The Case for Topically Irrelevant Backlinks
by Eric Ward
Sometime during the course of building links to your site, you’ll come across a site with a really high PageRank but which has absolutely nothing at all to do with your site. No point in pursuing a link then, right?
Yes, no, and maybe.
For example, Yahoo Picks of the Week at http://picks.yahoo.com/picks/ is PR8. But Yahoo’s Picks page is not related at all to any of the sites they select, and the selections change every day. One site could be about poodles and another about mountain survival. Always changing, all the time, but always PR8.
This means if Google or any other SE wants to pass credit (Pagerank, etc.) to the selected sites, the SE has to make an exception to the relevancy aspect of their algorithm, since there’s ZERO relevancy subject-wise between the Yahoo Picks page and any of the sites selected and linked to on that page.
Who cares if a search engine thinks such a link is topically irrelevant? Not me. Nor do I care about its PageRank. I’m more interested in the millions of people seeing the site reviews and the links to them, just a click away
The value of the links, in this case, go far beyond anything a search engine understands. Millions of people read Yahoo Picks every day. They read it mostly via email, (can’t give credit for email based links), and a few read it via the web-based archive, which of course can be counted. Who cares if a search engine thinks such a link is topically irrelevant? Not me. Nor do I care about its Pagerank. I’m more interested in the millions of people seeing the site reviews and the links to them, just a click away.
Most of these editorial link opportunities are similar (FORBES Best of the Web, USA Today Hot Sites, Family First Picks, and on and on. There are thousands). This is where the line between link building and publicity-seeking begins to blur (if it existed in the first place). Editorial links are typically one-way, cannot be bought, are hand picked by human editors, and are read primarily via email but then in some cases also archived on the web.
My expectation is that over time Google and other SEs will have to put more “trust” on editorial links like these above because they know they aren’t paid for or negotiated. They are based on content quality. This means ignoring the subject relevancy between the two sites (Yahoo Picks and the site they pick), but in this case, that’s EXACTLY what should happen. Ignore relevancy, reward editorial credibility.
Until next time.