Proof Google Loves EDU & GOV Sites

Sep 6th

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  • shows outdated and rarely updated PageRank scores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.

Published: September 6, 2006

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Comments

September 6, 2006 - 4:00pm

Hi Aaron,

It's not the best proof i've seen on EDU and GOV, but all the proof together makes me think there is a point to what you are saying.

Are you back in the US or posting this from Amsterdam?

September 6, 2006 - 4:54pm

US now Peter

Was good meeting you in Amsterdam :)

Gus Farrah
September 6, 2006 - 5:12pm

Hi Aaron,

Great information as usual, can't stop reading you, is my morning cofee now, he he... I will focus on trying to find that type of links: .edu,
.gov .

Talking about this type of links, your marketing tool for Firefox is not working properly, I have posted this a couple times and also sent you an email mentioning the subject but I haven`t got an answer yet. When requesting the info for .edu or .gov on either Yahoo or MSN it doesn't work, let us know what is going on, as you mentioned those type of links are important. Thanks Aaron.

September 6, 2006 - 5:28pm

I don't know about .gov links, but as far as .edu links go, I find it perhaps a touch illogical.

.edu links are *only* applicable to universities and educational institutions in the United States. Therefore, by assigning an imaginary higher value to .edu links, Google would in effect be stating that American Universities have a much higher value than universities or educational institutions anywhere else in the world.

I think Google is smarter than this.

I would be willing to go so far as to accept that Google ranks links from universities in general higher than other links. I am sure they must have a way to determine whether a page belongs to a university or not. After all, there are only so many in the world, and it wouldn't be hard for Google to manually assign some type of increased value to them. Or even to develop an algorithm that somewhat accurately determines which sites belong to accredited universities.

Or, it could be just as Matt Cutts said - the apparent higher value to .edu links is *only* a result of the generally higher incoming link strength to .edu sites. If that is the case, than .edu links would have no value over other Universities in Canada, the UK, or other countries which may not use the .edu TLD.

Just my $0.02

September 6, 2006 - 6:05pm

I find in many cases that EDU and GOV ranking better has more to do with site age.

People also tend to blindly link GOV and EDU pages simply because they are #1 in the search, it makes them appear year after year and boy is it annoying.

I got one blog that just about outranks all related EDU and GOV sites but it also is getting older and was one of the first in the niche,,, yet another factor.

To focus on one idea is to limit your awareness...but all thought and ideas are useful.

September 6, 2006 - 6:49pm

Aaron,

I have enjoyed reading your posts because of your intellectual integrity.

I feel this post doesn't deserve "proof" in the header.

Just my opinion.

Thanks,
Sayam.

September 6, 2006 - 10:33pm

Sayam - Are you aware your entire blog is one big nofollow? Just checking incase you are not aware.

September 7, 2006 - 1:10am

Hi Caydel
When I say .EDU I also generally mean .AC.UK, .K21, etc etc etc

Hi Sayam
I still think that them teaching a subset of the web how something works biases the search results toward that sector of the web, even if no other biasing factors existed.

September 7, 2006 - 4:32am

Hello Aaron,

Do you have any tips (that you are willing to reveal) as to how to get links from .edu and .gov sites?

Btw, I have been enjoying your blog for quite some time now. Thanks!

All the best,

Moshe

September 7, 2006 - 4:43pm

Hey Buzz,
I have intentionally kept my blog offline. It's personal but I don't mind if some people, like readers and writer of this blog, read my blog.

Aaron,
You raise an interesting point. Let's talk about the bias part. Although you didn't write it in the context what I'm looking at.

Why does Google give a duck about SEOs? By teaching us anything creates a bias. Why did Google do that?

My theories (and they are not mutually exclusive):

1- SEOs are the "connectors" to quote Gladwell. We are one people who can bring them a lot of business via Google Adwords.

2- SEOs were in the past few years getting out of control. Google had no choice.

3- Heisenberg's Uncertainity Principle: It's impossible to study the web with changing it by way of studying it.

4- Enable users to create sites more spider-friendly.

I seriously doubt Google talks to us to make us better SEO, SEO being defined more like "Search Engine Positioning".

I think the Catholic University seminar is about theory 4. In fact, most of the communication by Google even by way of Matt is about item 4.

sam
September 7, 2006 - 4:58pm

I would agree that .edu and .gov carry more weight. Yes it has to do with age and how many other .gov and .edus are pointing to the .edu or .gov in question.

In the "real world" which would you rather have vouch for you a professor or the barber down the street.

The secreening process to get a site on a .edu or .gov is much more strict this in itself adds more weight.

Imho yes spend the time necessary add valuable content perhaps even do a review of the .edu's online programs then by all means contact them and ask for a link.

PS welcome back hope you had a blast in Amsterdam

September 7, 2006 - 5:22pm

Hi Sayam
I think another important theory or reasoning is that if they control much of the conventional wisdom then they can try to shield the flaws in their algorithms and business model.

September 7, 2006 - 5:24pm

This debate has been going on far too long.

Not only is the proof in the pudding but Google patent # 20050071741 has lots of revealing information that suggests .gov and .edu links get the "wink and the gun".

Top 10 reasons why .gov and .edu links have more authority

September 7, 2006 - 6:33pm

"they can try to shield the flaws in their algorithms and business model."

How interesting. Never looked at that way...What do you suppose are the flaws in their algo and biz model? Let's analyze them here..

Also, I'm reading Non Linear History after your review. Good book. Will post my notes on your blog entry when I'm done with the book - possibly in a few weeks! lol.

September 7, 2006 - 7:15pm

Speaking of Google's Patent, I made a mindmap out of their patent for an easy read. Every once a while I reference it for my SEO projects.

I have put it on my blog. If you need the original copy pls leaves a comment with your email. Once I emailed you the original I will delete your comment so you don't get spammed by some shitty spammy email harvester.

I made it using "Free Mind" that you can download by searching for it.

September 8, 2006 - 4:29am

In the "real world" which would you rather have vouch for you a professor or the barber down the street.

if this barber was extremely cool, got lots of friends, and would happily introduce me to them. i think i'd go with the barber, rather than that boring professor :D

*yo, i'm talking about social bookmarking sites!

September 8, 2006 - 8:45am

The barber/professor metafor is brilliant for explaining it to my clients!

A barber speaks to a lot more people and creates alot more buzz! Even if the barbers clients are from all walks of life and not always related to your topic, if they start talking on the topic their buzz gets related.

Most professors only reach a small community of experts.

What do you think a search engine would deem more important?

September 8, 2006 - 1:49pm

Aaron, a great post - and most valuable resources also in these comments... thanks for sharin! christoph

December 30, 2006 - 6:10pm

I think .edu and .gov links do carry more weightage in search engine results, i guess matt cutts has argued that .edu and .gov links do not carry any more weight only to deter spammers from taking undue advantage of those valuable links.

sam
September 8, 2006 - 7:48pm

For the grassroots level yes I would talk to the barber, and anyone else who would listen, not sure how many people would have websites but what the heck.

All exposure that brings traffic is great, however I think long term as far as serps and traffic goes get the .edu or .gov link.

The more technical and focused the client website the more valuable a .gov or .edu link becomes.

Frankly I say throw everything you can into the Marketing sause, grassroots on up.

Internet marketing is blending into all other forms of marketing.

To make a good marketing sause:

Think of seo as the garlic and onions Press releases and content are the tomatoes, focused longterm link building is the spices, and traditional media are the peppers.

I think its time for lunch.

Nafis Hasan
April 29, 2007 - 7:59am

great post... i loved reading it... i did not read your previous posts but read the whole book in PDF format....:D....and right now i am on the hunt for .edu links?? Can you help me out, i.e, can you give me some ideas on how to get .edu backlinks except for forums and articles?

Best wishes

January 9, 2008 - 8:45pm

Aaron,

Thanks for all your posts. This one is especially helpful. You have really help me out with my site as well http://houston1apartments.com

February 23, 2008 - 11:12am

Aaron, thanks a lot for this interesting Topic. I just wanted to ask if anybody knows what effect .edu and .gov links could have on a site situated in Germany. Is it worth the try?

February 23, 2008 - 11:23am

They are trusted link sources so they should help. Also there many German university websites like tu-ilmenau.de/uni/ that you can try to get links from.

September 24, 2009 - 5:42am

Moshe,

Many universities have specialty forums where a good contribution can result in an .edu link.

November 10, 2009 - 2:39pm

Aaron,

Just wanted to let you know how much SEOBook has helped me out over the past couple of months. Finally got my first .gov link thanks to this site. Anyways, Thanks for all your posts. This one is especially helpful. You have really help me out with my site as well apartmentninjas.com.

February 17, 2012 - 11:56am

Aaron, thanks for sharing this info.
It helped me out a lot finding proper .edu links.

May 26, 2012 - 1:13am

I don't doubt that edu and gov backlinks carry more weight than any other type of link. Thanks for the info!

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