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Is Relevance Important To Your Link Exchange Strategy?


It's no secret that the search engine industry is full of speculation. One topic of controversy is the subject of relevant links. It's still unclear just how important relevancy is to high rankings.

Google itself claims to "combine PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page's content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it's a good match for your query."

One of the obvious arguments for relevant linking is that linking from Site A to Site B with the anchor text "widgets" will make Site B appear more relevant for the term "widgets".

Some link exchange programs are now offering exclusion filters to let their members pick and choose what sites to link to based on site and category relevance.

In the past year, it's been said that "themes" have become increasingly important to the search engines, with the quality of links outweighing the quantity. However, despite all the hype about relevancy and all the talk of themes, many search engine professionals from some of cyberspace's most popular online forums doubt the importance of relevant links.

"Personally, I find it hard to believe relevant links make much of a difference from an SEO standpoint," speculated WebmasterWorld member hobbnet, "although I do believe there is value in relevant links because users will be more likely to click on links that are relevant to what they are already reading."

"Since we know that in the real world we cannot fully control who links to us, and we also agree that the search engines are trying to get as close to a human type review as possible, then it seems plausible that some degree of off-topic links may actually provide some benefit since that closely resembles what would occur naturally," said Kevin 11 over at the SEO-Guy forums.

Another point is that relevance is...well...relative. What one person considers to be relevant might seem off-topic to someone else.

Certainly the advancement of search engine technology has some effect on the importance of relevancy. The human brain can comprehend relevant links and, if reasons for linking are not obvious, we can at least take guesses at why the webmaster chose to exchange links with a particular site. Spiders, on the other hand, might not have the luxury of eductated guessing. At this point, search engine spider technology is still fairly new to the world and there's no telling how the spiders determine how relevant a link truly is or how well they can gauge relevancy.

It's probable that search engines such as Google use on-page elements such as keywords, anchor text, title tags, and headers to determine relevance, since those elements are used to determine what the pages themselves are about. But it's uncertain if spiders can analyze relevancy beyond those factors. What seems relevant to the search engines and what is relevant to the end user might be two completely different things.

Could it be that we're giving the search engines too much credit? Search engines are not almighty deities; they are imperfect technologies with a limited understanding of complex human intentions. At the moment, search engine technology seems to focus more on links than content. Even if relevant links are a current trend, the old methods of link building, which have existed longer than the search engines themselves, still continue to work. That's why spammy sites are still making it to the top of the search engines. That's why affiliate links show up in completely unrelated search results. Relevant linking certainly has potential and would help Google in its goal of providing the most relevant results on the Web, but it just doesn't seem to play a big role in search engine rankings at the present time.

Should a webmaster link to an off-topic site that he or she thinks might be of interest to his or her target audience? What it all comes down to is every webmaster must make a conscious decision about the direction of his or her site. What's more important to you? High rankings or your visitors' interests?

Truly savvy webmasters will find that you don't necessarily have to pick between the two; it's possible to compromise. By having a well optimized site that focuses on customer needs and wants, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.


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Tuesday, 20 Mar 2018 03:49 AM


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