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There is always some gap between what we perceive and do, especially in link building. Every marketer intends to get links from websites that demonstrate both relevance and authority, but this is an ideal situation whereas ground realities are entirely different. Despite the best intentions, inferior links might creep into the backlink inventory that lacks both relevance and authority and contributes no value.  You must drive away all poor quality links and depend only on quality white hat backlinks that are relevant and demonstrate authority. That takes us to the most crucial question – which is more critical relevance or authority. To find the answer, we have to look at the applicability of links that illustrates its value. It is important to remember that both relevant links and authoritative links impart value to websites but in different ways.


The Need for Relevant Links

When you are practicing white hat SEO, you have no choice but to pay attention to link relevance because Google doesn’t like irrelevant link. Google looks upon it with suspicion as it feels that the website receiving such links is engaged in some manipulative link building practice. It takes us back to the opening sentences of this article that highlights the good intention of marketers to acquire relevant links only.  Link relevance equates with link quality and reaffirms that it has traced the organic path during acquisition. When other websites discover merit in your content that has relevant context, it gives reasons to share links and establish a relationship between them.


Link Relevance Impacts Search Algorithm

Relevant links are high performers, and more important because they have a more significant impact on the search algorithm. Since links have a direct relation to search rankings, chasing relevant links becomes obvious. There are enough examples that point to the fact that, if you want to win the game every time, you have to depend on link relevance. The biggest attraction of relevant links is its capability to create opportunities for qualified referral traffic which is a bonus for marketers. The relevance factor is so crucial for driving traffic that there are people who are ready to accept links from low authority websites but having high relevance.

The ability to drive traffic is critical because, when more targeted traffic reaches the website, it increases the potential to affect conversions and other metrics. Targeted traffic translates into higher conversions and influences SEO results by driving it towards success.


The Need For Authoritative Links

Google considers link authority as a factor to determine link quality and it is the prime reason why you must pay attention to link authority. The authority of links emanates from the originating website and it is a measure of its trustworthiness that shows its worth.  While link relevance has a direct impact on traffic, link authority is more important for impressing search engines by establishing the fact that your website is in good company.  The authority has more importance from the ranking perspective which is also critical to gaining visibility and driving traffic to sites.

Having a backlink from a website that has high domain authority will add more power to your site by increasing its authority. The authority is a sign of a trusted resource that helps to earn brownie points from Google.

Having understood the importance of relevance and authority, let us now turn to the methods of ascertaining these all important factors that determine link quality.


How to Identify An Authoritative Link

You don’t need to have any special skills to determine if a link has authority or not because you can figure it out by looking at the quality of website it comes from. News websites, review sites and reputed websites in the industry niche all demonstrate high authority that has made many of these household names like Forbes, Huffington Post, BBC, The Guardian, etc.

When you get a link from the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it does not need any mention of how valuable that link is. Similarly, a link from Search Engine Journal, TechCrunch, NerdWallet, or Gizmodo is of high value because these websites are leaders in their domain and exert immense authority. It is easy to identify the authoritativeness of sites that do not relate to any specific field.

But the problem you face is when you come across websites that are not household names but belong to some industry niche. In such cases, you have to use some methods of determining authority as enumerated below.

  • Use Your Judgment – The appearance of a website can tell you a lot about its status as a legitimate entity. These sites are free from grammatical and spelling errors and the presentation is most professional as they keep in mind the convenience of users. They contain focused content or publish articles and blogs that correlate with the central theme of the site. Browsing the site should be pleasurable and meaningful that gives value for the time viewers spend on the website.


  • The Likelihood of You Linking To the Website – Have a look at the links that the site attracts and consider how much eager you would be to link with it. If many other quality links exist on the website, it is a sign of authority. Check the links to ascertain if all are ‘do follow’ links and even check if they use affiliate codes. Go by your gut feeling, and if it generates positive vibes that drive you towards the website and you feel the urge of linking to it, there is little to doubt the authority of the site.


  • Check Backlinks – Using some third-party tool like Moz or Majestic is a good way to evaluate the quality of backlinks, especially concerning authority.

A better way to judge link quality is to have a holistic view of the link to ascertain if it fulfills the purpose of defining a topic, providing context, explaining an idea and providing further resources for a topic.


Determining Relevance

Many of the methods of determining relevance are similar to what you have done to ascertain authority.

The site objectives reveal its relevance – By looking at a website you can quickly judge its intentions and relate with your purposes to determine if it is relevant. It needs no specialized knowledge to look for similarities that make the site suitable. A website dealing in computers would have no interest to connect with a travel website.

The context of content – The topics of content that the site publishes must focus on the right context relevant to the website. The site must have its own goal that defines the context, and the content has to revolve around it. It cannot publish content covering varied topics that deviate from the core area of business or the publishing goals which is a sign of poor authority.

Checking reviews about the website and cross-checking with the social profiles will give an idea about the amount of expertise the site wields in its domain that reflects its relevance and authority.

If you want to determine the value of links, you should determine the usefulness of the website. If you find it useful, it will be valuable to you, regardless of its relevance and authority.