Who is the #1 Domainer in the World?

Obama has been known to use domain names to go after emotionally charged empty words that are easy to support (like change), but now the government is going after commercial keywords like cars.

Cars.gov was launched on June 30th and is already ranking #3 in Google for cars!

What does it do to the value of cars.com when cars.gov is a co-opted business deal between the government and select auto companies (which the government may have confiscated some of your money to prop up and is now propping them up again via rebates and direct marketing to compete directly against you once more)?

Who has a link network large enough to compete with the United States government when they are at the core of what Google considers to be the clean & trustworthy parts of the web? In 2007 Matt Cutts stated:

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.

(Update: Google's Matt Cutts stated there was no hard coding of .edu and .gov links & stated the above quote sorta came out of a mis-interpretation or transcription error on a run on sentence.)

Imagine launching a 1 word domain name late into 2009 in a multi-billion dollar field and ranking it above the fold in less than 2 weeks. The government just did that. And they can do it at will. Over and over again. For free :)

Now if you invest in a big keyword rich domain name you not only need to worry about Google and the market, but now you have to worry about how the government might start competing against you.

What might happen to the value of mortgage.com or credit.com or health.com when the government launches the equivalent government portals co-sponsored by whatever relevant multi-billion dollar corporations pitch the idea to a congressman from their district?

If the equivalent .com sites are thin arbitrage sites they will gain value as misdirected visitors stop by. But longterm the trend has to corrode value of domain names. If they are real sites they may lose out by finding themselves below the fold for their own brand if the government pushes hard enough.

Once politicians realize the value of domain names how long will it be before there are .gov domain names for every aspect of life? Diet.gov anyone? Are you ready for love.gov?

Published: July 12, 2009 by Aaron Wall in domain names


July 12, 2009 - 11:04pm

The upside is that usually Google only allows one .gov result in the top ten results under their 'we take a bit of this and a bit of that' concept.

There is also a high volume of traffic around .gov subjects.

While .gov.country can rank at will - you can compete with them easily with seo as they stumble around with arrogance assuming because they are the government that people will seek out their site and they don't have to work for it.

Typically their focus is really narrow on the one word big keyword and they neglect the two word searches and the long tail volume they ignore is wide open.

July 13, 2009 - 2:14am

Sometimes .gov has a lot of the top results. For an insurance keyword I track there is at least 4 different government pages ranking


And one has sitelinks & a double listing...so that is over half of the top 10 search results for that query.

July 12, 2009 - 11:31pm

Can't you just smell the fascism here?

July 12, 2009 - 11:54pm

I'm not familiar with the word 'hard-code' (I'm German). I assume it basically means that Matt Cutts did admit that .gov sites and the like are trusted more, not only because they usually have more link authority, etc., but that the tld itself gives those websites a boost in the rankings, too?

I'd love to read a forum thread about if the sandbox exists or not, now using cars gov as an example haha ;).

EDIT: I just read the interview and it seems that m.c. insists that the algorithm itself does not give .edu links and .gov links any kind of boost. Then again I wouldnt trust whatever he states openly too much.

July 13, 2009 - 2:03am

The sandbox concept still does exist. If you have a new site and use typical promotional means it can take many months (or maybe even a year) to build up enough criteria to rank well for high value commercial keywords.

A few months ago I launched a site and ranked in under a week on the top 3 in Bing/Live search. It is much harder to do that on Google.

Now if you are as socially connected as the US government and have that size of a footprint on the web graph then it is much easier to rank quickly.

The words "hard code" have a pretty strong intent to them. And Matt did say that just after he was laughing...which made me think that he had his guard down and only accidentally let it slip. ;)

July 13, 2009 - 5:33am

Hehe I wasn't really serious about using carsdotgov as an example to show the sandbox doesnt exist. I dont doubt that domain/site/etc. age plays an important part in Google's algo, I was just kidding about using such an outlier example to piss people off ;-).

I didnt notice it said he had laughed (or hold on I think I did - but didnt make the connection). Pretty interesting that they (probably) do trust those domains more simply because of the tld, but then again it's probably not really an actionable insight, because if .gov's and .edu's have much more trust than the average .com simply because of their link authority or also partially because of the tld doesnt really matter, I guess - they're usually valuable, anyway. Still interesting, though.

July 13, 2009 - 12:11am

How about swingers.gov? I think all the politicians would be up for it, what do you think?

Now on a serious note, I think this was well spotted. I wonder if many politicians read your blog? You'll be giving them ideas.

It sucks that the government can just swoop in and take over everything at will, if they want to.

July 13, 2009 - 2:36am

Wait til they launch google.gov!

July 13, 2009 - 2:55am

I guess you'd want to stick with domains that they're unlikely to "gov" you over. And I can think of no better way to do that than sticking with porn.

Sex.gov is not likely.

But if it does happen, here's a sneak peak at some of the top flicks they'll feature:

"Overstimulated IV: Bailed Back In"

"B. Rock'll Bang Ya VII"

"Joe Bindin's Foot-in-Mouth, Rope-Around-Ankles Extravaganza," which comes with the exclusive "Ass Gaffe Patrol II" absolutely free.

"DC Bloggers Blogging DC Blogs: Autoerotic Asphyxiation in the Hot-Air-Filled Echo Chamber"

July 15, 2009 - 7:34am

That has to be the funniest comment on this blog EVER.

July 13, 2009 - 5:16am

Love dot gov! Damn that has a nice little ring to it.

Great post, way to keep on top of things. Cars.gov already has 11k links pointing to it, pretty impressive. I think that and "freshness" has more to do with cars.gov's high rankings than anything else.

For example science.gov doesn't rank in the top 10 for science and invest.gov doesn't rank in the top 10 for invest.

I can imagine cars.gov's rankings will start dropping as the Car Allowance Rebate System comes to a close.

Just my 2 cents. Love dot gov though.... g'damn I like that.

Nice little layout at cars.gov! Same with recovery.gov, serve.gov, and usaspending.gov. I gotta admit, I'm pretty excited about the White House's ability to pump out new domains and websites. I think it's an important turning point and helps all of us in the online business.

July 13, 2009 - 5:15am

The day Google starts to show more than one .gov website on one page (or does it by giving them a separate boost somehow) I change my default search engine provider.

Wait, I already did that and now I'm giving my traffk and money to Bing.com

July 13, 2009 - 5:59am

Just to be crystal clear, .edu or .gov pages or links do not get any special boost. I said as much in the original interview. The sentence right after Aaron stopped quoting me was this:

"There is nothing in the algorithm itself, though, that says: oh, .edu - give that link more weight."

July 13, 2009 - 7:07am

Hi Matt
Thanks for the comment. But why did you state that "as well as the fact that we hard-code and say: .edu or .gov links are good" if you did not mean that then?

Was that a transcription error?

July 13, 2009 - 9:28am

Interestingly cars.gov even rank on the first page for "cars" in the UK. Surely that shows how important these domains are to rank - it's certainly not relevant at all for the UK market.

July 13, 2009 - 4:52pm

If you consider QDF and what cars.gov is all about, it should be in the top 5.

July 13, 2009 - 8:37pm

In my opinion I believe it is more the weight of the government network of backlinks that ranked it than it is something like query deserves freshness / QDF. Look at how many government sites are already linking at it.

July 13, 2009 - 8:09pm

I understand the gripes of SEO's here, but if I'm buying a car, I'd really want to know about this kind of discount/voucher/stimulus so it's not a bad thing for me as a searcher. If GM came out with similar program I'd want that to appear on page 1.



July 13, 2009 - 8:48pm

When the government is stealing money from one part of the economy and giving it to another it almost always benefits those who are involved in the preferred transaction that money is being looted to prop up.

They looted money to prop up banks. They then gave $10's of billion more to AIG, which was a backdoor bailout for the banks. If you were a banking executive these deals were great.

They looted money to prop up the car companies. They changed the bond contracts with GM bondholders (burning senior bond note holders while giving some of their equity to UAW, etc.). Now they are offering tax rebates on new cars. But that money comes from somewhere right?

Look at it this way...no matter what you do, if you do not work directly in those fields that were bailed out your money (and the financial stability of the system of the whole) was looted to prop up these other interests.

And for some people the pain is even more acute. Lets say you were a used car dealer and/or an eBay-like listing business for used cars. Well with this new rebate bill the government is...

  • making competing goods/products (new cars) artificially cheap (through taxpayer funded rebates)
  • creating a supply glut of your product (used cars) on the market (from all the trade ins funded through rebates)

Based on the combination of those 2 items, some used car dealers will go bankrupt even if they were profitable, were responsible, paid their taxes, and built a business model that was somehow surviving the sharp fall off in the economy.

The government is picking & choosing market winners + losers.

July 14, 2009 - 12:39am

used car dealers are doing great for the most part right now. the clunkers program will motivate a few buyers to choose new over used, but the requirements are a combined mpg of 18 or less. that disqualifies a lot of vehicles. the in-house financing dealers are making a killing because banks won't take as many loans, and the only used dealers going out of business were barely in business before.

July 21, 2009 - 12:08pm

Actually this is quite frightening as (I presume) the in-power party has total rights to the .gov domains. So for example, here in the UK there has been a lot of fuss about MPs expenses - and politicians are aware of the value of placing their message on this in the search results, with the more astute opposition parties buying PPC ads against expenses based keywords.
The idea that the encumbant party could set up expenses.gov.uk and use it to swiftly outrank most of the major news outlets (who's SEO for individual stories is sub-optimal at best) is, as online news uptake continues to grow, a worry for the circulation of unbiased news, if not a threat to the very notions of a free press!

July 21, 2009 - 3:14pm

Most of the mainstream media is already bought off in one way or another (at least in the United States)...but you're seeing it the way I am Matt in how scary direct government control of online information as well would be.

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