Link Prospector’s Guide to the InAnchor Search Operator

anchor-duluthAt the prompting of a colleague I recently began experimenting with the “inanchor” advanced search operator for link prospecting. While I didn’t find it as exhilerating and productive as the tilde, there were several notable uses that I hope you find helpful in your work!

How Does the InAnchor Operator Work?

The inanchor: and allinanchor: operators enable the searcher to stipulate that the pages returned have links pointed at them with the text following the colon. So a search for [mountain bike inanchor:best] would require that all returned results first be relevant to mountain bikes and contain the word “best” in the anchors of linking pages.

Allinanchor: requires that all of the words appear, in any order, in the anchor text of links pointed at the pages – [mountain bike allinanchor:best ever]. You can use exact-match quotes in conjunction with inanchor: too – for example: [mountain bike inanchor:”best ever”] would narrow results further.

Note also – there’s no way to tell Google to look at anchors on or offsite. So if a site links to itself, from itself with the phrase you’re using in the inanchor it will appear. It would be nice if you could designate if you’re searching Off or On site linked pages but alas it’s not possible to my understanding.

6 Ways to Use InAnchor for Link Prospecting

After experimenting, here are six ways I found for using the inanchor operator for link prospecting.

1. Authority Page Discovery

We can use the inanchor to identify authority pages linked to with specific keywords. In my testing the SERPs weren’t necessarily better than looking for links pages and analyzing frequently-cited documents, but it did provide a good place to start “pulling threads.” For example, by adding a couple of the top results to MajesticSEO you can begin sourcing links pages, or even looking for footprints within the linking documents themselves.

Sample Queries:

  • inanchor:”womens health”
  • allinanchor:womens health
  • inanchor:”glossary of medical terms”

Note, with that last query we’re getting very specific. If you have a very specific resource to promote the inanchor can be phenomenal!

2. Cultural Contributions

It’s interesting to note the consistency with which folks link out to other sites to demonstrate their “cultural” contributions or submissions. I use the term cultural here quite broadly… When testing these particular queries I suggest using the word “health.”

  • inanchor:”my submission”
  • inanchor:”my contribution”
  • inanchor:”our contribution”

I don’t consider this a “huge deal” in that I wasn’t able to conceive of using this in a large-scale way. That said, for the right project this could turn up an idea or help you find people who link to sites, ideas, contests etcetera to which they have added somehow.

3. Ready-To-Outreach Ops

For the right kinds of opportunities you can speed up your work by searching for contact pages. This works because on some sites it’s common for footprints to occur on every page – for example on a blog that has a “latest blog entries” on every single page. The benefit here is that you’ll get the contact pages instead of the pages that indicate an opportunity. Try “health” again for these, and try “horses” as well for good measure.

  • “guest post” inanchor:contact
  • review inanchor:contact
  • links inanchor:contact

These queries would be best if you need opportunities very very quickly and don’t intend to be particularly thorough or choosy. For example, if you needed to send 50 guest post request emails in the next 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: if you have a list of sites you’d like contact info for you could use your favorite KW combiner to make a long list of [ inanchor:contact] queries.

4. Find Linked-to Guest Posts

This follows a bit from the #2 suggestion above, and should be considered for guest post prospectors for two reasons. 1 – guest posts aren’t always labeled as such. 2 – wouldn’t it be great to find guest post ops at sites that seem to attract links? Try these with “health” as well.

  • inanchor:”my article”
  • inanchor:”my post at”
  • inanchor:”write for us”
  • inanchor:”guest post by”
  • inanchor:”my guest post”

These can turn up results that may not always show up top 20 via the more standard queries for guest posting opportunities.

5. Research Tactical Executions that Have Received Links

The suggestions here should not be used in place of non-inanchor queries. Meaning, you can’t get away with [health inanchor:infographic] and not query [health infographic] as well. Still this functions as a decent qualifer when researching examples of tactical executions within your vertical.

  • inanchor:infographic
  • inanchor:contest
  • inanchor:giveaway

6. Competitive Analysis

In researching inanchor, by far the most common use is competitive analysis… To get a sense of the competitiveness for the term. The general consensus seemed to be that the #1 result was the one with the most targeted anchor text pointed at it and therefore your “strongest” competitor.

  • inanchor:”target SEO KW”
  • “target SEO KW” inanchor:”click here”

I ran a comparison of the top 3 results for 200 ecommerce kws in a medical clothing space. Set 1 was just the KW. Set 2 was allinanchor:KWs. Then I used this tool to compare the domains that were returned. Here’s what I found:

  • KW Set – 123 domains
  • Allinanchor:KW Set – 138 unique domains
  • KW Set ONLY – 30 domains
  • Allinanchor:KW Set ONLY – 44 domains
  • In both sets: 93 domains

In comparing only the top 10 most-frequently occurring domains, there were nine intersections. So, in all, I’m not convinced that inanchor is any more useful than just searching for your keyword.

A Note on Linking Audiences’ Language Usage

My stumbling point on inanchor was my lack of knowledge around language used consistently and naturally by “real” linkers. My belief is that there should be ways to wring more value out of inanchor and that I was simply unable to discover productive footprints… That is, if you really know the vertical you’re working in.

Spend some time with inanchor and teach me how to use it more productively! While I certainly found some great uses, it’s not necessarily a “go-to” operator at this point.

InAnchor Oddities…

I’m not sure how to account for the illogical result volumes I encountered while testing… My hypothesis was that there would be more results for the query [womens health] than for [inanchor:”womens health”]. This proved incorrect… In fact there were over 6x more results for the inanchor query.

Clearly, all the pages with “womens health” as anchors should technically be in the results, right? Perhaps the competitiveness of the term has prompted a bit of, er, penguin food. Or perhaps Google does not filter out duplicate pages from a single site with the inanchor operator.

  • inanchor:”womens health” (72,400,000 results)
  • womens health (62,000,000 results)
  • intext:”womens health” (41,200,000 results)
  • “womens health” (11,900,000 results)
  • allinanchor:womens health (9,930,000 results)
  • inurl:”womens health” (2,670,000 results)
  • intitle:”womens health” (416,000 results)

This indicates that the inanchor is not necessarily a consistent result restrictor for link prospectors, at least where “big head” and high-competition keywords are concerned. If anyone has insight into this I’d value your input in the comments!

More Prospecting Resources

Image credit: Stew Dean/Flickr