Google's .edu Domain Love: Department of Economics ≠ Mortgage, or Does It?

Some recent Google shifts have caused a lot of .edu websites to rank for competitive keywords like mortgage and credit card. Here is a screenshot of the top 100 search results for "mortgage" with 57 .edu results and 15 .gov results. And here is a similar credit card screenshot.

Note that few of these pages have any relevant on-page content. Is this a case of Google-bombing? Or did Google dial up the .edu bonus too far?

Does Google want to return all the irrelevant pages? Or does it not matter if they are deep enough in the result set? Will having mystery meat results on pages 2 through 100 hurt Google's brand? Or does everyone just click on the first page?

We discussed this a bit more in the forums: new Google results

Published: January 28, 2009 by Aaron Wall in google


January 28, 2009 - 4:41am

hi Aaron,

I have been noticing that for quite sometime now - and yet couldn't fathom why there are so many irrelevant results in the SERPs these days. Is it because of a high:

  • Super Authority : Low Relevancy = Ranking Points Ratio
  • Even though the keywords are very sparsely present, i think its the authority of the domains that's putting them in the SERPs. This is exactly how irrelevant the word "credit card" is for the search query to show up the following domain in page 3 - "credit card"

    P.S - Is that beef? :P

    Ronald Jones
    January 28, 2009 - 5:15am

    Seems I read (was it here?) recently that the folks at google have been rolling back the effect that links have on rankings.

    This is a problem they created for themselves. PageRank is a brilliant idea, but as soon as it became public knowledge, a market for links was created. Similarly, as soon as someone somewhere found credible evidence that an .edu link carried more weight than some other tld, then a market for .edu links was created.

    As long as these algorithms are automated, they will require constant, daily adjustments to filter out the human effects of the latest changes. Wasn't it Bob Massa who said "the dumbest human is smarter than the smartest computer?"

    Of course, this also illustrates the real value of higher education ;)

    And will the ultimate high-value link now be an in-content link to a 'racy niche' website from Clinton's 42p whitehouse page?

    January 28, 2009 - 8:47am

    Oh for the love of pete, can we avoid the meat pictures, I log into all my blogs over my morning cup of coffee, and this has just really put me off my breakfast

    January 28, 2009 - 3:51pm

    I'm with Yoshimi...couldn't this be illustrated as well with some delicious pastries?

    January 31, 2009 - 2:28am

    Although I shouldn't be too shocked that most SEOs are oblivious to this, I put it on sphinn anyhow. Let's see how long it takes to get cleared up.

    January 31, 2009 - 9:31am

    Personally I don't think it will make it. Though if the SEO industry was smarter it would be big news. Maybe I should have been a bit more descriptive with the post? Who knows, eh?

    Maybe 99% of the SEO industry only cares about the first couple search results? Good deal for those of us who dig a bit deeper.

    January 31, 2009 - 2:07pm

    Wait, all of this is based on a single word search for mortgage? What kind of results are you expecting? The word mortgage is mentioned umpteen times on various TLDs.

    And then another search for credit card? Come on now, let's look at the .com's and other TLDs in the mix. Are they any more or less relevant than the .gov and .edu's?

    What about all these statements from Matt Cutts and other Google Staff where they claim that there is no extra benefit given to any specific TLDs?

    "Oh for the love of pete, can we avoid the meat pictures."

    I'll agree. That is one of the more sickening images I've seen. Not really the best choice for an Internet marketing article unless you were discussing the feeding of sharks or some other carnivorous creatures. ;)

    January 31, 2009 - 11:45pm

    Those words were selected because they are spammy keywords. If *any* keywords on the web should have a commercial bias, those are the THOUSANDS of people are aggressively trying to rank for them.

    Of course the relevancy of the .com results offering mortgage services is higher than a department of economics homepage that does not mention mortgage.

    Matt actually let it slip that they did put some sort of weighting on .edu domains in the past (but then quickly retracted it). Quoting from that interview:

    But, certainly, all of the things that have good qualities of a link from a .edu or a .gov site, as well as the fact that we hard-code and say: .edu or .gov links are good - and when there are good links, .edu links tend to be a little better on average; they tend to have a little higher PageRank, and they do have this sort of characteristic that we would trust a little more. There is nothing in the algorithm itself, though, that says: oh, .edu - give that link more weight.

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