No matter what your method of link building is, it's good to have an idea of your desired anchor text for each major page on your site.
Usually, if someone links to you without being asked, you won't have the opportunity to choose your anchor text but if you've written your content in such a way that the main keywords are obvious, you'll see that, many times, you'll get the anchor text that you want. That's why being clear and making your page theme obvious is so critical.
Some people may actually ask what text you'd prefer. While this has only happened to me very rarely, some webmasters will tell you that they're linking to you for whatever reason, and they'll ask what anchor text you'd like.
You also may approach people and ask for links. When you do, it's a great chance to request specific anchor text. While it's fine to get a link to your site using your company name, site name, or URL, your rankings can definitely improve for a specific keyphrase if it's used as anchor text. Let's discuss it more below:
How does anchor text relate to my rankings?
In a nutshell, the anchor text used for a link coming into a page on your site says "here's a great page about this keyword." That lends authority to your site. Google likes this, and will view your site as a good one to show when someone searches for that specific anchor text.
What would prevent my anchor text from helping me rank better?
If a link is nofollowed, Google should not view the link as being able to lend any authority to your site. Thus, a link with a rel=nofollow on it would not be too much help if you're only looking for a better ranking for your term, although if you've gotten this link on a relevant site of high quality, you should still see some traffic from it, which is the goal, in the end.
Links can also be nofollowed in other ways, such as in the meta tag of the page containing the link, and (in a roundabout way) through the robots.txt file. If you're worried that your link is nofollowed and you aren't the kind of technical geek who likes to see the code itself to check, you can always use one of the handy browser plugins that highlights nofollows. Since I am such a cynic, I like to look at source code for this but my link builders particularly love the SEO for Firefox tool and SEO Quake.
How does anchor text affect my site's traffic?
Hopefully, if the site the link is on is relevant and the anchor text is descriptive, visitors to that site will click and come to your own site. Links from other sites are simply alternative routes into yours. Also, if the links are passing juice and your rankings improve, you have a better chance of getting more traffic anyway.
Luckily there are tools to help you figure out what Google thinks your page is about. The only one that you need is a keywords tool that's free.
The Google Adwords Keywords Tool is very simple (as long as you make sure to type the URL of the page you're interested in into the Website box and not the Word or Phrase box) and gives you keywords, competition, global and local monthly search volume, and a graph of local search trends. This tool is my favorite simply because of the relevant information it shows. If you are concerned about whether your targeted keyword isn't going to grab loads of traffic, you can see that data here as well. If you don't see your targeted keyword in the top 10 keyword results listed, I'd say that it's time to alter your content.
There are also tools that tell you what keywords your page is optimized for but I rely on the Google one simply because, for the most part, we're trying to do well in that engine.
What about image links?
Image links and alt text sometimes get left out of a lot of link conversations. However, images are sometimes a better method of linking, and their alt text functions very similarly to the anchor text for a text link. Some say the link juice passed is not as great as that of a text link, but considering I have seen so definitive data on it and it's well known that image links do indeed pass juice (whether it's the same or less), I recommend that you use them when they make sense.
A Quick Plan of Attack
- To start with, make a list of your top ten pages. I'm sure that you know which pages these are, but if you need help, think about the pages you have that rank well, and use your web metrics package to find out which pages get the most traffic.
- List the keywords that you think represent the desired them of each page.
- Make sure the anchor text appears on the page you want to point the link to. You want it in the content at the very least, but if it's what your page is about, it should also appear in the title and meta tags, and perhaps the page name itself if it makes sense for a user.
- Run each page through the Google Keyword tool listed above to see what your pages seem to be about.
- Adjust your content as necessary.
- Take baseline rankings in Google (or another engine) before you start linkbuilding.
- Seek out quality links with your desired keywords, pointing to your chosen landing pages.
- After you get a few links, check the rankings again. Hopefully you'll see some improvement!!
- Don't forget to check your site's analytics to see if you're getting more traffic for those pages.