I get routinely requests from people that want to exchange links with me, and offer links to my blog from “PR 5” and even “PR 6 sites”. Interesting? A lot of people fall for it, thinking that links from a higher-ranking page rank (PR) site will automatically push you up in the search engines. Think twice. You might believe it’s a gold mine. But the bad news is that it might be fool’s gold.

I am not the only one that thinks that page rank is vastly overrated. PR is only an indicator from Google, but it does not necessarily mean that a high-PR site will rank on top the search engines for a specific keyword. A high PR provides authority, but authority is not the only factor that makes you rank as #1 in the search engines.

However, let’s assume that PR is indeed important. Conventional wisdom states that a link from a high-PR site is worth more than many links from lower-PR sites. Well, it depends. I often prefer a link from the home page with a PR 2 than a link from an internal PR 6 site page. Surprised? You should not be. What people don’t realize is that the only page rank that matters is that of the page that links to you, not of the site itself.

Why is that? If a site has a few thousand pages, not all pages will be equal. A PR 8 site can perfectly have thousands of unranked pages, or a lot of pages with very low page ranks. A direct link to you from the home page of that site –PR 8– is indeed invaluable. A link from one of those thousands of pages with a PR 0 is worth less than the home page link from a PR 2 site.

Over time –if the site lasts enough– those low-ranking pages may start ranking higher, but so will the lower-ranking site. Overall, it is a bad deal to get a link from a page that ranks lower than yours in exchange from one link from your main site. After all, your main site will also start to rank higher, won’t it?

Exchanging links –if properly done– is actually not bad, provided it is performed properly. For example, do not link to the page that links back to you. But there are two prerequisites to this: First, that the pages are oriented to the same subject. A link from a dog site to your health-related site is not going to help you much. Second, that the link exchange is not biased (e.g., that you are requested to provide a link from one of your high-PR pages in exchange for a link from a low-PR page. It’s OK if you want to propose that to somebody else for your own reasons, but if the PR is biased in favor of the one making the request, then the other one is being cheated.

This does not mean that internal pages should be disregarded and that you should only ask for links from the home page. Interestingly, I’ve very often found internal pages that significantly outrank the home page, with a PR that is up to three points higher than that of the site itself. Now, if I get a link from that particular page I will be greatly pleased – much more than if the link is from the main site page.

Another aspect is how such links are made. Apart that the links should have the proper anchor text you want, they should be do-follow links. One would think that both aspects should be evident, but often are not. And if the link includes an irrelevant anchor text, or is no-follow, then the link is essentially worthless to you for the purpose of improving your ranking.

There is however one case where perhaps you do not care much about the page rank, and that is those cases where the page (again, not the site) has a lot of traffic, because some of that traffic will continue flowing to you. Who cares about the high page rank of a site if it provides you no traffic? I prefer a link from a PR 0 site that brings me in a thousand visitors a day in traffic than a PR 6 link that brings me four or five.

So, for a link to bring value to your business, it must comply with the following conditions:

It must provide you with additional traffic

OR

It will improve your ranking in the search engines because:

  • It is a do-follow link
  • It includes a relevant anchor text
  • It is from a site/page with a related topic
  • The PAGE (not the site) that links to you has a higher (or at least the same) PR than the page (or site) that it links to.

It if does not comply with these basic rules, the link is essentially worthless. OK, you may scratch some additional visitors because of it, and it might help you moving from page 1000 to page 999, but is that really worth the effort? I don’t care how high-ranking that site is, if the page in question does not meet the above criteria then it’s usually a waste of time.

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