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The Secret Life of Links

A.K.A. Don’t “click here!”

Did you know that link text (also called anchor text), those few words on a web page that are the active part of a link, are the most important content on the web? This is their secret life, the understanding of which gives you great leverage to improve your web site’s search engine rankings, page rank, and ultimately, the number of visitors coming to your web site.

The bottom line is that anchor text is the cornerstone of search engine algorithms in general, and Google in particular. Even in early search engines, anchor text had been taken into account, but only relative to the page the link was on. The innovation of Sergey Brin and Larry Page (the founders of Google) while conducting their PhD research at Stanford [1], was to associate the anchor text with the page the link points to.

Their premise is that the text used in a link often describes the content of the site linked to. With this breakthrough, for the first time the content of a web site could be judged independently of what the web site said about itself. What a site says about itself can be untrustworthy, but the consensuses of its peers who are linking to it turns out to be rather accurate.

What this means for you as a web site owner or developer, is that you want to write anchor text that is accurate and descriptive. For example, an effective link to A List Apart might look like: “Check out this informative web site for web site owners and developers.” Or this: “Want to improve your search engine rankings? Check out the Search Engine Optimization packages from”

You have the most control over internal links within your web site, and this anchor text is in fact very important. I have personally seen web sites improve their Page Rank just by using accurate and descriptive link text on all of their internal links.

Clearly, you would like other web sites that link to yours to use appropriate anchor text as well. You do have some control over this. When conducting a link campaign as part of your Search Engine Optimization efforts, you should provide several examples of your preferred link text to your prospective linkers. Ask them to use descriptive text in the link along the lines of your samples. It is okay if they reword things a bit. The variety in link text will make for a robust field of inbound links to your successful web site.

Knowing what you now know, what would be your opinion of a link that says “click here”? Yep – worthless. You’ve probably seen thousands of them yourself, and no doubt there are billions across the web, all of which are wasted opportunities. If there are any “click here” links on your web site, don’t waste a minute turning them to your advantage. is a Fort Collins, Colorado based Website Design firm that offers Search Engine Optimization and Internet Marketing services.

[1] Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Seardch Engine, Stanford University, 1998.