Why Link Relevance is an Important Ranking Factor for Google
There are numerous ranking factors used by Google to determine where your website lands when someone searches for a keyword or phrase. One such ranking factor is your links and backlinks. Backlinks have been an important ranking metric for Google for a long time now, but how Google assesses backlinks has changed in that time.
Quantity, Quality, and Relevance
The quantity is the number of backlinks, the quality is determined by how much the backlink will affect your ranking, and the relevancy is how closely related the pointing link is to your content. A high-quality backlink shows that you are an informative and authoritative website or blog in that niche, and this is why such a high-quality website would not mind being associated with you.
Link relevance is so important because of how Google views and values links for ranking websites.
Before Google changes its algorithm, people could abuse link building by getting as many links as possible from as many sources as possible. This is because the algorithm (wrongly) concluded that many links pointing to a website meant it was a valuable one.
We now know that is not true, especially when we look at how private blogs and link networks worked and were abused in the past.
To stop this, Google tweaked its algorithm to ensure that all links that can affect ranking are relevant to the website being pointed to. For example, a cake decorating blog gets little to no benefit from being linked to a pet website.
Link relevancy has helped eliminate the abuse of low-quality, black hat, and unnatural links.
Understanding Your Content
Google uses your links to understand your content. Internal linking helps with this immensely, and this is why it is one of the first things you should do when you start implementing an SEO strategy. Backlinks also help, especially if they are from reputable websites.
Because high-quality websites typically have most of their links indexed, Google already understands the content therein. If such websites link to yours, Google assumes that your content is related. If the link is not relevant, you do not get this benefit as Google will not understand how these two pieces of content are related.
In addition to the backlink, Google also looks at the anchor text to determine relevance. Generic and irrelevant anchor texts have been shown to cause issues. For example, if you have a personal finance website linking to a post about teaching children about money, anchor text like “click here”, “learn more”, or simply “children” will not work well for you.
Search Engine Results Relevance
Search engine results are grouped with other related content. For example, it is almost impossible to find a finance-related blog in results for pet food. One thing Google uses to categorize these websites is the relevant links that point to them.
If your website has lots of relevant links pointing to it, it has a better chance of being displayed on relevant search engine result pages.
Although many SEOs and link builders still try to get as many backlinks as possible, the relevance of these links has become more important than their quantity. This should inform how you select which links to accept or add to your website.