High-quality, relevant links have been a big deal for SEO strategies ever since Google’s inception in 1998. 

Before that, SEO was all about using the right keywords for your business.

As long as your content contained the keyword a user searched for enough times, there was a good chance you would appear in the search rankings. 

It didn’t take long for this to backfire, though, as it caused a high influx of low-quality sites capitalizing on keyword spam.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google’s founders) wanted a way to filter out spam from their search results for a better user experience. 

They decided to view links in a similar way as professional citations – where you point to others’ work to build up your own – and the concept of link–building was born.

You can think of links as ‘votes’ for your page to rank higher on the SERPs (search engine results pages), and a link’s relevancy and authority (how trustworthy the site linking to you is) determines the strength of that vote. 

However, before Google’s Penguin update in 2012, a link’s authority mattered more than its relevance. 

It would pay off in the rankings if you could secure outbound links from high-authority sites (think the New York Times and Amazon).

However, this caused SEO experts to take backlinks from any site they could find with a high DA (domain authority) score – forgoing relevancy as a result. Thus, ever since the Penguin update, relevant links are equally (if not more) important than authority links.

Since the #1 result on Google contains an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2 – 10, link-building is something you’ll want to take seriously. 

Read on to discover the power of link relevancy and how it can boost your search engine rankings.

What is Link Relevance?

Infographic on What you should know about link relevance

Link relevancy describes the contextual relationship between a website that places a link (the linking website) and the website that receives the link (the target website). 

To put it simply, Google wants your backlinks to have topical relevance to your website.

For example, if you’re reading an article about different types of coffee beans, a link to a related article about brewing methods would be considered relevant. However, a link to a completely unrelated topic, like car maintenance tips, would be irrelevant and could confuse or frustrate the reader.

They would ask themselves, “Why would I want to learn about car maintenance tips? I’m here to learn more about coffee.” 

This provides a bad user experience for readers, and if it happens enough times, they may stop consuming your content entirely. 

After all, who would want to read an article that constantly links out to unrelated pages every two sentences? 

A big reason why link relevance has become such an important ranking factor is its positive impact on user experience. 

As long as the links appearing in your content are topically relevant, they won’t confuse or annoy readers. In fact, the opposite is true, relevant links provide helpful resources for readers that give them the option to dive deeper into a topic. 

Authority matters, too, but it’s imperative that it’s paired with relevance. 

That’s because an irrelevant link won’t provide any value to users, even if it comes from a trusted source. For instance, if the irrelevant car maintenance tips link mentioned earlier came from Goodyear’s website (which has a DA score of 80), it still wouldn’t matter to readers only concerned with learning more about coffee. 

Google now considers link relevance to be one of the top factors when determining the ranking power of a link. In other words, if you want a link to boost your SERP rankings, then it has to have relevance; otherwise, the ranking impact will be diminished (even if it’s from an authoritative source).

Important note: While it’s important for links in your content to be relevant for a good user experience. But there’s a myth that they have to be about the exact same topic or from a website in the same niche. 

This is too limiting! It’s perfectly fine, and often beneficial, to link to websites that are related to your topic, even if they’re not a perfect match. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.

The myth of direct relevance

There is a common misconception that for a backlink to have relevance, it must come from a website within the exact same market or niche. 

For example, a construction equipment company may think they should only get relevant links from other construction equipment companies.

However, this view is too narrow. 

Taking this strict stance would significantly limit your backlink opportunities, which are already hard enough to come by as it is. 

It will likely cause you to miss out on valuable links from related industries or websites that share your target audience.

Also, focusing on direct competitors (other construction equipment companies, in this case) for backlinks is not a good idea.

Why is that?

It’s because these sites are actively trying to outrank you, so they’re not going to willingly boost your SEO.

The good news is that you can find highly relevant links from a broader range of websites. The key is to focus on two other types of relevance: Target market relevancy and contextual relevance.

Target market relevance 

Instead of picturing link relevancy as links coming from similar websites as yours, focus instead on relevancy as it relates to your target market

As long as a website shares your target audience, it’s okay to target them for a backlink. 

Let’s consider the aforementioned construction equipment company. Instead of targeting other construction companies (who are direct competitors, by the way), they could go after:

  • Construction equipment review sites 
  • Blogs for construction workers 
  • Home renovation and DIY sites 
  • City government websites 
  • Construction companies 

These all share the construction equipment company’s target audience, so they’re all viable backlink targets. 

You can acquire backlinks from these websites by writing guest posts, sponsoring scholarships, posting on forums, and doing outreach (requesting link placements via email).

Context relevance 

Backlinks can also be contextually relevant, which means the link comes from a website that’s not necessarily related to yours, but the context makes it appropriate. 

Let’s consider an example to make it more clear. 

Going with the construction equipment example, you normally wouldn’t want to target a backlink from a news website. 

However, if they have a news article titled ‘How Construction Vendors are Faring in 2023,’ the link becomes contextually relevant to your site, making it a perfectly acceptable backlink target. 

As long as the web page you’re targeting holds contextual relevance to your website, it’s fair game for backlinks – and that goes for both internal and external links. 

If you aren’t using target market and context relevance in your digital marketing strategy, now is the time to start. 

Focusing on direct relevance is narrow-minded and will likely cause you to miss out on many quality backlinks that could boost your link profile to new heights. 

Beyond that, you’re limited to targeting backlinks from direct competitors, who probably won’t want to aid your SEO efforts (unless they know the link will benefit them more than you). 

Why Are Relevant Links Important? 

Infographic on The importance of link relevancy

Relevant links matter because they signal to search engines that your website is authoritative and relevant within your target market. When done right, this will directly lead to higher search rankings, increased visibility, and more targeted traffic from qualified prospects. 

While links with high authority certainly have their benefits on search rankings, too, domain authority scores have no way of determining the relevance of one site to another. 

Thanks to Google technologies like Topic-Sensitive PageRank, Phrase-Based Indexing, and Reasonable Surfer, a backlink MUST have topical relevance if you want it to positively affect your SEO. 

Think about it this way – relevant links are far better for your user experience.

By that, we mean that backlinks are able to function at their best when they’re on websites that hold topical relevance. 

If a user is browsing a web page about an upcoming concert in their town, an outbound link to your construction equipment won’t make sense, and they’ll have no reason to click on it. Even if the webpage has an excellent domain authority score, that won’t matter to the user. 

If, instead, the web page is a blog for home renovators, a link to a construction equipment vendor will make perfect sense. This benefits both the site owner (targeted traffic) and the user (who gets to order construction equipment for a home renovation project). 

Here’s a look at the top factors why link relevancy is so crucial for your backlinks.

Boosts conversions and referral traffic

Referral traffic is great for boosting conversion rates, and relevant links are arguably the #1 way to generate it. 

If a link has a high DA score but isn’t relevant to your target audience, it has about a 0% chance of improving your conversion rates. 

Yet, if the link holds contextual relevance to your audience, your click-through rates will increase – as will your conversions. 

To understand why this is, put yourself in one of your audience member’s shoes. 

They have no idea what DA is, so it won’t determine whether they decide to click the link or not. 

Instead, context and relevance are all that matters to your users

So, if a backlink to your construction equipment website is relevant and valuable to users, they’ll likely click on it – and you’ll generate qualified leads.

Improved search engine rankings

Relevant links will positively affect your SEO performance, which means you’ll enjoy higher rankings for your most important keywords. 

Higher rankings mean more organic traffic that you can convert into paying customers. 

Remember, your backlinks need to have the following:

  • Authority Signals: Search engines like Google view relevant backlinks as votes of confidence for your website’s content. The more relevant backlinks you have, the more it signals that your site is an authority in its niche.
  • Topical Expertise: Backlinks from sites within your industry help solidify your topical expertise. This tells search engines that your content is relevant and valuable to people searching for information about your niche.

Enhanced brand reputation

Relevant links will help you build brand awareness. They’re endorsements for your brand’s credibility, especially when they appear on trusted websites. 

Going with the construction equipment example, if readers see links to your business on their favorite forums and home renovation sites, they’ll assume that your company is high-quality right off the bat. This could lead them to do some more digging about your brand, such as looking up third-party reviews. 

The more relevant links you have, the more your visitors will see you as a reliable source of information within your industry. 

Long-term visibility

A relevant link has the potential to drive targeted traffic to your website for long periods of time. As long as your links don’t get moved or removed, you can continue to generate referral traffic from them indefinitely. 

Pro tip: To really capitalize on this benefit, do your best to add backlinks to evergreen pieces of content, which means they won’t go out of date. Popular examples of evergreen content include how-to guides, checklists, case studies, and FAQ pages. 

Relationship building

Building relevant links helps you build relationships with other major websites in your industry, which is definitely a plus. 

Relationship building is integral for link-building, and it can lead to cross-promotion, collaborations, and other beneficial opportunities. 

Whenever you conduct outreach to obtain relevant links, don’t treat it like a one-and-done deal. Instead, aim to foster a long-lasting relationship with the site owner by appreciating their content and sharing common interests.

Key point: According to Google Search Advocate John Mueller, link relevance is the single most important factor when determining the ranking power of a backlink. He claims that the total number of backlinks a site has is irrelevant, as Google’s algorithm is most concerned with how relevant each link is to the site in question. In other words, one relevant link would be more impactful on your SEO performance than a million irrelevant links. 

Don’t Forget About Link Authority

Link authority is a way to estimate the value or “link juice” that a link from one website is likely to pass to another. It’s essentially a prediction of how much positive impact a backlink would have on the target website’s search engine rankings.

While Google doesn’t reveal its exact methods, a popular metric for estimating authority is Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) score. It ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores indicating greater authority. Think of authoritative links as powerful citations endorsing your website.

While relevance reigns supreme, don’t discount the power of authoritative links. Here’s why they are also crucial:

  • Faster indexing: High-authority sites get their backlinks indexed rapidly by Google, meaning you’ll see the SEO benefits of those links much sooner.
  • Improved search rankings: Authoritative links, especially if topically relevant, can significantly boost your search engine rankings, leading to increased organic traffic.
  • Wider exposure: Links from well-respected sites expose your brand to a broader audience, aiding brand-building efforts.
  • Enhanced credibility: Inheriting “link juice” from authoritative websites boosts your own site’s credibility in the eyes of Google.
Key Takeaway: Prioritize relevance in your link-building strategy, but don’t neglect authoritative sources entirely. Google values relevant links, so avoid acquiring backlinks from topically unrelated sites, even if they have high authority. Remember, an authoritative link from a parenting blog won’t benefit your construction equipment website.

How to Build Relevant Backlinks

Now that you know why relevant links are such a big deal, let’s learn how to build them. The primary thing to focus on is finding websites that hold either topical or contextual relevance. 

Once that’s done, traditional link-building methods still apply, such as conducting outreach to land guest blogs. 

Identify and conduct outreach to relevant sites

First, you need to uncover relevant websites online that you can target for backlinks. There are several ways to do this, but you should start by brainstorming which sites would hold contextual or target market relevance. 

In the case of the construction equipment company, we determined that they should target equipment review sites, home renovation companies, and construction blogs. 

You can find these easily by using Google. 

However, not every website will accept things like guest posts or link insertions. 

That’s where analyzing competitor backlink profiles comes in handy. You can use our free backlink checker tool to see the backlinks from any website online. 

Enter one of your competitor’s URLs, and then take a look at where they’re getting their links from. You’re bound to come across relevant websites that you can also target for link placements, so keep your eyes open. 

During the outreach process, your emails should focus on the value your links will bring to their target audience. Here’s a brief sample outreach email from our fictitious construction equipment company to a home renovation website:

Dear (first name), 

I’m writing to you about a valuable opportunity for your home renovation blogs. First off, let me say that I’m a huge fan of your content, and I recently used one of your guides to install a new sink in my bathroom. Anyway, I run a construction equipment company that provides the exact types of tools that your audience needs for your DIY guides. 

I believe it would benefit both our audiences if you could include a few backlinks to our product pages in your guides. Let me know your thoughts, and I appreciate your time. 


(Construction equipment company owner) 

Create helpful content that attracts links 

Once you’ve done outreach, you’ll need to create content for the prospects who get back to you. This usually takes the form of guest blogs, but the type of content will vary. 

Besides creating content for outreach efforts, you can also create helpful content that’s relevant to your target audience. 

Why would you do that?

Because certain types of content attract backlinks naturally. 

Infographics and videos are excellent for generating links without conducting any outreach, so you should definitely include them in your content schedules if you have the capacity. 

An infographic containing important statistics will attract links from bloggers and other content creators, which can dramatically boost your SEO. 

Guest blogging

9 times out of 10, link-builders send outreach emails with the hopes of landing guest blog spots. That’s where you write an article for another blog or website within your niche – and you pick up a link back to your website in the process. 

Yet, you shouldn’t target any and every website in your industry for guest posts. 

Guest blogging on low-quality websites will actually hurt your SEO, so you need to focus on high-quality, relevant sites that accept guest posts. 

An insider trick to finding guest posts through Google is to search for your industry in quotes (i.e., “construction”) followed by guest post

Here’s what happens when we search for “construction” guest post on Google. 

Voila, we have a list of viable guest posting sites that cater to the construction industry. 

Another tactic is to analyze your competitor’s link profiles to see where they’re writing their guest posts and then pitch to those sites. 

Broken Link Building

Another popular link-building tactic is to find and fix broken links online. The tactic works by finding broken links on relevant websites and then offering to replace the missing content with one of your own pages. 

This tactic only works if A) you find a relevant website with a broken link and B) if you already have a replacement piece (or can create one reasonably quickly). 

Site owners are likely to agree to your requests because it’s a quick and easy way for them to fix a broken link (which no site owner ever wants). 

How can you find broken links online?

There are a few ways, but the easiest is to use Ahrefs Site Explorer tool. Type in any website’s URL, and then navigate to the Broken Links report under the Backlink profile section. 

Here you will see a complete list of all the broken backlinks a domain has, which is extremely useful for broken link-building. 

Leverage Social Media

Social media platforms can also help with your link-building efforts. In particular, you should share all your content on your social channels in addition to your website. 

This will attract shares, backlinks, and referral traffic for every blog, video, and infographic you create. 

Also, participate in any relevant groups or communities on your social channels. In the example of our construction equipment company, they would benefit from interacting with construction communities on Facebook and LinkedIn. 

Relevant anchor text 

Google places a lot of emphasis on relevant anchor text for links.

Therefore, you need to get strategic with the anchor text you use for your inbound links & outbound links. 

If your anchor text doesn’t relate to the page you’re linking to, you could confuse users and search algorithms.

Here are some guidelines for writing SEO-friendly anchor text:

  • Use exact match keywords sparingly (i.e., construction equipment)  
  • Phrase match anchors are better (i.e., construction equipment rentals) 
  • Mix in branded anchors (your brand name), natural anchors, and naked URLs (i.e., www.thehoth.com)

Generic lines like ‘click here’ should be avoided at all costs when writing anchor text, as it provides no context for the page in question.

What To Avoid When Building Links

As with any SEO strategy, there’s a right and wrong way to go about building relevant links. Everything that we’ve covered so far won’t get you into any trouble, as they’re all ‘white-hat’ tactics (meaning they don’t violate Google’s search guidelines). 

However, black-hat link-building techniques violate Google’s guidelines and can cause you to receive manual actions.

This will remove the web page in question from the search results and may even result in your entire website getting de-indexed. 

Here are the key practices to avoid:

Purchasing low-quality links

Buying backlinks is in direct violation of Google’s guidelines. Moreover, purchased links often come from low-quality websites that were only created to link out to other websites. 

Examples include links from PBNs (private blog networks) and link farms. 

You’ll often find package deals on websites like Fiverr offering hundreds (or thousands) of links for extremely low prices, which is a red flag. 

Over-optimized anchor text

As stated before, the quality of your anchor text matters to Google. In particular, using too many exact match anchors will signal spam to Google and get you in trouble. 

That’s why you need to diversify your anchor text ratio with natural phrases, branded anchors, and naked URLs. 

Ignoring the quality and relevance of linking domains

Not every backlink will be a good addition to your link portfolio. Each website you link back from must be both relevant and authoritative. 

Links from low-quality, irrelevant websites will do more harm than good for your search rankings, so you should be very choosy when selecting backlink opportunities. In particular, pay attention to the relevance and authority score of a referring domain. 

Concluding Thoughts: The Importance of Relevant Links  

In summary, link relevance is the most important factor for the effectiveness of a backlink. 

According to Google itself, one relevant link will trump hundreds of irrelevant links (even if they have high authority scores). 

At the same time, a website’s authority score is also an important factor, as you don’t want to generate backlinks from low-quality sites that provide no value to users (even if they’re relevant). 

So, while relevance reigns supreme, authority also matters – so aim for an equal balance of both. 

However, if you have to choose between the two, going with a relevant link will provide a better user experience, as well as generate leads and conversions

Do you need help formulating a winning link-building strategy for your business?

Then it’s time to check out our five-star Link Outreach Services from The HOTH. Our SEO experts will build you a profile containing both link relevancy and authority, so don’t wait to get in touch.