When experts talk about Google and its algorithms, they often mention relevance. Namely, Google aims to please its users by providing them with the best possible results. The first step to achieving that is by listing only the web pages they would find relevant.
While relevance is usually discussed in this context, link-building activities are yet another SEO area where relevance is key. If you ask some of the top SEO agencies in Houston, they’ll tell you that this SEO technique can help you scale your business, if done right.
But, how does Google measure relevance, and how can we use that to our advantage? Well, here’s our take on this.
How Does Google Measure Relevance?
Well, if we’re being completely honest, we don’t really know. Nobody does.
We do know that Google uses natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to convert web pages into topics and concepts called named entities. Machines can read these named entities and tell what the content is about. Furthermore, Google can even understand the interests of users and tailor the search experience for each user.
This way, it ensures users are getting exactly what they’re looking for.
Aside from understanding the content, there are other factors Google takes into account before it determines a certain web page is relevant.
For instance, if the content isn’t in the same language as the query, the users won’t be able to see it, even if the web page content is of the highest quality. The page title can also indicate the website’s main topic, as well as any images or graphics that support the text information. The location of the user is also taken into account.
At the end of the day, no one aside from Google knows the whole story. We’re just trying to do our best and optimize for something that we can’t see. We rely on empirical evidence by testing and refining our website and its content based on the results we get.
As for link building, things are pretty much the same, if not even more complicated. It’s difficult to tell if the link is simply relevant or not. The relevance here isn’t binary.
To explain what we mean by that and how we think Google may look at things, we need to divide relevance into two categories: link relevance and content relevance.
Link relevance tells whether a backlink coming to your website is related to the topic of the page and the domain where it was placed.
There are four types of link relevance:
- Domain to domain relevance. This kind of relevance means that the website linking to you is relevant to your website because you’re in the same niche or industry. Domain to domain relevance is the least important type of relevance.
- Domain to page relevance. In this case, the page linking to your website is relevant to your domain. In this case, the page linking to your website and your website share the same theme or industry, but the domains are different. The lack of this kind of relevance could be considered manipulative, as link building most likely makes no contextual sense on the page.
- Page to page relevance. When two pages are relevant to one another, we say there is page-to-page relevance. This kind of relevance is just as important as the domain to page relevance.
- Link to page relevance. Link to page relevance is the most narrow one. In this case, we need to make sure that the link is relevant to the content around it and that it makes contextual sense. If there’s no link to page relevance, this is a big red flag, as this is an example of black hat SEO.
Link-building activities help Google understand what your content is about, such as your industry, products, and services. This will increase your chances of gaining better visibility on the search engine results page (SERP).
Also, the more importance you put on link relevance, the easier it will become to prevent black hat link building, as you won’t waste your time contacting websites that are completely unrelated to your website.
As you can see, our job as SEO specialists is to look for target websites and outreach to them with „relevant“ links. But, this is when things get complicated, as the term “relevant” is sometimes quite tricky to define.
For instance, if you go to the Ahrefs website, you’ll see that their content is mostly related to search engine optimization. But, if you visit The New York Times website, you’ll notice their content isn’t as uniform. Sure, they’re categorized as newspapers, but their content is classified into categories for pretty much any topic that you can think of.
Another factor that complicates things even further is the anchor text. What if the anchor text is extremely relevant, but the page where the link is placed is about a completely unrelated topic? Does this make your link relevant or not?
To ensure you’re using the right links, ask yourself the following questions:
- Would I show the link I got to my colleagues or my boss?
- Would I show it to an SEO expert as an example of my work?
- Would I show it to my friends and family?
Content relevance, unlike link relevance, is about a page on your website that you get links to. This can either be a completely new page you’ve created for the purpose of link building or an existing page that’s already gained some attention.
Naturally, content relevance is something you have much more control of. You’re the one that decides what kind of content you want to publish and if it will be related to your domain niche.
While content relevance seems simple to achieve, it’s not always this way. Depending on your industry or theme, new and trending topics may not emerge as often as you’d like them to.
For that reason, many content creators start to go off topic a little. This is something that Google doesn’t approve of, but it is necessary if you want to stay competitive.
Of course, the content you create should be interesting and useful. Simply generating low-quality content won’t get you far because no one will want to read it. This is especially important for organic backlinks because only those that find your content truly authoritative and high-quality will decide to share it with their audience.
Also, don’t forget that not everyone will come to your website through backlinking. You should first focus on creating the kind of content that will rank highly on the SERP.
- So, Which One Is More Important?
Choosing which one is more important isn’t easy. In fact, the key to success here is balance.
Link relevance doesn’t solely depend on what you do. Anyone can decide to link you, and you have no control over that. They may be skilled at SEO and do it in a way that makes sense, but they may also resort to black hat SEO. This is why link spam is so hard to deal with.
Either way, these things aren’t something you need to worry about because they don’t happen all the time. Linking that makes no sense and isn’t related to your niche isn’t great, but Google will most likely turn a blind eye to that one.
A much bigger problem is the lack of content relevance. As opposed to the link relevance, the content you create is completely in your control. Even if you don’t produce your own content, you still have editorial power. You’re responsible for what you create, and Google can call you out on this.
If you start creating content that has nothing to do with your domain, Google could decide not to value the links your content gets because there is no topical relevance.
Of course, this may not happen if we’re talking about one or two blogs, but if this becomes a habit, Google won’t value these links. That’s because it’s pretty obvious the content was created solely to generate links. As we’ve already mentioned, Google wants you to earn your spot fairly.
Also, keep in mind the type of audience that will come to your website if you start creating different kinds of content isn’t your target audience.
If you run a beauty salon and write blogs about SEO, the people that come to your website most likely aren’t interested in beauty treatments. Therefore, you could end up losing a lot of time on something that doesn’t pay off.
To Sum Up
While it’s natural that you want to ensure maximum link relevance, it is also much harder to control. Sometimes you won’t even have control over the anchor text, let alone the rest of the link-building activities.
For that reason, focus on your content instead and try to improve it so that it’s relevant to your customers and your brand. Sure, you may end up having fewer links. But, you most likely won’t need to worry about potential Google updates that target link relevancy.