When I started GetQuotes-IT.com in 2003, I knew nothing about link exchanges and didn't even know what SEO stood for. I remember how excited I was when googlebot visited my site 10 times in one day. WOW!!, little did I know it was merely crawling the 10 accessible pages on my site. It's still only a hobby and I am still not an expert, but we're learning.
Quite often when I visit a SEO forum, I see a comment about link relevance and how you should only link to sites with similar content to your own. In theory I agree with this because why send your visitors to an unrelated site and why attract visitors who probably have no interest in your site?
Most often, though, these people say that irrelevant links will not help your rankings in the SERPs and they have various opinions about the effect on your PR.
My first question is whether Google actually knows whether a site is relevant or not.
Say your website's topic is holiday destinations and you have a resources directory. One page in the directory is only for links to software related sites. Therefore, all the descriptions of those sites make the topic of this page software related. If you put a Google Adsense block on this page, you will quickly see that Google considers the topic to be software related. So, the question is then whether Google considers the relevance of the whole site or just that page. I don't know.
More important though, is the perceived importance of that little green bar at the top of your browser. Have you ever tried exchanging links with a PR7 site when your own site is only a PR1 or anything less than a 5? Most webmasters will laugh at the suggestion. So how do you get a link from a PR7 site? Get the green bar to grow!! I think most people do the same as I do when they receive a link request. I open the requesting site and have a look at the PR. I personally link to PR 1 and PR2 sites if they are fairly new (check their whois information), but I don't think most people even bother with that.
As I mentioned before, I agree with the theory of linking to relevant sites. However, until you have a respectable PR, it will often be easier to get links from unrelated sites than just finding willing links in your specific market.
Does a link from an unrelated site help your PR? Most definitely!! Even if it doesn't help your SERP ranking, it does help your PR. FryYourBeef.com is a bit of an off-beat site where people can complain about whatever is on their mind. A bit hard to find related sites, so I have exchanged links with sites from any industry. Though not much, it does have a PR4 without me having to spend too much time on it and I don't know whether it has any related links.
So here's my opinion. When you're starting out, get as many links as you can with relatively good PR, even if they're not related to your site. A link from a PR2 site when your own site is PR1, is a good link. Chances are, that other site's PR will increase with yours and eventually that'll be a PR5 or higher link.
Having said all that, I do believe that a relevant link adds a lot more value to your site, both in terms of SERP ranking and directed traffic. Therefore, once you have some PR (say PR4 or 5), it's time to start focusing on your own market. By this time people within your industry will be more willing to consider your site for linking and as we all know, link exchanges are hard work. So spend your time effectively by gaining links that will benefit your site.
About The Author
Dirk Wessels is a software developer and owner of GetQuotes-IT.com. You may redistribute this article, but please keep this "About the author" section within the article.