We usually do not comment on the algorithms of other search engines, but have made an exception today as Google has improved the way in which it interprets anchor text within a link.
Last week, Google announced a series of algorithm changes, through their blog post: “Newest search quality updates”. Within the 50 updates they have shown, there are all sorts of changes, such as better scoring of news groupings and improving the user interface on mobile. However, it is the updates to the Anchor Text that really stand out for us.
You might be forgiven – on first read through – for thinking that Google had decided to drop anchor text as a ranking factor when it writes:
Tweaks to handling of anchor text. [launch codename "PC"] This month we turned off a classifier related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links). Our experimental data suggested that other methods of anchor processing had greater success, so turning off this component made our scoring cleaner and more robust.
Google’s wording is not exactly transparent here. They have NOT said they have switched off anchor text. They said they turned off a “classifier”. Without having a full list of how Google classifies anchor text, this is quite hard to interpret. Classifiers might relate to the location of the link on the page, whether the anchor text was there when the page was created (as opposed to being added at a later date), whether the anchor text is simply a duplicate of the Alt text or all sorts of other factors. In fact – pretty much the ONLY thing that we can deduce from this paragraph is that Google DOES still take links – and anchor text – seriously. Google have simply changed the way they score anchor text processing.
The second change that they listed in the post about anchor text makes this even more clear – even though the paragraph is shorter and less instructive:
Better interpretation and use of anchor text. We’ve improved systems we use to interpret and use anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and website.
My instinct is that these two paragraphs refer to the same algorithm change, but did not get de-duped before publication (is there a penalty for that?) but either way, this second paragraph clearly alludes to the fact that Google have IMPROVED (not discontinued) their anchor text evaluation systems. Clearly – however you look at it – Google does not treat all links equally and any tools you have to sort the wheat from the chaff will be invaluable for SEOs moving forward.