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It's a fairly common SEO belief that acquiring links from authoritative websites relevant to yours is one of the best ways to achieve results. And it makes sense. After all, why wouldn't search engines want to consider the relevancy of a site to the sites it links to?

But what if the belief that site relevancy is an important SEO factor is wrong? According to SEO consultant Richard Baxter, that may just be the case.

Using data he collected from Yahoo Site Explorer and Linkscape, Baxter performed a little test for a website he's working on. After analyzing his data, he came to the conclusion that relevant links are overvalued:

Sites are ranking regardless of how “relevant” this test percieves their inbound link profiles to be. The top ranking sites in the test had consistently low relevant link counts. Instead, authority factors such as value (mR) passed via relevant anchors and anchor text term distribution percentages seem to play a strong influencing role in final ranking position.

The potential implication if Baxter is right:

As long you’ve built links on reasonably trusted, authoritative domains, and you’ve thrown in some (sometimes over) optimised anchor text for good measure, you can still rank.

Needless to say, I wouldn't change up your SEO strategy just yet. For understandable reasons, Baxter doesn't reveal the website he's working to build up or the keywords he's targeting. In theory, this could make all the difference and I wouldn't assume that the dynamic he's seeing in one circumstance is necessarily reflective of a global dynamic.

Additionally, Baxter admits that he'd like to refine how he evaluated 'relevancy'. Specifically, he would like to include "mentions of the key phrase in the body content on the linked-from page", something that was excluded but that could potentially be important.

Regardless of this, I think Baxter's observations are interesting if for no other reason than that they highlight the importance of performing critical analyses of your efforts. Whether it's SEO or paid advertising, there's a wealth of data you can collect that can be analyzed in potentially interesting ways to answer important questions. If you're link building, for instance, and are finding it difficult to acquire links from authoritative websites relevant to yours, setting out like to answer the question of whether or not relevancy is really delivering much additional value could be a lifesaver.

So are links from relevant websites overvalued? In SEO, there are very few 'yes' and 'no' answers because there are so many factors that are specific to industries, sites and even keywords. In some cases, they might be. In other cases, they might not be. Until you analyze your data to come to a conclusion you believe in, you won't know. But your competitors might.

Photo credit: kjarrett via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 September, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

Comments (49)

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Matthew Phelan

Matthew Phelan, Director and Co-Founder at 4Ps Marketing

We currently work on about 25 SEO client websites and in all cases our research shows us that relevant links are extremely important. Link building with no relevancy is also ignoring the undeniable fact that SEO should be part of the wider marketing strategy.


Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link juice.
YES you may be able to get a few non competitive terms to rank with non relevant links but when you are competing in mature markets this is a very risky strategy.

about 7 years ago

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Craig Scott - internet marketing

I have seen similar results but have not conducted a rigorous study. However, I am still an advocate of relevancy because of the effect tit has on your corparate image. But,  if you are a spammy kind of site your don't really care about your reputation...

about 7 years ago

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Matt Greenlees, Sales & Marketing Exec at TradeDoubler

Really interesting post. One thing that really caught my attention was towards the end. "In SEO, there are very few 'yes' and 'no' answers". Not only for the reasons stated but because it seems, everything in SEO changes at a much faster rate than any other advertising medium. For example, best advertising spots in TV are still the same as they were 20 years ago. But for digital advertisers and specifically SEOs it's a constant battle to know what strategy is going to work best for your client. More often than not though it's going to include links.

about 7 years ago

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Kruse Internet Marketing

Simple solution; get both kinds of links! When you can't find any more from relevant sites, get links from quality sites on other themes. Quality is still quality and that'll be respected by Google.

BB

about 7 years ago

Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks, Owner at MMU

I go with Matthew on this. Even if the algorithms aren't placing too much weight on relevancy now, taking an approach of relevancy towards the overall marketing strategy is the key to succeeding. Inevitably links from relevant sites/pages will grow in stature so it makes obvious sense to pursue this route.

about 7 years ago

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Live Ambitions

I agree with everyone above.  At this point, I think non-relevant links count just as much as relevant links, however, we never don't know how the algorithm might change in the future.

To play it safe, it might be wiser to go with relevancy.

about 7 years ago

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Live Ambitions

Oops

Omit "don't" in my last comment.

about 7 years ago

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SearchEngineConsultant

"Relevancy is valued by search engines the same as how a human would value a link that he see in a web page that speaks about a related resource and navigates there."

about 7 years ago

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web development

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing.

about 7 years ago

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John Hyde

Hang on guys !

He fed one cat on fresh fish and the other cat on tinned food for a few days and we can extrapolate from 2 cats to all the cats in the world for all time ?

about 7 years ago

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london seo expert

It all depends on what you want to get out of your link plan.

Relevancy is important - as you can become an authoritative figure on your niche and potential customers may then click through to your site and you will generate extra traffic to your site, which in turn could generate extra revenue. 

If you are just interested in appearing high in the rankings then your link plan can include posts, blog etc.. to non relevant sites. 

almost 7 years ago

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Tanya Thomas

I completely agree with your findings that it is not mandatory to seek authoritative type link acquisitions and greater weight rests in anchor texts. This, of course, is in direct opposition to a recent statement from Google Search high profiler, Matt Cutts, when he suggests little if any weight is attributed to meta information such as keywords and anchors. 

almost 7 years ago

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dizi izle

It all depends on what you want to get out of your link plan.

Relevancy is important - as you can become an authoritative figure on your niche and potential customers may then click through to your site and you will generate extra traffic to your site, which in turn could generate extra revenue.

If you are just interested in appearing high in the rankings then your link plan can include posts, blog etc.. to non relevant sites.

over 6 years ago

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Sohbet

This is just for sure that when you're doing SEO, there some rules and some strategies. One is getting high quality (also high PR) backlinks and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links.

over 6 years ago

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Chat

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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sikis izle

"Relevancy is valued by search engines the same as how a human would value a link that he see in a web page that speaks about a related resource and navigates there."

over 6 years ago

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Hakan Tokmaklar

I go with Matthew on this. Even if the algorithms aren't placing too much weight on relevancy now, taking an approach of relevancy towards the overall marketing strategy is the key to succeeding.

over 6 years ago

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duslerim

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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hallederik

He fed one cat on fresh fish and the other cat on tinned food for a few days and we can extrapolate from 2 cats to all the cats in the world for all time ?

over 6 years ago

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giydirme oyunları

I think non-relevant links count just as much as relevant links, however, we never don't know how the algorithm might change in the future.

over 6 years ago

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mario oyunları

Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link juice.

over 6 years ago

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turban

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Muzik

 One is getting high quality (also high PR) backlinks and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links. Quality is still quality and that'll be respected by Google.

over 6 years ago

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Aşk Büyüsü

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

sohbet

This is just for sure that when you're doing SEO, there some rules and some strategies. One is getting high quality (also high PR) backlinks and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Jhonny

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Sibel Kekilli

and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links. Quality is still quality and that'll be respected by Google

over 6 years ago

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Gulsene

ome rules and some strategies. One is getting high quality (also high PR) backlinks and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links.

over 6 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

slowmuzik

iseee i seee hanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really hanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really

over 6 years ago

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porno izle

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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estetik

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Evliçiftler Burada

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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wp .theme

hanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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make money

thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Auto loan

thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Ders Videoları

Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link

over 6 years ago

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Ayırma büyüsü

Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link

over 6 years ago

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seks partner

Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link juice.

over 6 years ago

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motercalo

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

over 6 years ago

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Chat Rulet

Building links just for SEO is bad practice in any instance. The links need to serve more of a purpose than just link juice.

about 6 years ago

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steve

I have working on car sites. I decided to look at other Mfg's and cites with an seo tool

My conclusion is :

1)      is page views and page turns is absolutely the most important

2)      Relevance is important-they did not let cars.com (#5) up top with much better better numbers because they thought I was looking for a DEALER

3)      Links are like drinks-5 are ok but 10 are too many-1500 links did cars.com no good.In second the numbers were so close(10 off pages and views)  yet 17 back links didn’t put them ahead of the winner with O !

4)      Page views would be worth more than paying a person from India to put 1500 links up

about 6 years ago

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Bandirma Firma Rehberi

Thanks for the details.Well this post has given me an in-depth knowledge on the issue.We've got to be really aware of what our competitors are doing

about 6 years ago

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mp3indir

thanks admin

about 6 years ago

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Sikiş

  1. thanks admin

about 6 years ago

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Seks Hikaye

Thanks admin forever

about 6 years ago

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Photoshop Sitesi

BeatifuL Thanx.

almost 6 years ago

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Trusted Dating Sites Reviews

This is just for sure that when you're doing SEO, there some rules and some strategies. One is getting high quality (also high PR) backlinks and also relevant backlinks and also using anchor texts as getting these links.

over 5 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Eğitim Haberleri

I agree with everyone above. At this point, I think non-relevant links count just as much as relevant links, however, we never don't know how the algorithm might change in the future.

almost 5 years ago

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araba oyunu

My fear is that nothing will happen. And that reform is not reform but merely perceived access to care for more people who then will face a system that is ill-prepared to handle them, making experiences and outcome even worse.

over 4 years ago

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