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On several of my websites, I noticed a significant number of inbound links coming from irrelevant websites.

For example, one of my site is about travel and one of site that links to it is about male-enhancing pills. The only reason I know of this site is that it appears in my server logs as referrer a certain small percentage of the time. Invariably this site and others that do the same seem to have a bunch (roughly 10-30) of irrelevant links scattered on their pages and some of them happen to point to my site. Now since the links go from their site to mine, it is certainly not about luring traffic towards them, so why would they do that?

More importantly, does this have a negative impact on my site's search-engine and and Google ranking? If so, what can I do about it since I have no affiliation or contact with the offending websites?

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3 Answers 3

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This won't help or hurt you. Links from completely unrelated sites will carry very little weight so there will essentially be no benefit from those links. Additionally, they can't hurt you because you have no control over them. If you were penalized for what other sites did then a competitor could crush you just by linking to you from some of there websites. The only way these links can hurt you is if you link back to them. They will be seen as being complicit with them and seen as manipulating the search results (as a link farm). So don't link back to them.

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I guess it is asymmetric since positive ranking is influenced by incoming links... while penalties are not. –  Itai Mar 27 '11 at 16:43
    
Yeah, at worst bad links are simply worthless. They only becomes bad once you associate yourself with them (i.e. link farm). –  John Conde Mar 27 '11 at 17:26

It does have a negative impact from Google's point of view, as unnecessary links from irrelevant sites would create an impression of link farming.

What you an do is you can contact the site owners and ask them to remove those links. If they don't respond, then what you can do is you can use the "Disavow" function that you get in Google Webmaster Tools. This will notify Google that you don't intend to keep those links.

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Did you actually check the links in question? I have seen reports of spammers pinging loads of sites with the referer header set to their page, but the 'referred' page doesn't actually contain a link.

The purpose of this as far as I gathered, is to try and get links from any sites that publish site data straight from their logs, or even just to get webmasters to check out the links themselves. In the same way that sending millions of spam emails a day might get them an order or two, getting their link into millions of server logs could end up getting orders from a webmaster checking out their incoming links.

Otherwise, what John said is correct: any incoming links from bad sites may simply not be counted, but they won't harm your site.

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Yes I did check. Sometimes the link is there... along with a couple of random words from my pages. Most often they have a number of links at the bottom of pages and one of them points to my site. –  Itai Mar 28 '11 at 13:04

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