There is no denying the power of link text when it comes to search engine optimization. Whether it's your internal link structure, your outgoing links or your incoming links, the anchor text that gets used can have a strong impact on your search engine rankings. That's why if you are new to search engine optimization and you can fit just ONE thing on to your "linking to do" list this week, it should be banning the text "click here" from your web site.

You might laugh at the idea, but you'd be surprised how many businesses both large and small still fail to recognize the importance of using descriptive text in their links. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that every last person reading this article has visited a site in the past week that still relies on link text like "click here," "more..." or several variations along the same theme.

To see just how powerful this trend is, check out the Google search results for the phrases "click here," "more" and "download."

If you take a look at the sites that rank well for those phrases, you'll recognize a pattern.

Given the number of links directing people to download Adobe Acrobat, Real Player, Apple QuickTime and other free programs, it's not hard to guess that quite a few of those links simply rely on a quick "click here" text link rather than the more useful "download Adobe Acrobat" or "get Real Player" text.

However, the problem extends beyond the way people link to other sites. For many companies, the phrase "more information" or "click here" probably rank up there as one of the most used sets of anchor text on their web site. Take this example from the New Jersey Transit site:

Take a look at the link text at the end of each of those paragraphs.

"More Info."

What a wasted opportunity.

Why not drop the "more info" and simply integrate the link into the text of the paragraph. For example:

Memorial Day Schedule Information

Memorial Day Weekend bus and rail schedule information is now available!

Or even...

Memorial Day Schedule Information

Memorial Day Weekend bus and rail schedule information is now available!

Not only would either of those changes give the site the chance to make use of internal link structure for increased keyword exposure, but they both play off the contextual linking rule.

A user should be able to tell what they are going to get when they click on a link even if the link text is the ONLY thing they read.

"More Info" or "Memorial Day Schedule Information?"

Tell me, which one gives you a better idea about where you'd end up? Now remember what I've been writing about search engines replicating human judgement?

Of course if you actually click on that link, you're brought to yet another internal linking faux pa.

Yep, that's right...they're also using "click here" as their link text. (I won't even go into the fact that they've added a totally useless page to their site that simply requires me to make one more click before getting to anything useful...)

So ask yourself...are you making the best use of the internal link text on your site? Are you relying on lazy link text to help your visitors get around, or are you taking the time to craft strong contextual links that help both your visitors and the search engines understand where they're going.

If the answer is yes, then good for you! If the answer is no, you'd probably better add this task to your to do list.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

May 17, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > SEO Basics: "Click Here" is Evil