Link Relevancy: How and Why to Make Relevance a Fundamental Link Building Criteria

Do Your Backlinks Make Sense? 
Published on 
May 2, 2024
Updated on 
May 2, 2024

When you’re building backlinks, link relevancy is paramount. You want to focus on relevance not only to maximize your SEO value but also to make sure you’re getting the most out of your outreach. 

You want to pay close attention to link relevance because Google is constantly updating and refining its algorithm to be better at evaluating and rewarding relevance. This is because it is synonymous with useful content, and useful content provides a good user experience, which is how Google is trying to curate its search engine results (especially given how terrible a lot of them have become). 

What this means is twofold: a) link building is still very important, and b) outdated methods that focus on quantity over quality or that dwell too much on vanity domain metrics are not going to get you far (or anywhere). 

In the below article, we’re going to give you a crash course in link relevancy–it’s something we obsess over at dofollow and the foundation of how we build backlinks for our clients. 

Let’s go. 

What, exactly, do we mean when we refer to “link relevance”? 

In essence, link relevance is a measure of how topically or thematically similar a referring page or domain is to yours. 

Pay special attention to the “page or domain” part of that above sentence. Link relevancy exists at both the web page and the entire domain level. More on that later. 

Clearly there is substantial overlap between travel and hiking (people consider hiking to be a form of travel and take hiking holidays all the time). If you were a spearfishing website, it (generally speaking) wouldn’t be a good idea to build a backlink to a law firm’s blog. 

We say “generally speaking” here because, of course, there are going to be instances where the law and spearfishing overlap. You might have an article discussing the legalities of guiding spearfishing tours and the exposure to risk and lawsuits you could face doing something potentially dangerous or even lethal. 

In theory, there could be an article on a personal injury law firm’s blog discussing injury sustained while on a spearfishing tour (seems a bit far-fetched), but in that case, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for that specific blog article to link to a spearfishing site in some way. 

The bottom line: relevance is something that Google pays attention to at both the individual link level and at the macro, backlink profile level. 

Google has said that one good link from a relevant website can have a lot more impact than a large number of low quality links. Straight from the mouth of Google’s Head of Search, John Mueller: 

What relevance does to your site, backlink profile and what it tells Google

When you focus on building and acquiring relevant backlinks, you are doing several important things that all have an impact on your SEO, ranking and organic traffic. 

  • Links provide Google with a better understanding of what your website/business is about, including your industry and the kinds of products and services you offer. 
  • Focusing on relevance prevents or stops you from engaging in black hat link building tactics that could damage your search engine optimization. 
  • Relevance allows Google to determine both page and domain-level relevance better, which provides you with more nuance and latitude when building backlinks. 

For instance, let’s say that you run a clothing store and a website dedicated to outdoor living. At first glance, there might not seem to be much domain relevance, but there could be a website section dedicated to clothing for the outdoors. Here are the four categories of relevance would function and apply in this scenario. 

  • Domain-Domain relevance: The outdoor living website has some relevance to a clothing website. 
  • Domain-page: The outdoor living website’s “best clothing for summer camping” is very relevant. 
  • Page-page: The outdoor living site’s review of a particular piece of clothing for a specific sport is very relevant. 
  • Link-page: Relevance also applies to where on the linking page the link falls. If it makes a lot of sense contextually, then the relevance will be high. If it is clearly shoehorned in to manipulate SEO, then the link placement confers less relevance. 

These four categories of relevance give you a better idea of a link’s true value in the eyes of Google, insofar as that value is knowable. 

What makes relevant links and a relevance-based link building strategy important

Relevant links and relevance-focused link building are fundamental parts of SEO because it’s what Google wants to see. 

Links have always been one of Google’s many ranking factors, but the way in which links are factored into where you rank in the SERP has changed a lot. 

A series of link spam updates (the most recent one in 2022) has made it more difficult to manipulate page rank using black and grey hat SEO techniques. Google wants to see natural links–those acquired organically and which add something to user experience. 

The reason that natural (aka editorial) links are so highly valued by Google is that they are given freely. Someone thought your content or website was worth linking to, which Google interprets as the purest and most genuine form of social proof. 

When you are out there link building, consider the following questions and apply them to any link opportunities: 

  1. Would you feel comfortable showing this link to a client, boss or colleague? 
  2. Would you show it to an experienced SEO as an example of the kinds of links you build? 
  3. Would you feel comfortable showing it to family, friends and the people who visit your site?

If you would be embarrassed to show a link to any of the above people, chances are, we’re not talking about high quality links that search engines are going to reward you for. 

At the end of the day, link relevancy is all about demonstrating to both your users and search engines like Google that a link is a genuine indicator of authority, trust and quality.

Some tips for building relevant links

You can absolutely structure your link building strategies around link relevancy, you just have to put the right processes in place. Processes, from prospecting to outreach, that don’t have link relevance at the forefront are not going to land you highly relevant links. 

At the end of the day, anyone building links for their own website wants high authority backlinks that are going to rocket them up the search engine results page, get them more traffic, more leads and more business. 

As we said, link relevancy needs to be baked into everything you do. This means:

  • When you prospect for link building opportunities (i.e., the kinds of sites you qualify and evaluate).
  • When you build content for the purposes of guest posts. 
  • When you are develop your editorial policy around anchor text. 

Link relevancy in prospecting and outreach

The main way most people build backlinks (that is to say, proactively look for backlink opportunities and then go after them) is to reach out to websites that they are interested in a backlink from and negotiate. 

Very few of these emails ever receive a response, however. 

Much of this comes down to a lack of relevance. Link builders and SEOs cast too wide of a net, believing that they can compensate for the lack of targeting in their prospecting and outreach by simply going after everyone. 

If you want to actually have your emails opened and read (and, ideally, responded to), then you need to focus on relevance. 

This applies whether you’re using a tool like Ahrefs to do competitor research (i.e., figure out where your competitors have built links and then target those same sites) or whether you’re just plugging search strings and keywords into Google. 

For instance, if you were looking for guest posting opportunities in your niche (if your niche was, say, personal finance), you might search something like the below: 

“Write for us,” “become a contributor,” “guest post guidelines”--these are all common keywords used to find websites that you know are going to be receptive to guest post pitches. Simply include your specific niche in “quotations” so that Google is only turning up relevant results. 

Here are just a few results from that search string that you could add to your prospecting list: 

Of course, you would want to do a deeper dive–what kind of traffic do these sites get, do you respect their content quality, what is their domain authority, etc. 

But you’re already incorporating both relevance and, importantly, receptiveness into your prospecting strategy. 

Link relevance in content creation

Link relevancy is also an important part of content creation. Relevant content, posted on relevant sites are what will land you the best backlinks and impress Google the most. 

When it comes to link relevance in content creation, what you should really be aiming for is helpfulness. 

This applies to your own website, of course, but it also applies to other people’s sites as well. Acquiring natural links is hard work and often thankless. You can pour your heart and soul (and a lot of money) into a piece of content that no one ever reads or finds. 

In fact, almost two-thirds of all pages on the web have no backlinks at all. 

What we’re trying to say here is that you need to build backlinks if you want to develop a truly impressive backlink profile. 

Content marketing and website outreach are two essential parts of off-page SEO and pretty much anyone who wants to grow their website has to engage in both to some degree. 

Securing guest post opportunities

There are basically two things you need to do, from a link relevancy standpoint, if you want to make guest posting an effective part of your link building strategy. 

The first is that you need to find websites that are receptive to guest posting. A lot of websites are not going to be open to guest posting and they will explicitly state it. They are either worried that Google is going to penalize them for link manipulation or they want full control over every piece of content that appears on their site, including when and where they link. 

If you have incorporated link relevancy into your prospecting and outreach processes, then you’re already good. 

The other thing you need to focus on, however, is providing useful content that a website is going to want to host. If you are trying to get high quality links with your guest posts, then you are going to need to go above and beyond. 

The days of providing sites with the bare minimum and paying for a link are pretty much gone at this point, at least for the kinds of relevant, quality sites that you should want to target. 

This means making sure that the content you are writing is both relevant to the host’s website and the page-level content makes sense for yours.

Not only that, but you should want the host site to be happy with the content. Don’t just feed a single prompt into ChatGPT. You should want their readers to get something out of it. 

This is how you establish meaningful relationships with websites–by developing a reputation as someone who creates quality guest post content. 

Link relevancy and anchor text

The last tip and the one that most people probably don’t pay enough attention to (SEOs included) is anchor text optimization. 

There are various kinds of anchor text, and you should strive for diversified anchor text when building links (this is the kind of anchor text you would receive from websites if they were linking to you naturally with no link building involved), but, generally speaking, you want anchor text that adds context and flows well. 

Google views anchor text as a relevance signal. Not only does it benefit you to have a link from a highly relevant website, but that link authority should be coupled with good anchor text selection. 

The most relevant links are those that not only make sense for a page or domain, but that also incorporate relevant anchor text that improves user experience, explaining and contextualizing the information on the hyperlinked page. 

Relevant anchor text tips

Here are some tips for making your anchor text as relevant and high-value as possible:

  • Try to be as concise as possible in your description of the page being linked to. 
  • Don’t overuse the same keywords and phrasing so that you have a diversified backlink and anchor text profile. 
  • Use keywords that are page and content-relevant, but don’t overdo it. If it doesn't fit naturally, don’t use it. 

These rules apply to both external and internal links. 

Wrapping up

Link building has changed, and relevance is king. If you are still stuck in the mindset that more is better, regardless of whether a link makes sense for a domain or page, you’re spinning your tires. 

Link building with relevancy at the forefront means having the fortitude to say no to certain link building opportunities when they arise and, more importantly, building out your prospecting and outreach processes so that you are only optimizing for relevance, to begin with. 

Highly relevant links will do more for your backlink profile and your overall SEO than hyper-focusing on vanity metrics like domain authority and pure traffic. 

Modern link building strategies, like the kind we at dofollow use and insist on, require a relevancy-first approach. 

Get in touch with us today and find out more about how our contract-free, performance-based link building can help turn your site into an SEO-based lead generating behemoth. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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