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Anchor text, tokens and SEO

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Monday July 14, 2008 )

A patent granted to Yahoo last week relating to anchor text gives some further insight as to how this element may be used by the major engines in ranking.

If you’re not sure what anchor text is, it’s simply the textual part of a hyperlink, e.g.

<a href="">Anchor text</a>

Anchor text is a very important point in SEO; both within your site and links pointing in from elsewhere. It’s not just who links to you but how they link. For more information on this, check out my article on anchor text optimization.

Back to the tokens aspect, Bill Slawski from SEO by the Sea give a great analysis of how it all probably works, but here’s just a brief example.

The term “download email marketing software” could consist of various tokens including:

marketing softare
download email software
email marketing software
email marketing

.. and so on. Each of those combinations is a token; i.e. a different combination of how the page would be linked to and each token would be weighted differently in terms of “oomph”.

Bill states:

“The weight for tokens, or words and sequences of words, found in the anchor text is calculated using a formula that looks at how often each token can be found in anchor text pointing to that particular page, and how often the token appears in the search engine index”

So, this is where *how* people are linking to you is important. Let’s just say that 99 sites link to you using the anchor text of “email”. That would help signal that the page is about “email”. Unfortunately, it’s not what you want as it’s too generic. The holy grail would be of course “download email marketing software” or “email marketing software”. It defines the page well and there would be a better chance of you ranking highly for those terms rather than a very generic term.

It’s all very interesting stuff – you can read more about Yahoo’s anchor text patent and the token aspect on Bill’s blog. There ya go Bill, a nice inbound link for you with targeted anchor text ;)


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