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My competitors who PageRank higher than mine have backlinks that come from completely unrelated websites with a a high PageRank themselves. I was under the assumption that relevancy was more important than rank, but it seems this is not the case.

As an example, my roofing company has links from roofing-related websites, but my competitors have links only from high PageRank sites which are unrelated in this industry. And they (my competitors) have a considerably higher ranking.

Are links from high PageRank sites more valuable/effective than links from relevant, but lower sites?

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4 Answers

A few links from non-relevant sites high PR sites that have good standings with Google can go a long way, but too many non-relevant can become negative SEO, because ultimately Google doesn't want to see manipulation and that could rise alarm-bells for there Evil Penguin Bot.

An old matrix

PageRank 1-10 is an old matrix even through Google still displays this on the toolbar it's nothing saying its taken into consideration, even Matt Cutts head of the web spam team at Google have mentioned this several times. Ultimately relevancy is key and can even get you direct leads/visitors - so its the best of both worlds. An just to add, Google hasn't updated in pagerank in over 7months be sure to check out Google PageRank (PR) updates.

Mimic your competitors can back-fire

So while your competitors may be beating you know who knows that the next Penguin it'll balance out, but if you proceed to mimic there actions then you too may feel the wrath of Penguin. You should try to build some quality content and even bait ware to get some really good links and wait it out.

More than Google

While I appreciate that most of online businesses leads come from Google but many businesses and even site owners become tunnel visioned and forget about all the other ways of getting visitors and customers. Social Networking, Local Advertising, etc etc.

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Congrats on reaching 9k rep :) –  John Conde Sep 4 '13 at 18:47
    
WOOT! Yes! but..... I'm still got 52,6K to go before I become a John Jedi Moderator. –  bybe Sep 4 '13 at 18:50
    
You do get the Jedi mind trick once you do but I find it to be over rated. It doesn't work on smart women and the ones it does work on were easy enough to fool to begin with. ;) –  John Conde Sep 4 '13 at 19:02
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PageRank used to be an important ranking factor when it was first introduced over a decade ago. It used to be that high PR links meant high rankings, period. That is no longer the case and hasn't been in some time.

You have noticed that they have links from unrelated and/or high PR sites. But the odds are that's only some of their links. Probably even only a small fraction of them. You have no way of knowing about all of their links so your sampling is hardly representative enough to come to any conclusion about how their links affect their rankings. I would suspect that they have a lot more links that may not be high PR but are relevant and quality links that are boosting their rankings.

Additionally, anchor text, and other factors far outweigh PR straight up. And when you consider that there are hundreds of ranking factors nowadays I would say it is safe to say that just have high PR links will not mean high rankings all by itself. I wouldn't use the example you provided as any evidence that off-topic high PR links are better then on-topic low PR links.

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+1 for 1) beating me too it, 2) for addressing other things I didn't cover ;) –  bybe Sep 4 '13 at 18:45
    
+1 to both of you for taking the time to respond. –  Andrew Findlay Sep 4 '13 at 19:24
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One of the things I've found like your roofing example is that sites with a relatively poor quality pool of backlinks outranking our site for certain competitive terms even though we have a much stronger pool of quality backlinks. What I've found is that with links from 'proper sites (news sites, larger blogs etc)' they tend to use your company's name as anchor text rather than a keyword.

Some competitor's sites tend to have a lot of keyword-rich anchor text pointing back to them, even though the links are from sites which are less than quality - think something like bestonlinearticlebase.com (that's just a made up example but you get the idea.)

By far the best tool in my opinion to see their anchor text profile, is Moz's Open Site Exploer; enter the domain of your competitor's site (or yours to see how you fare1) and then click under the anchor text tab to see a break down of the anchor text, and the sites it's coming from. Another really useful tool in there is the Linking domains tab in which you can see all the domains linking back to them, which is by default sorted by Domain authority & Page authority (similar to Page Rank). All in all it's a really useful tool for getting your mind around a competitors strategy, definitely worth a look through in detail.

What's interesting is that the Penguin update was meant to wipe this sort of stuff out and to some extent it does, i.e. sites with too much keyword-rich non-brand-specific anchor text do get penalized, but in my opinion especially from the sites I've seen outranking us, Google haven't turned the settings up strong enough yet.

From my experience and digging through the Open Site Explorer data, relevancy is less important than authority, but of course the balance tips if you had say a PR4 relevant site, and a PR5 non relevant site (I know PR is a pretty nasty metric but you get the idea.)

All this being said if you mimic a competitor's bad practices for short term gains and Google changes what it sees as white hat and clean, you could be hit too, so proceed with caution .. it's a real conundrum though when you are being outranked by bad practices..do you join them, or hope they get caught but lose the traffic in the mean time...

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Google's PageRank is made up of several factors and is applied site wide or for each specific page. A sites PageRank is not transferable with just a link. However, the PageRank of a particular page may be but only in part. Any well ranked page that makes links to unrelated lower ranked pages suffers and can lose PageRank. Hense any page that makes links to related pages with reasonable rank can gain PageRank. Conversely, any link from a high PageRank page can transfer rank if other ranking factors come into play such as link quality, link relevance, content quality, content relevance, etc. It is not automatic that rank will transfer with just a link. Google is smarter than that.

It is a mistake to look at a sites PageRank in this case though that may be all you have.

I would recommend making backlinks to your site from pages with Citation Flow and Trust Flow or PageRank that are topic related with quality links that link to a specific page if possible. Linking to the domain home page counts less. I would focus on quality more than rank though rank is important - it is slightly less important. If your opportunities are moderately ranked sites/pages, these will do fine. Remember this is a numbers game. Just one more link from a moderately ranked page can win big.

Also, remember that Google does over time devalue pages and links that are unrelated. It is a slow process. It may be that your competition appears to be winning today, but will lose in the end.

Hope this helps.

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