If you know anything about how SEO works, you’ll know that backlinking is arguably the most important component in creating a comprehensive SEO strategy. In fact, building high-quality backlinks should be the cornerstone of any SEO strategy. Otherwise, your domain (and the specific URL you are trying to rank) are not going to be recognized by Google as an authoritative source for the search query you are trying to rank for.
Still, this begs the question: do the links you are building need to be on publications relevant to the niche you are in? The answer is it depends on the approach you are going for. At first, when building authority links, you should be more concerned with building your overall site authority. So, if your site has only a few low-quality or spammy backlinks, you should be more concerned with building your overall site authority and going for links with the highest authority possible. Think of this like building a good foundation; without a good structure in place, you won’t be able to build up your search presence at all.
However, once you’ve started to build some authority links, it’s time to add some tactical links into the mix. That being said, tactical links (links built to certain pages on your site that are optimized to rank for certain keywords) don’t have to be solely in your niche, especially if your niche is a bit obscure. If, for example, you run a SaaS company in the HR niche, you don’t just have to publish on publications and blogs covering HR. You may also want to consider sites focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and even big data.
In fact, the relevance of content here is more important than the exact-match relevance of the domain to your niche. You need to have blog posts or ‘pair up’ link building assets ready to go that are both relevant to where you are trying to get a link and are also optimized for search. This will help you rank for a larger variety of keywords, some that you may not have realized are relevant to your site or are things your potential customers or clients are interested in learning more about.
This is why a strategy like guerilla keyword research works best when targeting sites to build backlinks to. Instead of just looking at how relevant the domain is, you also need to consider what types of keywords you are trying to rank for, and what the difficulty of ranking for these keywords would be. After all, the goals of backlinks are twofold; build authority and rank for keywords relevant to your business.
That’s not to say that relevance of domain isn’t important at all. As stated in the previous an example, a SaaS company in the HR niche probably shouldn’t be targeting blogs and publications in the DIY crafts or lifestyle niche if their products and services don’t overlap in any tangible way. A repeated building of links to completely irrelevant sites will signal to Google what you’re doing, and likely result in a manual penalty.
Still, it’s important to keep backlink relevance in perspective. The ultimate goal of a successful link building campaign is not just to build buzz for your products; it’s to build search authority and relevance for your site. Dominance of a top three Google position for a high-converting keyword can create the makings of a successful online business, and at the end of the day, converting searchers to customers is the goal of any successful SEO strategy.