techniques must be employed to have a successful website.

It will take a long time to learn all the tips and techniques needed. With patience, knowledge, and advanced planning before designing your website, you will be on your way to making your website a success and avoid the pitfalls that many first-time website creators and article bloggers face.

Tim Willbanks is a full-time Clark College student in his third quarter pursuing a degree in the Web Development program by day and a budding freelance web designer by night. He started and maintains a successful framed butterfly e-commerce business. With enough coffee running through his veins, he takes one day at a time in his quest to balance college, career, and family in the beautiful city of Vancouver, Washington.

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