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March 16, 2007

Google’s Search Engine Optimization Treat

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Vanessa Fox excited the true geek in me by posting over at Google’s Webmaster Central blog about a new enhancement made to Google’s Webmaster Console. The new tool lets site owners view the complete phrases people use when linking to their sites, not just individual words that when strung together mean a whole lot of nothing. For SEOs, it’s almost too good to be true. Huzzah!

In the old days of two days ago, Google would show the most common terms people used when linking to your site, not the complete phrases. For example, if someone linked to the BC blog, they may use anchor text that reads "Bruce Clay blog" but that’s not how Google would report it. They’d show:

  1. Bruce
  2. Clay
  3. blog

Three. Separate. Terms. That’s not exactly helpful when trying to determine what others think your site is about or what they’re using to link to you.

Now, verified site owners can log into the Webmaster tools and access the Page Analysis section in order to see their complete anchor text. This is going to help you get more out the data provided by Google and give you a better understanding of how visitors and the search engines see your site.

For instance, maybe you covered the Google phone rumor that’s been all the rage lately. If so, you may log into your account and find that a lot of people have linked to your site with the anchor text "more google phone news". Instead of Google parsing the phrase into four keywords that ultimately mean nothing, you’ll know that was the phrase someone used when linking to your story about the Google phone. You won’t spend days scratching your head wondering why people are linking to your technology blog with the seemingly-unrelated anchor text "phone".

Why is this a treat for search engine optimizers?

Because the anchor text people use when linking to your site is crucial to your rankings for particular keywords. Having your site’s keywords as inbound anchor text tells visitors and the search engines that there is a page on your site that provides trusted information related to these keywords. It’s why when you do a search for lisa-barone the first results is the Bruce Clay blog. My name is associated with the blog because that’s often the anchor text people use when linking here.

Whenever possible, you always want other sites to link to yours using keyword-rich anchor text. By using proper anchor text and a combination of phrases to link into your site, it will help the search engines understand what your site is about. This becomes very important when trying to increase rankings for a particular keyword phrase. If you can get people to link to your site with the anchor text [Insert Very Important Keyword], you’ll increase your rankings for that very important keyword.

I think Danny Sullivan did a great job summing up the importance of Vanessa’s post, Britishly announcing that, "keywords are mostly useless junk food data. Phrases are datalicios, tasty and helpful." How can you argue with that?

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