11 min read

What Are Contextual Backlinks? (and Why You Need Them)

Dmytro Sokhach, CEO of Admix Global
What Are Contextual Backlinks

You must have heard contextual backlinks are the most valuable type of links for SEO. That’s why you’re here, looking to learn more about contextual links, their benefits, and how to gain them.

Contextual backlinks are hyperlinks embedded within relevant content.

I’ll gladly provide you with all the answers based on my own experience and the insights from other SEO experts.


  • They’re crucial for SEO, offering benefits like improved rankings, increased authority, and higher brand awareness.
  • There are three types of contextual links: internal, inbound, and outbound links.
  • A good contextual link is characterized by its relevance to the topic of the page it’s placed on, the surrounding context, and the anchor text.
  • To make the most of contextual linking, focus on creating link-worthy content and establishing a strong internal linking structure first thing.
  • Only then, resort to manual link building, involving strategies like relationship-based link building, guest blogging, broken link building, and others.

What Are Contextual Backlinks?

Contextual backlinks are hyperlinks embedded within the relevant content of another webpage. These links naturally fit into the context of the surrounding content and usually provide additional information or resources related to the topic being discussed.

There are three types of contextual backlinks based on the relationship between the linking site and the page linked:

  • Internal contextual links
  • Inbound contextual links
  • Outbound contextual links

Let’s look into each.

Internal contextual links

These are links that connect different pages within the same website.

example of internal contextual backlink

This is an internal contextual link pointing from one page of the Influencer Marketing Hub blog to another page within the same blog.

For example, if your blog post mentions a related topic that was covered in a previous article on your website, you should interlink these pages. It will not only help users navigate a website more easily but also improve the overall structure and organization of the site for search engines.

Inbound contextual links

These links come from external websites to your website's pages.

inbound contextual backlink

For EarthWeb, this is an inbound contextual link.

Inbound contextual links are the most important from the SEO perspective — they signal to search engines that your content is trustworthy and authoritative within its topic area.

Outbound contextual links

Also known as external links, these links point from your website's pages to external websites.

outbound contextual link

While in this example, Semrush links to their own resource, the link points out to an external channel, which makes it technically an outbound backlink.

Outbound contextual links provide additional resources or references on the topic. While they may potentially divert traffic away from your site, you shouldn’t worry about it. If they find your site valuable, they’ll come back. If not, they’ll leave it anyway.

If you’re not convinced, just insert the target=”_blank” attribute to make outbound links open in a new tab.

5 Benefits of Contextual Backlinks

What makes contextual backlinks worth the effort? It’s all the positive outcomes, namely:

5 benefits of Contextual Backlinks

Stronger link profile

Contextual backlinks are extremely beneficial to your link profile because search engines like Google see them as more natural and useful.

By incorporating all three types of contextual links (internal, outbound, and inbound) into your strategy, you’ll build a healthy-looking link profile that emphasizes your site’s credibility in the eyes of search engines.

Increased authority

This is where inbound contextual links shine in particular. When you earn a backlink from a trustworthy, topically relevant site, it passes a portion of its authority, also known as "link juice," to your site. This process is fundamental in how search engines determine the credibility and relevance of web pages.

Generally, the more authoritative the sites you earn links from, the fewer links you need to achieve your goals.

💡Tip: Don’t confuse the concept of authority with third-party metrics such as domain authority (DA), domain rating (DR), and others. These metrics are only useful for estimating the likelihood that a site is perceived as trustworthy by search engines, based on the quality and quantity of its external backlinks.

Check out our guide on authority backlinks to better understand how the concept of authority operates in SEO.

Improved rankings

Building a strong link profile or boosting your site’s authority is hardly the main reason you’ve invested in link building. One of your primary goals is to improve the rankings of certain pages or the whole site.

With contextual links, you’ll achieve this goal and sustain it over time.

Nathan Gotch, Founder of Gotch SEO Academy, emphasizes the importance of contextual linking and warns SEO experts about the consequences of evaluating link-building opportunities on DR alone. Gotch demonstrates the stark decline in traffic experienced by a high DR website that was penalized by Google for engaging in manipulative practices. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that other websites that received links from this penalized site would also experience negative consequences, including a decline in rankings.

don't make this link building mistake


By prioritizing link relevancy over quick wins, you're more likely to achieve long-lasting positive outcomes and maintain stable rankings.

More referrals

A lot of SEO blogs emphasize increased referral traffic as one of the main benefits of contextual backlinks. I bet those articles were written by people who have never tried to drive referral traffic through link building.

The truth is, while contextual links may drive some clicks, the number is usually too insignificant to have a substantial impact on overall site traffic. There are exclusions though:

  • Viral or trending topics. If you’ve published fresh research or exclusive news and people started linking to it, you’ll most likely see referral traffic from those links.
  • Engaged communities. If a niche influencer includes your link to their post on a very specialized topic, you may receive a few qualified referrals (which is usually better than hundreds of visitors anyway).
  • Directories, review sites, and listings. If a user is searching for “the best email marketing software,” and your product is on the list, the link is likely to generate some serious referral traffic for you.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t expect contextual backlinks to drive significant referral traffic on their own.

Higher level of brand awareness

When a high-authority site links to an external source, people naturally perceive the linked source as trustworthy — assuming people actually click the link. If you want to boost brand awareness through link building, think about the types of content and anchor texts that attract readers’ attention. For instance, when citing research, authors usually include the name of the company that conducted it, which leads to increased visibility and recognition for the brand.

What Makes a Good Contextual Link

Let’s break down the criteria that define a contextual link that carries significant weight for your ink profile.

Link Relevance

Link relevance stands out as one of the factors for determining the rankings of the page linked. It’s basically an indicator of how the topic of page A is related to page B if one links to the other. The more relevant the link, the more likely both pages are to rank for queries related to their topic.

Search engines determine link relevance by:

  • The topic of the linking page
  • The surrounding context and the link anchor text

So how do you find contextually relevant pages for link building? Simply researching the relevant topic(s) isn’t very productive — the results will most likely be dominated by your competitors (and it doesn’t look like they’re willing to link back to your site, does it?).

Antonio Gabric, Outreach Manager at Hunter, suggests a neat workaround — that is using the AROUND(X) search operator to find all articles that touch upon your selected topic. The search operator defines the maximum distance between the two keywords, thus helping you identify potential variations of anchor texts and access a wider selection of relevant content.

relevancy is the king of link building


Anchor text optimization

The anchor text used in the backlink provides additional context to search engines about the content of your page, helping to rank it for the right keywords.

When choosing an anchor text for your link (given that you have control over it), pick the keywords that most accurately describe the page or idea you're linking to.

💡Tip: While it's essential to optimize anchor texts for relevant keywords, avoid over-optimization by stuffing them with too many keywords or using exact-match anchor texts repeatedly.

How to Build Contextual Backlinks

To make the most of contextual linking, you need three things: quality content, a solid internal linking structure, and an effective manual link-building strategy.

How To Build Contextual Backlinks

Create link-worthy content

To spend less time on link building while enjoying exponential link profile growth, double down on content that has the potential to attract links naturally.

Here are a few examples of content formats journalists and alike can’t resist:

  • Original research involves conducting and publishing studies or surveys. Journalists and bloggers often look for data-driven content to support their articles, making original research a highly link-worthy content format.
  • Thought leadership content may include opinions of your own subject matter experts or external contributors. If you manage to present unique insights, people will want to quote it in their content. 
  • Experiments that test hypotheses or explore new ideas always drive attention and links.
  • Case studies provide real-world examples of how people or companies overcame problems or achieved their goals using a specific technique or product. Writers usually search for these to back their “how-to” articles.
  • Newsjacking involves using viral news or trending topics to create timely and relevant content. This is a time-sensitive approach though — so you can’t plan it in advance.

Start with a strong contextual internal linking structure

Step two: let's get our own house in order. Interlink the key pages of your site to make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages and distribute link equity throughout your site.

Begin by mapping out the hierarchy of your website, including the main categories and subcategories. Determine which pages are most important for your website. These could be cornerstone content, product pages, service pages, or any other pages that you want to prioritize. These key pages will serve as the foundation for your internal linking strategy.

When linking between your own pages, use descriptive anchor text that accurately describes the linked page's content. Avoid generic phrases like "click here" and instead use keywords that provide context to both users and search engines.

Manual Link Building

As soon as you’ve created link-worthy content and optimized the internal linking structure, you can start driving contextual inbound backlinks to your site. Easier said than done, huh?

There’s no alternative to manual link building to gain high-quality contextual links. Get ready to spend the next few months on research, outreach, and content creation until you see the first tangible outcomes.

Where do you start? If you simply begin reaching out to editors out of the blue and ask them to insert your links, the success rate will be incredibly low. As a site owner and regular contributor on other sites, I often receive requests like the one in the screenshot. Guess how many of them get answered? Exactly.

example of mail with request

To help you quickly get up to speed, I've selected the eight best manual link-building strategies that are effective for everyone:

  • Relationship-based link building. Connect with other content managers and link builders to engage in (white hat) link exchange activities.
  • Guest blogging. Write articles for sites in a relevant niche, including contextual links to your target pages and your partners’ content (if you decide to engage in relationship-link building).
  • Unlinked mentions. Identify unlinked mentions of your brand on external websites and request adding a link back to your site under your brand name.
  • Broken link building. Find broken links on relevant websites and reach out to webmasters or content managers offering your content as a replacement.
  • HARO link building. Contribute your commentaries to journalists’ articles through the Connectively (ex-HARO) platform and earn high-quality backlinks from reputable news outlets.
  • Skyscraper technique. Search for competitors’ content that others link to and create a better piece on the same topic to get people to link to it instead.
  • Digital PR. Create newsworthy stories about your brand and pitch them to media outlets and journalists for coverage (and links!).
  • Interviews and podcasting. Are you a subject matter expert? You can participate in interviews, podcasts, or other forms of thought leadership content and get contextual links and credit for your contribution.

Whatever strategy you select, always remember the key criteria of a quality placement:

Link builder or agency doesn’t see beyond DR = a huge red flag. 🚩

Here is what’s more important than high DR:

→ Anchor texts

→ Top ranking pages

→ Website growth over time

→ Backlink profile relevancy

→ Content quality and relevancy

→ Incoming/outgoing backlinks ratio

Antonio Gabric, Outreach Manager at Hunter
Antonio Grabic

Outreach Manager at Hunter

Entrust Contextual Link Building to Professionals

While building contextual links manually demands a lot of time and effort, the results definitely justify the investment. If you're lacking the resources to kickstart and expand your contextual link-building efforts, Editorial.Link is here to assist you.

Our team of top link-building experts will discuss your goals with you and help you win high DR contextual links that bring you closer to those goals. We focus on relationship-based link building, no shady schemes or manipulative practices. Contact us to get a free sample of links.

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