In a Google Webmaster Central hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about best practices for anchor text on internal linking. He answered the question and along the way dropped some information about the impact of internal link anchor text on search.
Question About Internal Anchor Text
Anchor text is the text used when linking one page to another page (or one site to another site).
For example, when using the words “click here” to link to another page, the words “click here” are the anchor text.
The context of this question is that there is an understanding that the anchor text used to link to another page will help that page rank for the keyword phrase used in that anchor text.
In the past, using keywords in the anchor text of external links (links from another site) used to automatically help a page rank in Google. But that stopped being the case many years ago.
The publisher asking the question asks what the best practice is for linking to do different kinds of pages that are about the same topic.
Here is the question
Let’s say I have two strong URLs about cheese in my website.
One is an e-commerce page where you can buy cheese. The other is a complete guide about cheese.
So two different pages talking about the same topic but both really relevant.
What’s the best practice for internal linking?
Is it okay to link to both pages using the same anchor text cheese? Or should one be linked differently?
What are some suggestions?
Google’s John Mueller asserted that the internal link from one page to another page from within the same site helps Google to find pages in a site and also to understand what the page being linked to is about.
This is what Mueller said:
“Essentially, internal linking helps us on the one hand to find pages, so that’s really important. It also helps us to get a bit of context about that specific page.”
Then he said that the “context” part comes from the anchor text as well as from the page that is linking out. That’s actually an important detail.
Where a page is linked from can say something about the page that it is linking to. A link has more meaning (or coherence) when a page about “cheese” links to another page about “cheese.”
This is how Mueller explained the bit about context of a link:
“And we get some of that from the anchor text from the internal linking. And some of course from understanding where these pages are linked within your website.”
Reasonable Anchor Text
Mueller encourages the publisher to use “reasonable” anchor text. He doesn’t specify what he meant by reasonable.
But in my opinion, you can’t go wrong by accurately describing what the user expects to find when they click the link.
So if it’s a commercial page, an anchor text that indicates the sale of cheese makes sense.
If it’s an informational page then an anchor text that indicates an informational article is required.
A common mistake that many publishers make is to use the keyword that has the highest search volume as the anchor text. And that’s a bad way to choose anchor text.
The publisher asked if it was okay to use the anchor text “cheese” for both pages, one page transactional and the other page informational.
From a user experience point of view, the answer is obviously no, it’s not a good practice.
The best anchor text to use is one that accurately describes what the user will find after they click the link.
Mueller apparently intuited that in the question and correctly advised the publisher to use a “reasonable anchor text” and encouraged the publisher to do what “makes sense for your users” which is good advice.
This is what John Mueller said:
“So with regards to that… thinking specifically about the anchor text here, I don’t think you need to do anything specific there if you’re already linking to those pages.
If you’re using a reasonable anchor text for cheese in this case, that sounds perfectly fine.
I don’t think you need to kind of change the anchor text to be “buy your cheese online here” and it’s like, “the ultimate guide to all types of cheese here.”
Internal Links Have No Effect on Search?
John Mueller goes on to say that anchor text on internal linking will not have a “visible effect” on rankings (he uses the word, “search”).
“It’s something you could do if you wanted to if you think it makes sense for your users but it’s not something where you would see a visible effect in search.”
On the one hand, Mueller says that internal links help Google understand the context of a page. And on the other hand he advises to not expect to see a visible effect on search.
Does that mean that internal linking is a useful but weak signal?
You make up your own mind. It makes sense to not give too much ranking factor influence to internal linking.
But it also makes sense to let it influence the non-ranking factor part of the algorithm in terms of providing some context of what a page is about.
What do you think? Does internal linking have a visible effect on search? I have my opinions.
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