May 6, 2010

Can .Gov and .Edu Links Help Your SEO?


Hostway Team

By Melissa J Luther

A good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy involves more than just producing great content with the right keywords at the right density and in the right locations on a Web page. Yes, great content and relevant keywords form the backbone of a valuable, highly ranked site, but won’t do much to boost PageRank on their own. They are on-site factors, which, while important, have a lower weighting in search engine algorithms than do off-site factors, such as back links.

Why Links Matter

High quality, relevant back links are possibly the most important off-site factor in a great SEO strategy. This is because search engines view them as independent votes in favor of your site. After all, people who have voluntarily linked to your site must feel you provide worthwhile information or products. Therefore, links provide credibility to a site, and the more links there are pointing to it, the more credible it appears.

But, all back links are not created equal. The higher the PageRank of the linking site, the heavier the vote is weighted. Therefore, one link from a high PageRank site is worth several links from a low PageRank site. Links from pages with a higher PageRank than yours will help you more than those from sites with the same or lower PageRank. It is worth noting that Google does not penalize a site if low-quality sites choose to link to it.

Does Google Pass More Value Through .gov and .edu Back Links?

For years anecdotal evidence has suggested that Google loves government and education sites. They offer valuable, high-quality content, are highly ranked in search results and Web masters swear that back links from them result in an immediate boost to their own site’s PageRank.

Links from them are also very difficult to get, because they won’t link to just anybody. As a result, links from .gov and .edu domains have become the Holy Grail of SEO.

However, according to Google’s Matt Cutts, .gov and .edu links are not treated any differently in Google’s algorithm than any other site’s links. He says that a link’s value is based strictly on the authority of the linking page. We’ll have to take him at his word, but remember that government and education Web sites are high-authority sites, and most pages on them come with high PageRank.

So Are .gov and .edu Links Worth the Effort?

Well, yes. Even if a .gov or .edu top level domain doesn’t guarantee “link love,” the fact remains that, on average, these sites have high PageRank and thus high authority, which they pass on to your site. If you have the opportunity to get back links from these types of sites, take it.

That said, don’t let your quest for government and education links distract you from your other SEO efforts. Most industries will have “regular” sites with high PageRank, and getting links from those may be easier. In the end, the more high-PageRank links you have the better, regardless of the top level domain.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong online presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an online presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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