My thoughts about relevance in link building have been generating some discussion at the Webmaster-Talk Forum with some forum members who are arguing on the side of getting links at all costs and the higher the PR of the link the better. I thought I would continue talking about relevance approaching the topic outside of the realm of search engines and just the value of the link itself.
Relevant Links Bring Traffic
I want to take a step back from thinking about what a link will do for search engine rank and think about the actual link itself. A good deal of traffic can come from a link regardless of how it may help you in a search engine. To increase the chances of someone clicking on any given link the link should be relevant to the page or site where it’s located. A link to an auto parts store on a site with information about auto repair stands a much better chance of getting traffic than the same link does on a site about knitting. The same way a link to a store selling yarn will do much better on the knitting site than on the auto repair site.
It’s the same reason you’ll see more commercials for beer during a football game than you will during a repeat episode of Matlock. Marketing research has shown that sports fans are more likely to purchase alcohol especially during a game than are viewers of Matlock. An advertisement for beer is relevant to an NFL broadcast. Each of your links is essentially a commercial on another website. The more relevant it is to that site the more likely someone will click on it and visit your site.
The more relevant your links the more traffic you can bring to your site. Having a linking building strategy that doesn’t account for relevance is simply giving away traffic. I’ll even argue that it will probably be easier to acquire relevant links since they will also appeal to site owners as providing something useful for their visitors. Visitors to the auto repair site will find a link to an auto parts website useful, visitors to the knitting site not so much. You’ll have a greater chance of convincing the owner of the auto repair site to carry a link to your auto parts website.
Relevant Links and Search Engines
The major goal of every search engine is to present results to search queries that visitors find relevant. If every time you type in ‘auto repair’ in a search engine your present with a list of sites about knitting you’ll be switching to another search engine. The relevance for search results is the same relevance for a link on a site. When Google first to came to the scene with pagerank it was a way to make their results more relevant to searchers. Pagerank alone isn’t enough though. A link to an auto parts website on a high PR knitting site is still not likely to get clicked. It may be more likely to be seen, but the goal is to get the link clicked not just seen.
Relevance in links is the natural progression for pagerank. The concept of pagerank is that a link from one site to another is a recommendation for the linked site. The more recommendations the more likely the recommended site is one that searches will want to visit. Relevance also adds the concept of better recommendations to the equation. So the better the recommendation the the more likely a searcher will want to visit a site.
More links are still part of the equation, but the weight is shifting in having better links as opposed to the shear number of links. One link from an authority site on auto repair will count as a better recommendation that several hundred links from knitting sites. Think about it for a second. Which recommendation would you be more likely to follow.
Search engine algorithms are constantly improving. As they change they attempt to make their results more relevant. With each update tactics that once worked to achieve top results no longer work while others continue to remain effective and new ways to determine what site is most relevant to a search query are added. It may be true that more links from high PR sites will still help you get ranked today yet it is also true that search engines see relevant links as a better way to determining relevant results than non relevant links. With each upgrade to the algorithm relevant links will play a more important role and pagerank will play a secondary role being important only in the context of how relevant the the site is. Non-relevant links from high PR sites will take a back seat to relevant links from any site regardless of it’s PR.
I want my business to be generating traffic not only today, but a year from now and five years from now. I’d like to see it generating more traffic in the future than it does now. It only makes sense to adopt a link strategy that is in line with where search engines are going and not where they’ve been.