SEO Process

Building Relevant Backlinks: The Real-World Guide for Smart SEOs

Ian Howells
Last Updated: Mar. 05, 2024
Relevant Backlinks

Think of a website as a city and backlinks as the roads leading to it. 

Just like a city thrives on well-built roads from various places, a website benefits from plenty of high-quality, relevant backlinks from diverse, authoritative sources.

In my career as an SEO, I’ve seen firsthand how the right backlink strategies can elevate a website’s ranking.

Creating an effective backlink profile doesn’t happen overnight. It requires careful planning and continuous improvement.

After all, not all backlinks are created equal. A relevant backlink from a high-authority site is worth more than dozens of mediocre links.

I’ll draw from my personal experience to give you some best practices for identifying and securing highly relevant backlinks that add real value to your site so you can attract more organic website traffic.

I’ll cover why some links matter more than others, and how to prioritize quality over quantity in your link-building strategy.

Let’s get started by looking at the big picture.

Why Is Backlink Relevance Important?

A relevant backlink is a link from a website that shares a common theme or subject matter with your site. It’s not just any link — it’s a signal to search engines that your content is valuable to readers with a search intent that falls within a specific context.

Relevance is a critical characteristic that sets high-quality links apart from others in your backlink profile.

Relevant backlinks matter because they directly influence how search engines assess the value and authenticity of your website.

After all, search engines always try to provide users with the most relevant, helpful, and valuable content. When a website receives a backlink from another site in the same niche or location, Google considers that link an endorsement. 

Attracting relevant links through effective backlink strategies indicates that your content is pertinent to your topic. To determine the relevance of a backlink, consider the content and audience of the linking site. 

Ask yourself: Does this website cover topics similar to mine? Is its audience likely to be interested in my content? 

Analyzing the domain authority and the quality of content on the linking site also helps you gauge relevance and potential impact.

The Two Types of Relevant Backlinks

There are two main types of backlink relevance: niche relevance and location relevance. 

Niche relevance is the thematic alignment between the linking and the linked website. For instance, a backlink from a renowned tech blog to a new software review site is niche-relevant. It tells search engines that the content on the receiving site is valuable to people interested in technology.

Location relevance focuses on the geographical connection between sites. A backlink from a local news website to a local restaurant’s site is an example of location relevance. These types of links are significant for businesses targeting a specific geographic audience, because they improve visibility in local search results.

What Happens If Your Links Aren’t Relevant

As I mentioned earlier, not all backlinks are created equal. So non-relevant backlinks can harm your site’s SEO performance. Search engines might view such links as attempts to manipulate rankings, which can lead to penalties or lower rankings. 

An accumulation of non-relevant backlinks can dilute your site’s perceived expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness — and go against Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines, which can impact your ability to rank well for your targeted keywords.

The Impact of Relevant Backlinks on Organic Traffic

Relevant backlinks are the cornerstone of an effective SEO strategy for your site. They directly influence your website’s search engine rankings and significantly impact organic traffic. 

Direct SEO Benefits of Relevant Backlinks

When your site attracts a backlink from a relevant, authoritative source, it boosts your search engine ranking for related keywords. 

This increase in ranking is due to search engines perceiving your site as more credible and valuable in your niche, thanks to the endorsement from a trusted site. 

As many SEO books will tell you, having lots of relevant backlinks can increase visibility in search results, resulting in more organic traffic to your site.

Indirect SEO Benefits of Relevant Backlinks

The indirect benefits of relevant backlinks are often overlooked but are equally important. These include:

  • Better user experience: Visitors from relevant backlinks are typically more engaged, because they have been directed from a source they trust on a related topic. This can lead to lower bounce rates and higher time on your site.
  • Increased brand exposure and recognition: Being mentioned and linked to by reputable sites can improve your brand’s visibility and recognition within your niche.
  • Networking opportunities: Building relationships with sites that link to you can lead to collaboration opportunities, such as guest blogging, further boosting your site’s visibility.

How to Use Google Search Operators for Backlink Analysis

To harness the power of relevant backlinks effectively, you need to conduct a thorough backlink analysis. This involves identifying potential linking opportunities that are relevant to your niche. 

Google search operators can be helpful for this purpose. Here’s how you can use them.

  • “Site:” This operator delivers search results from a particular domain. For example, “site:example.com” shows results from example.com, and “site:example.com keyword” shows results from that domain that includes “keyword.”
  • “Intitle:” The intitle operator helps you find pages with specific keywords in their titles. For instance, “intitle:tech” will show pages with “tech” in the title, which is helpful if you’re looking for tech-related backlink opportunities.
  • “Intext:” This operator is used to find pages where the text contains specific keywords. For example, “intext:health tips” will return pages that mention health tips.

Combining these operators allows you to fine-tune your search for potential backlink sources and make your link-building efforts more targeted.

How to Analyze Link Relevance with Semrush

Semrush offers a suite of powerful analysis and link-building tools for assessing the relevance and quality of backlinks.

Use Backlink Analytics to Examine Inbound Links

The Backlink Analytics tool in Semrush is a great starting point for assessing link relevance. 

Here’s how to use it to check your own backlinks.

Backlink profile overview: This provides a snapshot of your site’s backlink profile, including the total number of backlinks, referring domains, and the types of backlinks (text, image, form, etc.).

Enter your domain into the Backlink Analytics tool and click Analyze. Then click on the Backlinks tab.

Semrush Backlink Analytics

Indexed pages: Examine the indexed pages that link to your site to assess whether these pages are relevant to your niche. Pages with content closely aligned with your site’s theme are more beneficial for SEO.

Click on the Indexed Pages tab to scroll through the pages that link to your website. 

Semrush Backlink Analytics Indexed Pages

Domain authority check: Use the domain scores in Semrush to gauge the authority of the websites linking to you. High-authority domains are generally more beneficial because they pass on more link equity.

Semrush Domain Authority Check

Identify Anchor Text Relevance with the Backlink Audit Tool

Anchor texts, the clickable words used in a hyperlink, are crucial in assessing link relevance because they provide context about the linked content. 

Search engines use anchor text to gauge the topic of the linked page and its relevance to the linking content. Well-chosen anchor texts that align closely with the content of both the linking and linked pages can significantly improve the perceived relevance and authority of the backlink.

The Backlink Audit tool in Semrush helps you analyze the anchor texts of your incoming links. Use it to check the anchor texts used in all of your backlinks. Relevant, natural, and descriptive anchor texts are preferable for off-page SEO.

Avoid dangerous anchor texts, like money and compound anchors, that appear manipulative or spammy. These include overly keyword-rich anchors or those that combine branded and keyword-rich texts. These can raise red flags with search engines.

To find all the domains that link to your site with a particular text, go to the Anchors report in the Backlink Audit tool, and type in the anchor text words or phrases you want to check. 

Semrush Backlink Audit tool

This guide will help you understand the differences between the anchors you can identify with Semrush, and why they could be dangerous to your backlink profile.

Explore Link Building Opportunities with the Network Graph

The Network Graph feature in Semrush is an innovative tool for visualizing and exploring link-building opportunities. You can find your graph as a report under Backlink Analysis, or under its own Network Graph tab.

The color-coded network for your site will help you analyze a domain’s link-building power and relevance. It displays the most relevant referring domains of your website.

Semrush Network Graph

The report shows you the network of referring domains most significant to your site. Relevance is determined by:

  • A high number of outgoing links to the target website
  • A low number of outgoing links to other domains
  • High Authority Score

Then, Semrush analyzes each dot in the network and assigns a color:

  • Red: Potentially dangerous or part of a backlink network
  • Gray: Not highly relevant but not irrelevant
  • Green: Highly relevant to the niche

Use the insights from the Network Graph to plan targeted link-building campaigns, focusing on acquiring links from relevant, authoritative sites within your niche.

Niche Relevant Backlinks

Niche-relevant backlinks are crucial because they indicate the relevance and authority of your website within your specific field. This improves your search rankings and helps you attract more targeted, engaged visitors.

How to Identify Niche Relevance

Identifying niche relevance in backlinks involves analyzing the content and context of the site that links to you. Look for sites that share a similar theme, subject matter, or target audience with your site.

Assess whether the content on the linking site complements or relates directly to your website’s content. Performing competitive intelligence for SEO to check the site’s audience demographics and the keywords it ranks for can also confirm its relevance to your niche.

How to Attract Niche-Relevant Backlinks

Networking within your niche is a great way to attract relevant backlinks organically. It involves building relationships with key players in your industry or community, which can lead to natural link-building opportunities.

Here are a few tips for niche networking.

  • Identify and connect with influencers and niche communities: Engage with their content through comments and social media interactions. Regularly sharing their content and contributing feedback that adds value can make you a go-to resource and encourage others to link to your content.
  • Host or participate in niche events: Hosting webinars, online workshops, or participating in industry events (like SEO conferences) can elevate your visibility and position your site as a valuable resource.
  • Collaborate on content: Offer to collaborate with bloggers, thought leaders, and influencers on content such as guest posts, webinars, or podcasts. This provides valuable content for the host site and creates natural opportunities for partners to link back to your site.

The Absolute Best Ways to Build Relevant Backlinks

One of the best ways to build a strong backlink profile and gain more relevant links is to create high-quality content using SEO copywriting that aligns with industry trends.

Publishing informative content that addresses the specific interests and needs of your niche audience increases the likelihood of that content getting shared and linked to by websites that focus on your topic.

Beyond creating high-quality content, here are several additional ways to attract relevant backlinks.

Use Data-Driven Insights

Leverage data and analytics to understand what content resonates with your audience. Conduct keyword research to identify trending topics within your niche. Use these insights to create content that engages your target audience and appeals to other content creators likely to link back to your site.

Establish Thought Leadership 

Publish original research, white papers, case studies, or insightful blog posts to position your brand as a thought leader. Being a source of unique, authoritative information encourages other websites to cite your work as a reference, which can help you naturally generate backlinks.

Engage in Digital PR 

Digital PR involves getting featured in industry publications, online magazines, and news sites. Reach out to journalists and editors with story ideas that include your content or expert opinions. Being featured in these publications brings in backlinks and enhances brand visibility.

Optimize for Shareability 

Make your content easy to share, and include elements like infographics, quotable snippets, or interactive media. The more shareable your content, the greater the likelihood of it being distributed across various platforms, leading to more backlinks.

Monitor and Respond to Industry Trends 

Stay agile and responsive to the latest developments in your industry. Quick reactions to new trends or news items can position your content as a go-to resource, which can help you attract backlinks from sources that seek to provide current information.

Building Backlinks Is Part of Your SEO Routine

Remember, building relevant backlinks is an ongoing process that requires persistence and adaptability. You’ll likely need to use a combination of the above methods to attract the backlinks needed to improve your rankings and get more organic traffic.

Focus on Relevant Backlinks to Boost Your Rankings

The relevance of backlinks plays a critical role in establishing your site’s credibility and authority in the eyes of both users and search engines. 

Understanding the difference between niche and location relevance, knowing how to assess a link’s relevance, and avoiding non-relevant backlinks are practical steps that help you build a strong, effective backlink profile.

Remember, when it comes to link building, quality always outweighs quantity.

Wondering how to start your journey to a better backlink profile?

Try Semrush Pro for free to start analyzing backlinks and identifying smart off-page SEO opportunities.