Within a web browser, an access key or page anchor allows a computer user to immediately jump to a specific part of a web page via the keyboard. They also allow a specific part of a page to be shown when linking from one page to another.
What’s the difference between an Access Key and a Page Anchor?
A typical Access Key would look like: http://http://www.website-name.com/sub-directory/page.html#1
In this case, pressing ‘alt 1’ (#1) would take you back to the site’s home page.
An access key can be to section of the on screen page or to another page, not necessarily on the same domain.
A typical Page Anchor would look like : http://www.website-name.com/sub-directory/page.html#main-content
In this case, the banner and navigation has been skipped and the main body of text (#main-content) is showing without the need for scrolling.
Access Key Accessibility
Most sighted people will navigate within a page intuitively. If you can see a page, your eyes naturally ignore the navigation and banners and skip to the main content. If you want to find the ‘Search’ or ‘Contact Us’ links, the process rarely involves more than scrolling the page. The process is much more difficult if you are partially sighted or blind. For people reliant upon text readers, simply getting to the main text body can take an age on some sites. This is where Access Keys come into their own.
- S – Skip navigation
- 1 – Home page
- 2 – What’s new
- 3 – Site map
- 4 – Search
- 5 – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- 6 – Help
- 7 – Complaints procedure
- 8 – Terms and conditions
- 9 – Feedback form
- 0 – Access key details
|Browser||What to do|
|Internet Explorer 5+ (PC)||Hold down the ‘ Alt ‘ key, press the number of the Access key, release both keys then press ‘ Enter ‘|
|Internet Explorer 4 (PC)||Hold down the ‘ Alt ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Internet Explorer 5+ (Mac)||Hold down the ‘ Ctrl ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Konqueror (Linux)||Hold down the ‘ Ctrl ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Internet Explorer 4.5 (Mac)||Access keys are not supported|
|Netscape 6 and earlier (PC and Mac)||Access keys are not supported|
|Netscape 7 (PC)||Hold down the ‘ Alt ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Firefox, Mozilla (Linux)||Hold down the ‘ Alt ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Firefox, Mozilla (PC)||Hold down the ‘ Alt ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Firefox, Mozilla (Mac)||Hold down the ‘ Ctrl ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Safari and Omniweb (Mac)||Hold down the ‘ Ctrl ‘ key and press the number of the Access key|
|Opera||Hold down the ‘ Shift ‘ key and press ‘ Escape ‘ , release both keys, then press the number of the Access key|
Please note: This table is not exhaustive, your browser may or may not support Access keys.
Page Anchors SEO
The URL of a web-page is one of the strongest ranking factors there is. By adding a page anchor, it tells a search engine spider that the target content of a link is particularly relevant.
Form the list above you can see that there are that many names to avoid and they are all one character! So if you had an page with a recipe for ‘Summer Berry Cheesecake’ a good page anchor would be: http://www.diet.com/cakes/cheesecake.html#summer-berry
Good Page Anchors
If you plan your site well, you could generate a small list of page anchors for your most important pages. These page anchors would be clearly ‘on theme’ and used within the sites ‘linking strategy’ or ‘pyramid structure‘. Don’t just use random words like ‘main-content’ or ‘right-column’, stick in some nice keywords.
In the previous example: http://www.diet.com/cakes/cheesecake.html#summer-berry, a page about cheesecakes has now been ‘themed’ for the words ‘Summer Berry’. The page may also contain another recipe, for which an additional theme could be added.
Bad Page Anchors
Although this is one of the most over-looked tricks in the book, but there are limitations. It’s not exactly ‘Black Hat’ but I always use page anchors with a little caution.
Google has a patent on ‘Anchor Text Edit Frequency’. If the page anchors are ‘off theme’, or changed on a frequent basis expect your rankings to go down.
When one site has a link; containing a page anchor; to another site, it looks suspicious to me. After all, how many of use view the source code of a page before creating a link. When I see one of these #’d links, the detective in me says that link was created by the target site’s author and not a genuine person of the street making a recommendation. If I’m thinking this, then surely the guys that write search engine algorithms have too.
I therefore, try to limit how often I use them and make sure I only use them for my ‘prime’ content.
Page Anchor SEO Recommendations
- Use Keywords as In-Page anchors
- Do not repeat keywords more than once.
- Use descriptive tags, do not just cram with keywords
- Use less than 50 characters
- In page anchoring to headers is good.
- Anchor text should be relevant to target text
- No more than 2 page anchors per page
- Limit the number of page anchors across a site