Image: Kaley Dykstra on Unsplash
Google has published a new document on SEO best practices for links on its Search Central blog. As well as previous advice on crawlability, it includes sections on how to construct and write anchor text, and recommendations on internal and external linking.
Anchor text placement
Anchor text is the visible text of a link which tells readers and search engines about the pages being linked to. It needs to be placed between <a> HTML elements which Google can crawl.
Here’s Google’s example of how it should look:
If you miss off the text and have an empty text link:
Google can as a fallback use the title attribute as anchor text.
Where an image is a link, Google uses the alt attribute of the img element as anchor text:
So, don’t forget to include descriptive alt text for all your images.
Writing anchor text
Good anchor text should be “descriptive, reasonably concise and relevant to the page it’s on and the page it links to”. It’s about making it clear and easy for your readers to navigate your site, and for Google to understand what the linked page is about.
Overly generic links which don’t give much of a description of the page being linked to are considered bad by Google. For example:
- Click here to learn more.
- Read more on our website.
- Learn more about our cheese on our website.
Try to make your anchor text more descriptive, and provide information about the page being linked to.
So, instead of:
Make it more descriptive:
However, be careful not to make your anchor text too long.
Here’s an example Google describes as “weirdly long”:
A better, more concise version would be:
Write naturally and don’t cram in keywords. Don't forget, keyword stuffing is a violation of Google’s spam policies. Rule of thumb: if it feels like you’re forcing keywords into the anchor text, it’s probably too much.
Google also says don’t pile up links one after the other, as it makes it harder for the reader to distinguish between them.
A better way to do this would be:
This also gives you the space to put context around your links, making for a more informative sentence and links.
People often concentrate on external links over internal links. However, internal links help people and Google to navigate and make sense of your site.
“Every page you care about should have a link from at least one other page on your site.”
External links can provide context and also help establish trustworthiness, for example by citing your sources.
“Link out to external sites when it makes sense, and provide context to your readers about what they can expect.”
The link attributes nofollow, sponsored and ugc allow you to qualify your external links. Use nofollow if there’s a site you want to link to, but which you don’t necessrily trust or rate. Google gives the example of linking to an article you want to rebut.
If there's any kind of payment for the link, you should use sponsored or nofollow. Use ugc or nofollow if users are allowed to insert links into content, for example in comments or discussion.
Given that links are one of Google’s important ranking signals, if you’re involved in SEO or content creation it’s worth making sure you’re following these guidelines.
You can see Google’s SEO Link Best Practices document on Search Central.