One of the great things about having a successful blog is that it makes it so much easier to launch your next successful blog. All of the hard work that you put into building up your audience and your search engine rankings is something you can leverage for your next site, especially if it’s related to the first.
In addition to the ability to leverage your audience and steer them over to the new site, you can also launch out of the gate with a SEO benefit in the form of of links from your established blog to the new one. This gives your new site some instant search engine credibility by proving it can attract links from an established credible site.
However, one area where I see bloggers with a smattering of SEO knowledge screwing up regularly is with how they treat anchor text when cross promoting.
How Anchor Text Works
Anchor text is the clickable text of a link, and anchor text is an important search engine ranking signal. A link with the anchor text “click here” is far less valuable than the same link with anchor text containing the keywords you want the target site to rank for. Thus when you’re promoting your new site you’re naturally inclined to make the links keyword rich.
However, Google only pays attention to the anchor text of the first link to any given URL on the page. Subsequent links to the same URL will have their anchor text ignored.
For example if I had a site that sells dice and was going to do some gratuitous linking — which I do, and I am — I might use the link: buy dice online. It’s a great anchor text-rich link that will help not just by being a link from another IP that passes PageRank, but will also tell Google that the page is about buying dice online. But then later on the same page if I tried to get some benefit by linking to the same page as: D&D dice, that anchor text would be completely ignored. However, if I linked that text to a different URL other than the home page, then the anchor text would count.
So for any given page on your site, you can only get the SEO anchor text benefit one time per URL you’re linking to; however, you can get the anchor text benefit to multiple URLs.
Those sites that splatter a page full of links to the same URL with different anchor text for each link are not just making their site look cheap; it’s also not granting the SEO benefit that the blogger thinks it is.
One of the effects of the way that Google treats anchor text means that you have to be careful about how you link out in your navigation. Cross linking your site on the navigation through a blogroll link is fantastic — it gives you a run of site link that appears on every page of your site, and will do great things for passing PageRank to the new site. I highly recommend it.
However, be aware of where your navigation is within the code of your site. If you’re using a standard blog template it’s very likely that the navigation is over on the right side of the site. That’s great! With the navigation on the right that means that the content of your post or page will be the first link, and the anchor text of that link will count.
But if you have your navigation over on the left side, or top navigation, then your navigation link will appear before the content of your posts or pages. If you have a blogroll link with the name of your site, then that is the only anchor text that will count for that URL on your site. Of course, you can still benefit from anchor text to other pages of the new site (your blogroll link is almost certainly pointing to the home page of the new site after all — as well it should). So if you have a left or top navigation blogroll link, be sure that internal promotion of the new site links to different pages of the new site than the blogroll link does.
This principle doesn’t just apply to linking from one site to another site — internal links within your site also carry anchor text. And just like outbound links, only the first instance of the anchor text will count. Many site owners forget about this factor of linking — they work so hard to build up their backlink profile and to target good anchor text on those backlinks that they forget they can help the search engines out by using good anchor text on their internal links as well.
And again, if you’re linking to a page that is also listed on your navigation, whichever link appears first in the code is the only one that will carry anchor text benefit.
Don’t Overdo It
As a final word on the subject, do be aware that excessive links with the exact same keyword rich anchor text is a spam signal. Your site name is immune to this, but if you’re site talks about how to make custom snowflakes, and you get a huge percentage of your backlinks with the anchor text “Custom Snowflakes” you could incur a penalty, because it does not look natural. This applies to your backlinks, not internal links.
For this reason if you’re going to use a blogroll link to your new site, it’s probably safest to just make it the name of the new site, and not some very specific keyword phrase.
Brian Wood maintains several websites and blogs, including the Awesome Dice Store and blog. Brian actively maintains three daily blogs and a half dozen blogs that post less often, and works in the SEO industry.