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Does Google Penalize Unrelated Links?

SEO / traffic-building questions and answers


What is your opinion regarding quality linkbacks that have nothing to do with your own site theme or topic? I've read so many pros and cons regarding this subject, some with accompanying warnings of the wrath of Google. Should one be so foolhardy as to include linkbacks that are not related? Does it really make any difference whether the links are related or not?

Submitted by Bill R.


The pros and cons of unrelated links have been debated for years. Some insist that linking to an unrelated site will get you into trouble with Google. I couldn't disagree more.

Some of the most successful websites on the Internet link freely to "unrelated" websites. Have you ever heard of Yahoo? How about DMOZ? They quite literally link to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of unrelated websites and vice versa. Just go to Google and type link:www.yahoo.com and you'll see what I mean.

If done properly, there is no such thing as an irrelevant link. If the link title and description accurately and completely describe the site being linked to, then the link is by definition relevant.

As long as the user knows what type of site a particular link will take him to, he can decide whether to click the link or not. If the link describes a site that interests him, he'll click it. If not, he won't.

Enough of the philosophical discussion about why "theming" makes no sense. Now let's examine it from the practical side. Links from any non-penalized web page and site count the same for ranking purposes as do links from any other page. Years of personal experience has proven this to be the case.

The Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org) is one of the world's largest collections of "unrelated" links. Their home page is PR9 and they come up #2 on Google for a search on the word "directory". Google itself has literally billions of "unrelated" links in their database. Their home page is PR10 and they come up #3 for a Google search on "search engines".

On a more personal level, this site (RLROUSE Directory & Informational Resources) links to hundreds of "unrelated" links. Our home page has an excellent PageRank and we come up in the top 10 for numerous search terms.

So... In a nutshell, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that linking to "unrelated" sites will incur a penalty of any kind (link farms excluded of course).

And if Google ever does decide that unrelated links are bad (highly unlikely), they won't penalize the page. At most, they'll just ignore those links. After all, why would Google want to penalize linking to unrelated sites when it would mean having to give www.google.com a PR0?
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