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I was recently asked for a link exchange between my PR1 site and someone's PR4 site. They are not related, and even in different languages.

Disregarding the degraded user experience and assuming the link provides no traffic on it own, would such an exchange help my site in the search results? Could it hurt it?

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2 Answers

PageRank has nothing to do with relevancy. It only has to do with link popularity, So links from off topic pages are worth the same as an off topic page assuming they have the same PR. However, keep in mind that this probably won't help your rankings since those links will have little value towards your page's ranking and PR has very little affect on ranking anymore. So basically those links won't do much of of anything for you SEO wise if they even do anything at all.

Update

Do to obvious confusion between PageRank and a page's ranking I'm going to provide more information.

PageRank is a numerical representation of a page's link popularity. Not it's relevance for any given search term or anything else you may want to associate it with (i.e. reputation, etc). Any link that is not nofollow, regardless of the location of the link or the content of the page it is on, will pass PR to any other page it links to also regardless of the location of the link or the content of the receiving page. This means all things being equal (identical PR, identical external links) a link from an unrelated page with a PR of 4 will be of equal value as a link from a related page with a PR of 4 when referring to PageRank and not a page's ranking.

Now if you are concerned about your page's ranking then relevancy of the link will be a factor. So, using the same example above, the link from the PR4 page that is relevant to yours will carry much more weight then the unrelated page when it comes to determining your page's ranking.

So if your goal is to increase your PageRank, then any link will help you. This includes links from unrelated pages.

If your goal is to improve the ranking of your pages then these unrelated links will not benefit you. Yes, it will increase your PR, but PR is just one of many ranking factors and it seems that nowadays it's not a very important one.

PageRank is a published formula. The only portion of it that may have changed is the dampening factor. But this otherwise clearly explains how PR works and that it is only a reflection of link popularity and nothing else. Remember, this is the PageRank formula, not Google ranking algorithm.

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I tend not to agree, especially with the "links from off topic pages are worth the same as an off topic page assuming they have the same PR" part. Where I also assume that you din't mean to use "off-topic" twice.Do you have any references? –  Goboozo Mar 24 '11 at 12:43
    
@BasP, Look at the PageRank formula. It's published so it's unambiguous. And keep in mind we are talking about PageRank, not page ranking. They are two very different things. PageRank only has to to with link popularity. Page ranking is a result of hundreds of factors which includes PageRank. –  John Conde Mar 24 '11 at 13:14
    
The difference between PageRank and a position in the SERP is clear. However if PageRank is one of the app. 200 metrics used in determining the SERP position it does have an effect. I fully agree that it will be very limited and having many links from unrelated pages may be considered suspicious. –  Goboozo Mar 24 '11 at 16:47
    
@BasP, suspicious? Maybe. But not harmful. –  John Conde Mar 24 '11 at 16:56
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PageRank is very different today than what it used to be. PageRank is NOT the primary driver for ranking or credibility in the eyes of search engines. Rather it's only part of the equation.

Honestly I highly doubt anyone can give you an accurate answer other than google.

But if you are inquiring whether it serves any purpose for you to acquire links from irrelevant pages then yes it can help. It all comes down to your entire profile of backlinks as opposed to individual. With that being said if your profile only consists of irrelevant links or mostly irrelevant links then that may not work in your favor.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that PageRank is overrated now a days. It's a very helpful tool indeed but it's not a primary driver. In my niche top 8 results out of 10 are from sites which vary from pagerank 2 to 4. 6 of them have PR of 2 or 3. 2 have PR 4. Top 3 do not have a PR 4. Again this is a VERY small set of example.

In my opinion every link is important and worthwhile. Just make sure you have an overall long-term strategy in mind and work on improving the entire profile rather than just obsessing over one type of link such as link exchanges or link buying.

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I disagree with the statement "PageRank is very different today than what it used to be". It's value in Google's ranking algorithm may be greatly reduced but how PageRank itself works is almost completely unchanged since it's creation. In fact, the only probable change in it is the dampening factor. It probably isn't .85 anymore. This means we still know how it works. We just don't know how valuable it is anymore. –  John Conde Mar 24 '11 at 15:32
    
@John Conde: You are right. My mistake for not clarifying that. PageRank is infact calculated the same way. What I meant to say was about PageRank's relevance in ranking, and what Google shows PageRank in the toolbar vs. the true PageRank of a site/page. –  Adil Mar 24 '11 at 15:42
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