How to assess relevance the right way when backlink building
“Relevance is the new PageRank” – I shouted that loudly once or twice about 4 years ago, and I was wrong lol!
But to be fair, relevance is still very important but not to the extent it replaces PageRank.
Google uses relevance to help rank sites of course, but not how most people* imagine it does (*the SEO herd).
And that simple misunderstanding is why so many ‘relevancy zealots’ spend fortunes looking for ‘relevant’ domains for link building when they don’t need to, as I will explain.
Here’s their big, expensive mistake
By narrowing the relevance of domains down to only the sites that are closely matched to their own site, they miss swathes of opportunities, causing themselves undue cost and harm.
And it’s a pointless exercise when you realise this…
There’s enough research to assume that Google assesses the relevance of a backlink within the content using these elements.
It starts with the link itself.
Google will ask;
“To what degree is the destination page (the page we are linking to) relevant to the following elements in the article we are linking from?”
1. The sentence the backlink resides in
E.g. “The best SEO tools are easy to use yet powerful and can really make a difference.”
Relevance = 10/10
2. Then the paragraph the backlink is in
“Marketing can be tough. SEO is especially tough but with the help of the right software you can get better results. The best SEO tools are easy to use yet powerful and can really make a difference.”
Relevance = 9/10 because it is a paragraph about marketing and SEO.
3. The relevance of the backlink to the headline
“Best Digital Marketing Software for 2020”
Relevance = 7/10 because it does not mention SEO, but the topic is about marketing software.
4. The relevance of the website category to the backlink
Relevance = 7/10 because this article would logically sit in a category on a blog titled Software or Marketing. In this case, both would be relevant
5. The relevance of the backlink to the domain name
This is where most people trip up and there are different scenarios here, all of which would affect the power of the backlink less than the elements above.
For example, our article with our link to an SEO software site could still be published on any of these domains and still pass link power.
- SEO blog – relevance = 10/10
- Marketing news website relevance = 8/10
- Business news website relevance= 5/10
- Retail news website relevance = 3/10
The biggest problem is that so many people focus on the relevance of the domain
As illustrated above, Google isn’t interested so much in the topic of a domain.
It matters to some extent of course, but it primarily cares about the trustworthiness of the domain as a source of information.
The overall quality of the information on the site and its pages are what really matters.
If CNN publishes an article on dementia treatment, then chances are it is a well-researched piece.
A link from that CNN article to a dementia charity that features in a relevant paragraph will carry some weight.
And that happens, not because CNN is a relevant domain, as it isn’t, but because it is trusted, and the link is relevant to the article.
Alternatively, if you had a link from a poor SEO blog to your SEO software page, Google would not give that backlink much weight regardless of its top to bottom relevance.
It would pass some relevance signals but that might be because the site is fundamentally weak and not trusted enough for Google to care who it links out to.
So how can you test these statements?
You can easily check by looking at the backlink profiles of virtually every well-ranked website on the internet.
Very few of them will have high numbers of backlinks from topically relevant domains.
That’s because natural linking happens organically as webmasters link out to content that supports points they are making.
Sites that have only topically relevant domains are more likely to attract attention from Google for unnatural linking patterns.
That’s another great reason to mix it up.
For you to take advantage of how relevance works in backlink building is easy
Publish well-researched articles on a single topic on a trusted domain.
Use lots of relevant language in the article.
Include keywords in titles and format the article so that it meets the needs of multiple search queries.
Support the points made in the article by linking to a few other authority sources.
Make the article unique, clear of grammatical errors, and readable.
In summary: be creative, write great content and keep your links useful and natural.
Just don’t freak about domain ‘relevance’: it’s yesterday’s news.