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Does unrelated content hurt, even if it's link juice?

     
3:51 am on Jun 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Let's say you have a website that sells widgets and we sell widgets and have a blog with great articles about widgets, etc. BUT we want to build back links and are having a hard time getting people to link our widget site because for whatever reason they hate the idea of widgets.

So instead, let's say I write this nice professionally written article about duck tape and submit it to a respectable web directory with great domain authority who agrees to list it in hardware link section. The article simply talks about 100 great things you can do with duck tape and 99.9% of the 500 character article has nothing to do with widgets but maybe for good measure I'll make a simple comment like, "hanging widgets is fun with duck tape" just to get that widget keyword in there. :)

Now, I know sites like CNN have multiple categories and their subject matter is all of the place. They can talk about everything from sports to fashion. BUT if you operate a site that we'll call superwidgetshop.tld and you try to keep the subject matter on anything widgets, does this new duck tape article hurt me by getting off the subject or does the fact that I'm landing a good backlink from a great source that goes to my domain, in the end, help more?

I see competitors of mine do this because like me, they can't land back-links for widgets. :) So instead they find ways around this by creating non-widget content on their blog that directories or other resources are more likely to link to. According to reports that I've run, those links are very powerful for them and help build their strength. I want to do the same but at the same time I've taken a lot of time and energy in keeping the content of my site relate to widgets.

What are your thoughts? I always thought sites were judged as a whole and not by single pages? Am I wrong? Meaning if a site has lots of good resources that relate to a particular keyword, isn't that important and that being the case, isn't it more important that the overall conversation of the entire site stay on topic if you hope that dominate a particular keyword or related series of keyword terms like widgets, buy widgets, online widgets, best widgets, free widgets, download widgets, etc. Let's just assume what you've been trying hard to stay on topic, but now you totally mix things up and now come an article about, hmmm, duck tape? lol
7:03 pm on June 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Well you could put a noindex, follow directive in the head section of the new article:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow" />

Presumably the noindex tag will keep the content from being considered by google as part of the site [although I've wondered if this is really true], whereas the follow tag will capture the link juice and re-distribute to the rest of the site.

Also, a skillful writer can nearly always find ways to incorporate unrelated content into an article, thereby making it appear to fit in with the rest of the site.

But even if it works as you intend, the new article will likely be a blemish on the site, and destroy some of the harmony
7:11 pm on June 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Doesn't hurt.
9:19 pm on June 17, 2016 (gmt 0)

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hi martinibuster, can to explain more? I been trying to reach this online and think maybe it's an outdated myth about seo? I think the noindex approach works best.

I see some sites that create pages like superwidgetshop.tld/100-duck-tape-uses.html, get a back link and then remove the content of the page. This way they still get the link but the content that does not relate is gone from the site. Not sure why they do this if it doesn't matter at all.
12:48 am on June 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I would respectfully disagree with MartiniBuster. I think (I have nothing to back this up) that in this day and age of user intent, that linking content probably provides signals for matching intent with the site.So if users are specifically looking for ways to duct tape widgets then the links will be gold. Whereas, if users are looking to purchase widgets, a competitor may have a site with signals that more closely match the intent and thus rank higher despite having a lower PageRank (that is in the conventional sense of PageRank).
4:50 am on June 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I want to do the same but at the same time I've taken a lot of time and energy in keeping the content of my site relate to widgets.

As I understand your post, you are keeping the content of your site relating to widgets, just contemplating submitting/adding an article with a link to your site on an decent quality external site.

You may not get any bonus points for the use of the word "widget", but it is still a link from a decent quality external site to yours. If the SEs happen to consider it off-topic, you won't get credit for the link.
7:45 am on June 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I agree with martinibuster. I've seen no reason to believe that a "single topic" website is particularly important in and of itself, or that off-topic content is in some way harmful. Quite the reverse, in fact, there are plenty of examples of sites with single off-topic pages ranking, and sites with seemingly no topic.

I think this is confusing a few different things. For instance, the best ranked site for "widgets" probably has numerous pages and diverse content about widgets. This can help rankings in various ways. Similarly, if widgets.tld decides they want to also sell gadgets, this is likely harder to do than for gadgets.tld.

But these aren't "hard" rules whereby if you add an off-topic page you've suddenly done something bad.
11:24 pm on June 18, 2016 (gmt 0)

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these aren't "hard" rules whereby if you add an off-topic page you've suddenly done something bad.

IMHO, the real question isn't whether such a page will hurt you, it's whether it will help you--and also whether a link to the page from a directory will help you.
4:22 am on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Then there's that other odd truth that some widgets just don't get a lot of link love no matter what you do.

What does get link love is if you are the absolute BEST of that widget niche.

Off topic won't generally hurt a site. After all even webmasterworld has an off topic section "foo" ... but there is no deliberate attempt (that I can see) to have that section rank at all.
9:03 am on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sadly, this whole thread cannot be anything other than opinion as there is no hard evidence pro or con that off topic anything will help or hurt. If we had such evidence folks would be doing it!

What the OP posited is whether deliberately creating such content to get links is a worthwhile endeavor. Me, I won't expend that kind of energy since there are no metrics to suggest it works... then again I won't say one shouldn't try it if all else has failed. What I CAN say is that off topic (site/widget) commentary rarely, if ever, hurts in negative fashion. That we DO know.
2:44 pm on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Whereas, if users are looking to purchase widgets, a competitor may have a site with signals that more closely match the intent and thus rank higher despite having a lower PageRank (that is in the conventional sense of PageRank).


Well, of course NickMNS, you are correct. But so am I. I didn't say it'll help them rank for money phrases. I only said it wouldn't hurt them. As Andy Langton pointed out, a site can rank for non-money phrases as well as money phrases (for several reasons I won't go into here).

Focusing solely on money phrases is focusing solely on the hole in the sales funnel. This is traditional SEO that was born from the cutthroat affiliate marketing space. I'm a bit wary of the old way of focusing solely on money phrases.

Focusing on non-money phrases is focusing on the rest of the funnel. This is the approach I favor for myself and for clients, whether talking about content or links. It takes a little more time for the site visitor to slide down the funnel and into the sales hole but eventually some of them do. In my opinion, focusing on the funnel hole is focusing on transactions while focusing on the rest of funnel you'll have a better shot of building loyalty and word of mouth referrals. The second way, investing in the funnel in addition to ranking for the hole is a way to build a business that grows, where people ask for you by name when they hit the search engines.

There is a counterargument that I agree with, too. If the people who come for the content will never transition to a customer then the content is useless, of no utility, not even for link popularity. So if you sell large screen displays for the military and you create a viral campaign for the worlds largest minecraft game, imo that's not going to help your cause because the links and the visitors aren't anywhere in the same link graph universe as your sales funnel.
3:15 pm on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If the people who come for the content will never transition to a customer then the content is useless, of no utility, not even for link popularity.


If none of them or anyone connected with them ever will then I agree.

However, marketing isn't the same as selling. Good marketing will develop brand and product awareness, which are part of the funnel in your analogy. It is always possible, too, that the military purchaser is also a parent.
3:24 pm on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@martinibuster I agree with what your are saying regarding sales funneling, and I would strongly agree that widening your targeting to include related topics is probably a very good strategy. The key is that the topics must be related.

My position is what you describe in your counter argument, but I would push that further, saying that Google is becoming increasingly proficient at matching user intent to website content, and I feel the danger with such a strategy is that Google will be unable to reliably match intent with your content and the result will be user that arrive with an intent that does not match your goals. Essentially we are saying the same thing, the only difference is that the situation is being exacerbated by Google's intent matching.
8:45 pm on June 19, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"Google is becoming increasingly proficient at matching user intent to website content" contradicts your other statement, "Google will be unable to reliably match intent with your content and the result will be user that arrive with an intent that does not match your goals. "

Google has double down focused on user intent since around 2010. CTR analysis and machine learning has been a part of this for the past six years. They're pretty well down the road. So while we pretty much agree, perhaps where we differ is that you have doubts about Google's ability and feel their ability is unreliable and I feel that Google is very reliable.

Google's had over six years to iron this out. User intent is not new, it's very old. Google has surpassed simple user intent determinations- that's what rank brain is all about, focusing on the words that cannot be understood through click log data mining and semantic analysis, to get at the 15% of queries Google has never seen before.

This is very important: the queries Google has seen before can be studied, compared, bookmarked, referenced and cross-referenced. User Intent is a snap, it's six year old technology. It's older if you consider Google's purchase of Applied Semantics in 2003, which allowed Google to better understand context and language. It was only around 2010 that Google pivoted away from matching search queries to keywords to matching search queries to user intent then identifying content that satisfies that user intent. I have no doubt in Google's ability to understand user intent, they are not still ironing out the bugs. The bug ironing stage was years ago. This is old technology.

Thus, if a page is about giant minecraft screens, Google is going to show that content to a narrow range of users, people who want to kill some time reading about a promotional stunt. The traffic won't hurt the company. It won't help them either. It is as I said useless, devoid of marketing utility for that company because the people visiting the page are gawkers who are nowhere near the sales funnel.

This is not a theoretical example, it is an actual fact. Such a company attended my session at SES NYC in 2015 and publicly asked why his company has seen zero lift in sales and zero lift in ranking considering their promotion received so many "high quality" links.
3:10 pm on June 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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MartiniBuster is absolutely unequivocally correct. There is NO WAY that having additional content hurts regardless if the content is different than the theme of the site.

You might start ranking for duct tape (200th) or for that article, for sure. But the algorithm is more like total amount of links + total # of domains, the link ratio between the two - the popularity of those sites linking to you... If it takes non-widget related content to get inbound links - then that is what it takes. Do what you have to do.
3:26 pm on June 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I can't help wondering if, in the era of "content marketing," Google might not be more skeptical of unrelated pages on a site than it was in the past.

By that, I do not mean to suggest that a widget site might be punished for having an informational page about duct tape. I'm just asking if the algorithm might not roll its figurative eyes as a jaded human might do, think "Right, another obvious SEO ploy," and not put too much faith in an inbound link to the widget site's informational page about duct tape.
3:26 pm on June 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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To toss another point into the argument, I was going to ask what if some informative blog like ultimatewidgetblog.tld linked to the duck tape article? Is the fact that the incoming site relates to who you are and what you do, help? The opposite might be femalefashions.tld linking duck tape to your widget site. :)

I guess in the end what I'm hearing is that none of this matters and Google simply seeings a quality back link coming from a solid source and gives you credit for that regardless of the type of link it is or where it lands on your site? In theory, even if CNN linked to your privacy policy page which had nothing to do with your targeted audience or keywords, at the end of the day it's still an awesome back link from a great source.
6:06 pm on June 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@martinibuster
"Google will be unable to reliably match intent with your content and the result will be user that arrive with an intent that does not match your goals. "


Maybe I wasn't clear, what I meant was not that Google would have difficulties matching the user's intent but rather that the intent inferred by Google based on the signals generated by the website and its link profiles will not be in-line with the webmaster had expected.

So essentially we are saying the same thing.

@Storiale
If you feel that having users arrive at your site looking for something (eg: duct tape) that you do not offer is not hurting you then great I'll agree. But what is the point of boosting your traffic with users that bounce or don't buy anything?
6:23 pm on June 20, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS I guess my feeling is, there is a difference between creating links to land sales by driving in traffic that will convert business vs getting links from established sites to improve your domain authority, etc. The way I look at it, if a strong website about widgets like widgetreviews.tld did a great 5-star review on superwidgetshop.tld and called it "the best widget site since sliced bread" with a direct link to their site, than yes people who land on superwidgetshop.tld from widgetreviews.tld would likely result in a low bounce rate and great conversion. BUT that's not to say that if an established domain with great page rank and domain authority called superhardwareshop.tld linked to an article about duck tape on superwidgetshop.tld, that the link itself would not ultimately help superwidgetshop.tld. The traffic that it brings again isn't as valuable to the business as far as conversion as something like widgetreviews.tld would be but it's still a strong link regardless that otherwise superhardwareshop.tld would never give to superwidgetshop.tld. I guess that's kind of my point and if there is no harm in getting the link, why not enjoy whatever juice it brings you?
6:55 am on June 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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It will definitely gonna hurt your link structure, if you are selling apples and have contacts with vegetable sellers, it is not going to develop the sale of apples, since they came to sellers for buying vegetables. Similarly if you cannot have the related content, they gonna spoil user interest , google gonna think your site is just building your site for link juice and <snip> ,finally your site gonna fell from rankings
11:26 am on June 21, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Nick, we have some pages that are actually listed as Unavailable products... products we used to carry, but now we don't. For some products those pages actually get top 5 listing since we optimize structure so well. When I first arrived I was put off by these pages especially since we had a big red box with an X in it that said these products were unavailable.

I suggested we 301 these products to products that we actually have available. It turns out that would have cost us about 8 million dollars per year in Gross Revenue. We began looking at conversions based on page type. Unavailable pages brought in 6% of our sales (they didn't bounce, they actually bought).

When we did the "GroupOn" strategy of NOT explicitly saying we didn't have the products, we allowed customers to just click on "related product" (basically we had no Add To Cart), visitors would complain that we were NOT being forthright enough, so hence the big warning sign, "This product is not available!"

Our bounce rate for desktop is about 38-42% for an e-commerce site that is very good. Mobile is about 45-48%. The higher the echelon of page types (category, depts, brand + family) the bounce rates are higher, but other drilled down pages - more specific, like product pages and others... the lower the bounce rate (10-25%).

Personally, I'd still like to see common sense changes, but those that have been here longer than me (like the owner) say that they tried those other suggestions that I made and they didn't work. Who knows.
1:19 pm on June 23, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"a link from a decent quality external site"

My question would be, is this the best way to get the back link. Or would a widget image, with the right alt tag, uploaded to the "thesewidgets" account at... wherever people posts their images, be a better way. I heard the days of posting on forums and blogs for links had come and gone

I have no personal experience posting for links except on my own facebook, blogger, twitter etc. I do know that properly tagged video and image files get distributed far and wide and I've got visits from them
11:37 am on July 10, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I've posted my experience about something similar but at the other end of the lifecycle here: [webmasterworld.com...]
I've never looked back!
9:24 am on July 11, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Sorry but you arte going against google guidelines creating your own backlinks
 

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