Search engine optimization is an ever-changing marketing strategy. The metrics that work today might not work tomorrow.
Google has incentive to continue updating its algorithms to better serve its users. After all, the better the search experience, the more money Google makes.
But while it makes sense from Google’s perspective, it gives us SEO-ers an enormous headache.
Large Google updates like Penguin 4.0 are game-changing, while more subtle ones (like Possum) are also frustrating.
That’s why smart digital marketers keep lists of strategies that don’t often change. These are the “foundation” of Google’s metrics.
One “foundation” metric that has stood the test of time are anchor links. These links take you from a “link” to an “anchor.”
It’s easiest to break down anchor links step by step.
Think of a single page website. You know, the ones where you click a menu button only to have the page scroll down automatically.
Let’s say you clicked the “contact” menu button. “Contact” is the “link” in the word anchor link.
The page then scrolls down to a contact section that lists out the company’s contact information.
The “anchor” in anchor link is the entire contact section. “Anchor” just refers to a preselected part of a webpage.
So the “link” is whatever you click, and the “anchor” is the webpage section the browser auto scrolls to.
Marketers love these links because while they can make or break your SEO, they’re also easy to implement.
The better your anchor links, the better your SEO.
Understanding Anchor Links
Before we can talk about why anchor links are so great for SEO, you’ll need to understand how anchors work.
It’s quite simple, really. Think of your webpage as broken into multiple parts.
You have your rich elements (pictures, videos, banners), title tags (HTML code: h1, h2, h3), and then everything else.
Creating “anchors” is just taking existing webpage “sections” and assigning them some value.
If you want your “contact” section to become an anchor, you just define it as such in your HTML code.
For example, H1 tags (webpage headings – such as “Contact”) can become anchors using simple HTML code:
Rich elements can also become anchors using ID attributes in your HTML:
Both strategies result in defining “sections” of your website that act as the “anchors” for linking.
Now, you can turn your menu bar text (or anywhere else) into a link that will auto scroll to your predefined anchors.
If you keep up with SEO metrics you’ll know that Google loves to look into your HTML code for keywords.
This makes anchor links a natural fit for Google’s algorithm. Defining H1 tags as “anchors” gives Google extra H1 keywords to identify.
In layman’s terms, Google gets to see more keywords that represent different parts of your webpage (like your contact section).
Google reads the H1 tag, Contact, and knows your contact information section is appropriately named.
The more applicable your H1 tags are to your content, and the stronger keywords they use, the stronger SEO signals you’re sending.
Essentially, you’re showing Google that your website is relevant to user’s searches. The ever user-conscious search giant, in turn, boosts your SERPs rank.
Remember that using multiple H1 tags is usually not recommended. The only reason it works here is because you’ve defined your webpage into sections.
Google can read your HTML code and realize that you’re labeling specific parts of your page with titles, instead of giving your entire page multiple different titles.
Google returns user search results based on unique URLs.
Whatever the search giant has crawled into its “database,” it can return on a SERPs page. The question, of course, is how to make Google crawl your anchors. Well, you can’t really.
Google treats anchor links as elements within a webpage. Each individual webpage is crawled, but not the separate elements.
However, Google does record your anchor links as part of the larger webpage. Let’s explain in a little more detail:
Your anchors look like this to Google: yourwebsite.com/index.html#anchor-content.
When someone clicks that link, their browser asks the server for yourwebsite.com/index.html. Notice that doesn’t include #anchor-content.
The sever returns the yourwebsite.com/index.html and your web browser then adds #anchor-content.
Google works the same way, reading everything but the ending #anchor-content.
However, Google can and does return anchored content on the SERPs page. Why and how?
Google did index those anchor links, just not separately from the main page. When your anchor link contains relevant keywords Google might return the page.
In other words, if you’re signaling hard enough for specific HTML and on-page metrics, your anchor links could increase your SERPs visibility.
Google always moves in a “user-first” direction.
Anything that will benefit the user is high on their priority list. This includes design and navigation elements.
Site structure matters from a Google-centric perspective. If the Google bot gets confused crawling your webpage, your rankings are going to plummet.
Anchor links give your webpages a straightforward link structure that’s self-contained.
Google bot won’t get confused by the web of links, because your links are all contained within individual webpages.
From the user-centric perspective, visual design is paramount.
Thirty-eight percent of users will completely stop engaging with websites that have unattractive design layouts.
Anchor links avoid this problem through extremely straightforward web design. They’re so helpful that the user doesn’t even have to scroll to find information.
They also let menu navigation boil down to simple clicks. Looking for contact info? Click “contact” and you’re there instantly. About page? Same thing. Click “about.”
We always recommend anchor linking menu buttons on single page websites. Why? Fifty-percent of users navigate to the menu to orient themselves after arriving on a webpage.
Incorporating some simple HTML code just made half of your visitors happier. That’s what we call the benefit far outweighing the cost.
Keeping your “foundation” SEO consistent is key to staying ahead in Google’s ever changing world.
That’s not to stay you shouldn’t evolve, but using anchors gives your SEO metrics a strong backbone.
It’s like protection from an all or nothing strategy. If part of your SEO should falter, you’ll still have other parts propping you up.
Not to mention that as the web gets “cleaner” in interface, design metric like anchor links will only become more valuable.
Single page formatting is already catching on, and propelling anchor links squarely into the “must have” category of SEO metrics.