I often see many .edu and .gov sites in Google's SERPs and think their representation is to a disproportionate level. And there is a business case for doing that too.
Google's Matt Cutts has argued that .edu and .gov links do not carry any more weight other than their raw PageRank scores being higher, but if they trust those resources enough to display them disproportionately more in the search results, then wouldn't they also be likely to trust how those resources voted for other pages more as well? I have a PageRank 7 site that doesn't rank anywhere near as well as you would expect given its PageRank. I also have a couple PageRank 5 sites that rank for a ton of searches and are getting thousands of visits a day. One of them has less than 30 pages too. What do the PageRank 5 sites have that the PageRank 7 site lacks? Tons of .edu and librarian type links.
Lets imagine that my experiences as a searcher and as a search marketer are totally biased, irrelevant, and too small of a sample to be accurate. Here is what we know that Google does for certain with PageRank and links:
- shows outdated and rarely updated PageRank scores
- only shows a sample of backlink data
- scrubs out many of the most authoritative backlinks to a site when showing you a small sample of the backlink data
- does not let you use multiple advanced operators in your search if one of the advance operators is the link function (link:site.com)
So just about everything they show you about PageRank or links is an obfuscated half truth. Why would we expect their words to be any more factually correct than these algorithmic half truths they share?
Here is what else we know Google does...
Google has a Librarian's newsletter, to help teach librarians how search works, and how to trust good resources (ie: who they should be linking at). Help improve our relevancy by linking at quality sites. That was the first two issues of their newsletter, and perhaps its main goal?
WebmasterWorld recently posted a thread announcing that Google is offering SEO training to federal government employees.
Imagine Google training one section of the web about how SEO works, and then not providing the same training to other webmasters. That effect alone will add a bias toward .GOV sites, and goes to show the bias they have toward governmental websites (whether or not they admit it exists).
When researching with a friend last night I came across a .GOV link scheme that made my jaw drop twice. Once in envy when I saw how effective and viral it was, and again when I realized how easily I could duplicate the marketing method. But I better rush off quickly with that one while the opportunity is still there, before Google teaches them how to link!
As much as the governmental training is about making governmental content accessible, it is also likely about making government agencies more aware of SEO, such that it is harder for people like me to bilk high quality .GOV links.
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