Links have been regarded as the web’s currency for nearly as long as search engines have existed.
Who links to your website can reveal a lot about your associations, relevance to specific topics and regions, trustworthiness, and other factors.
And when high authority, trustworthy sites link to your page, the transfer of PageRank to your page benefits you a little bit from that implied endorsement.
What has more clout than the government?
There is still a widespread belief that.gov links are more valuable and desirable than other types of links, and there are plenty of people willing to take your money to build them.
So, are.gov links a factor in the ranking? Let’s see what happens.
The Claims:.gov Links Are A Ranking Factor
Government websites publish a wide range of important information to which other websites link – statistics and reports, vital health and financial data, impactful announcements, and so on.
You can bet there are stringent checks and balances in place to ensure the accuracy of that information before it’s published on a government website.
A significant amount of money is invested in government communications and publishing to support the creation of high-quality content that is accessible to all.
Once it’s out there, government-supplied content is widely shared by mainstream media, social media users, various organizations, and so on.
For these reasons, people – and search engines – regard government websites as reasonably trustworthy.
So having a government agency link to you and say they trust you have to be huge. It must be far more significant than a link from a local nonprofit or a blogger.
The Evidence for.gov Links as a Ranking Factor
Why do people consider.gov links to be so valuable?
So, just today, I discovered these gems from services that sell them:
- “Having trusted and highly regarded websites, such as government and academic learning websites, linking back to your own site, will help you achieve a higher trust rank.”
- “Because of the extremely high authority of.edu/.gov sites, these backlinks will increase the authority of your site and your Google Ranks.”
- “These links carry a lot of weight in terms of ranking. Links from high authority sites like these increase the authority of your domain.”
- “Every link will be DOFOLLOW, and the rank juice will pass.”
Pass me some of that “rank juice,” please.
If you’re looking for proof that.gov links will boost your Google rankings, there’s plenty of it available. However, consider the sources.
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The Evidence Against.gov Links As A Ranking Factor
This one was debunked a long time ago and has been disproven numerous times since. But first, let’s look back to 2008 to see what Matt Cutts had to say about.gov links:
“Typically, our policy is: a link is a link, is a link; wherever that link’s worth is, that is the worth that we give it. Some people ask about links from DMOZ, links from .edu or links from .gov, and they say: “Isn’t there some sort of boost? Isn’t a link better if it comes from a .edu?” The short answer is: no, it is not. It is just .edu links tend to have higher PageRank, because more people link to .edu’s or .gov’s.”
The most important question you should be asking yourself (and your SEO team, whether in-house or outsourced) about any given link isn’t what the domain authority is or anything else.
What is most important is, “Does it make sense for this entity to link to this specific piece of content?”
Does it make sense for the United States Department of Agriculture to link to our plumbing company’s blog post about the benefits of various types of faucets? Most likely not.
Whether the link was obtained through comment spam, a link injection hack, or a jaded low-level government employee earning a few bucks on the side, Google is more likely than not to detect it.
And if you notice your team pursuing such illogical links, keep this in mind:
You’d be better off obtaining a link from your local hardware store. At the very least, Google isn’t going to dismiss that one the moment it’s discovered.
.gov Links As A Ranking Factor: Our Opinion
A link is a link. And links are a well-known Google ranking factor.
However, the specific question we are looking into here is whether.gov links, in particular, are more powerful, or in some way different, than other types of links.
The answer to that question is emphatical no.
A.gov link’s value is simply that it’s a link, and if you’re trying to game the system based on the TLD, that link may end up being worthless to you.
Google has a plethora of other more impactful, meaningful signals to consider when it comes to links. This one is far too easy to tamper with to be of any use to the algorithm.
Instead, concentrate on creating content that authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant sites will want to endorse and reshare with their audience.