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Is there a consensus as to whether the alt text of an image link is as effective as (or the equivalent of) anchor text of a text link?
No way Jose. :) Recent event should guide you to the idea that you need varied links.
Though alt-Text is indexed and shows up in the SERPs if the link is image-only, I don't think it counts as anchor text.
Las VegasOctober 6-8, 2015