SEO for Government: Trying to Find My Town on the Web

It may be possible that governmental web sites are at least as important, and in some cases more important that most of the other web sites online. They can provide information on when and where to vote, when and where laws are being made, when and where you can access elected and appointed officials, and information about possibly a large number of services that goverment may provide, from trash pickup and some utility services to police and fire and rescue information.

Sometimes you just really need to know how to get to City Hall, or to the Courthouse steps.

The old courthouse in Warrenton, now home to Fauquier General District Court.

In many instances, a local government web site can provide a doorway into the history of a community, access to building codes and zoning laws, address and contact data for City Hall and other agencies, and other information that governs our lives. Being able to find that information can be very important.

On a personal note, I really enjoy exploring local history, and learning about local towns on the Web before visiting them in person. My interest has led to a project where I’m trying to find the web sites for different cities, counties, towns, and other area web sites in Virginia.

Ironically, as I started this project, I experienced a problem with my own Town’s website that has inspired me to catalog some of the bad practices that local government sites have followed, to help them fix some of the mistakes that they are making that make them less effective than they could be. I’m also looking forward to identifying some of the best practices that I see on local goverment web sites, and pointing them out so that other sites might learn from them.

Choose a Domain, and Stick to It

My town is a historical crossroads in the North-Western part of Virginia, close enough to Washington DC that some residents commute to the Nation’s Capital, and far enough away so that it still retains a fairly agricultural nature, with horse pastures, wineries, and farmland surrounding small suburban areas. It is located in a piedmont region, that is a set of foothills that separate the lower tidewater lands closer to the Atlantic Ocean from more mountainous terrain.

Main Street in Warrenton, Virginia

George Washington was a property owner in the area, and in his teens an early surveyor of property lines in the county. John Marshall grew up nearby, and became possibly the most important Supreme Court Justice of the United States, championing a “separate but equal” role of the Courts in US government. During the Civil War, the Town changed hands between the North and South a total of 67 times, and was described by the nickname “The Debatable Land.”

The town took its current name, Warrenton, exactly 200 years ago this year when it was incorporated, and is the County Seat of Fauquier County, home to court houses, and city and county government offices. It’s a small town that takes pride in its agricultural surroundings and the lack of industrial and developmental growth seen in areas to the northeast. But, it’s not foreign to the online world, and local government is increasingly using the Web to communicate with citizens of the region.

I recently tried to pay my water bill online through my Town’s web pages. The utility bill didn’t list the URL for my Town, so I searched at Google, found it, and clicked on a link to the site. Once there I saw an image with the text “MyTown click to login.” I had already registered with the site previously – it wasn’t the first time that I had paid my bill online.

I tried to login, believing that I had remembered my username and password correctly, and was given a screen that looked like I had successfully logged in. I clicked upon a link that would let me pay my bill, and was redirected back to a login screen. I tried logging in again, and received the same result. Undeterred, I tried again – and received the same result.

Uncertain about why I couldn’t get to the payment page, I clicked on a link to reset my password. I waited for an email, and in a short period of time received one that allowed me to change that password. I tried again, and still couldn’t pay my bill. I found a phone number on the site, and called. And got a message that the person I wanted to talk to was away from her desk. I left a message, and my call was returned within half an hour.

I was told that the problem I was experiencing was because I was trying to use the “.com” version of the Town’s web site, and that I needed to login from the “.gov” version of the site. I was tempted to ask at that point why there were two versions of the web site, but realized that the person I was talking to probably didn’t know.

I did ask if there was someone I could talk to about the problem I experienced, and was told that my best bet was to talk to the City Manager. I decided that I would write this blog post before I took that step, and then send a link to my City Manager, along with some information on how to use a redirect to point any other domains to just one working version of the site.

Just outside of City Hall, in Warrenton

Why is there more than one version of the Town’s web site? The .com version of the site was ranking well in Google, and the .gov site wasn’t showing at all – likely filtered out of Google’s search results since it contained the same information as the other domain.

When I talked to the person who helped me, the problem was identified as me mistakenly using the wrong website. The problem was actually that there were at least two websites, and one didn’t work correctly. It’s a problem that shouldn’t have existed. The Town should have chosen one web address for the site that works, and redirected any other URLs for the site to that version. The URL for the site should have also been listed on the Town’s bill.

Because there were at least two sites, and because the correct one wasn’t listed on the bill, I ended up spending almost an hour paying a $14 bill, and wasted the time of someone at the Town who had to call me back to help me pay my bill.

I suspect that I’m not the only person who has experienced this problem.

Seriously, Pick a Domain and Stick to It

In collecting links to local government web sites, I searched for “virginia city web sites” on Google. The search results started off with a number of links to individual cities, some directory type sites that listed links to city sites, and an official page from the Commonwealth of Virginia listing Virginia Counties, Cities, and Towns.

The Commonwealth list made me wonder if there was really a need for me to collect addresses for local web sites. At least I wondered that until I started visiting some of the City sites and noticed that a number of the links brought me to old versions of City sites, or 404 “not found” pages.

How did I know that they were older versions?

They said so at the tops of their pages, and included a link to the “new” versions of their sites. Rather than using a permanent redirect to point to the new versions of their sites, they told me instead that their sites had “moved,” and I should update my bookmarks.

When they decided to change the web addresses for their sites, I guess the easiest way for them to let people know was to include some text at the tops of their pages that they had moved. Or to just remove the old site completely. Redirecting traffic to the new versions of the site would lead people directly to their new pages, but it was a step that many didn’t take.

A good practice when you change the address of your pages is to identify links to the old versions and change the links that you have control over to the new address. If there are some important links to your site, from sources such as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s web site, it doesn’t hurt to contact them and let them know about the new address as well. It’s a little like contacting the Post Office when you move to a new home.

The Warrenton Post Office on Main Street.

Searching at the major search engines for new addresses for some of the missing towns hasn’t been very effective in leading me to the new addresses for their sites. Fortunately, some of the commercial directories that list towns and cities in Virginia do have some updated addresses, though they also list some old addresses for some local government sites as well.

Is this Really the Official Site?

When I visited some town sites, I wondered whether those pages were actually from the governments of the towns listed. Some towns used .com or .us top level domains instead of .gov. Some looked more like commercial sites linking to businesses in their communities rather than sites from the governments of those communities. Perhaps there should be some official registry of local government web sites, and some kind of “trust” seal that they could display identifying them as being official government sites.

On the Virginia Commonwealth page I linked to above is the following message:

Any community which does not currently have information included in this area easily can participate; simply send an e-mail request to webmaster@virginiainteractive.org and include the URL of any or all relevant sites with community information.

I think it’s great that the Commonwealth site allows local governments to “participate,” and list their sites. I’m wondering if it would be a better approach to require those local goverments to register an official URL when they put their sites online, and to provide an update when they change their address.

I’m also wondering why I don’t see town web sites listed in Google Maps when I search for towns in there. Perhaps Google is running into some of the same problems I am in associating town web sites with those towns. I may have to make a Google My maps map in the future listing the local government web sites that I find on a map of Virginia.

Conclusion

At this point, my research is still in the stage where I’m trying to find every local Virginia goverment web site that I can.

That research has been hindered by the fact that some of the sites have more than one domain name, others have new domains that are hard to find, some are just hard to find possibly because of a lack of links to them from anywhere else on the Web, and some are difficult to identify as official local government web sites once I do find them.

I’ve been reading a number of papers and pages and sites that provide best practices for government sites, as well as a number of others that identify some of the best of the government sites. I’ll likely be sharing many of those in future posts. I’ve created an SEO for Government category on this site to make it easier to find past and future posts involving government web sites. Some of those approaches could benefit sites of all kinds, and not just government pages.

One of the practices that appears in many recommendations is for a site to provide an easy way to contact the people who run it, so that they can make suggestions for improvements and changes, a way to share those suggestions with other visitors, and a place for feedback on the changes to be published. It would be nice to see more local government sites providing such opportunities.

I’m also interested in hearing from others about their local government web sites – the things they do right as well as the things that they do wrong. Please let me know in the comments below, or use my contact form. Thanks.

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51 thoughts on “SEO for Government: Trying to Find My Town on the Web”

  1. I think you may have stumbled onto something more profound. Your research has revealed one of the fundamental issues with government entities (not to get all political on you). Most of these places don’t have anyone to really hold accountable for dumb decisions like this. Nobody involved really suffers for bad decisions like not using 301 redirects to direct people to the new location. These kinds of issues happen at many layers and obviously not just with websites.

    If these were businesses who did not maintain any consistency, they would see the loss of business and would see their customers finding new businesses to deal with.

    There is no competition for government entities. Therefore less foresight goes into decisions such as whether to use .com, .org, .gov or whether to leave an existing domain intact.

    On a side note: Virigina has got to be the best state for studying American history up close. I am jealous.

  2. This is one of the most frustrating things I have faced. My town is pretty good about having a single site that is fairly reliable, but even then it’s nowhere near perfect. There are links to sites that are no longer available with no direction as to where the new site may be. I can’t believe government organizations are so unorganized in terms of their website. The better a website, the more informed its citizens will be.

    The point about .com and .gov should be greatly considered by these government organizations. I wish there was an official page by the state that directed to each of the local government sites. I usually only consider a site with a .gov the “official” site of all levels of government and using .com just makes that fact confusing.

  3. Be glad you don’t live in California- talk about a messed up collection of craziness! The DMV is actually pretty good- you can do all your car stuff online easily- but most city, county and the state websites are full of inconsistencies, errors, circular linking and confusion. The funny thing is, I am sure they paid a fortune to have these sites built, and continue to pay a fortune to have them maintained and occasionally totally redone… sigh.

  4. Hi Dave,

    Those are very good points. Following intelligent practices when planning, developing, and maintaining the content of a web site doesn’t just benefit the visitors to that site, but can eliminate unnecessary phone calls and contacts while simultaneously reducing workloads.

    It can lessen the amount of paperwork a government office needs to process, eliminate filing and archiving requirements, reduce face-to-face visits into an office, increase numbers of volunteers and interns, and provide many more potential benefits.

    I worked for State government in Delaware for 14 years, and I know it can be hard to change internal cultures and attitudes, and often even find the time to look at work flows and processes. One project I was very involved with was the acquisition and implementation of a new statewide case management system for the overwhelming majority of state courts, and a major aspect of implementing that software was a very detailed look at inefficent and expensive operational processes that developed over decades. We took a look at wasteful and labor-intensive practices and developed ways of addressing those that often required changes to Court Rules and to State laws.

    We didn’t have the competition that businesses do to make those changes, but we had plenty of other factors that required that we change our practices such as budget crunches and hiring freezes. Our software project was a driving force in making government smarter, leaner, and stronger. But there needed to be people in places of position and authority that helped us drive those changes forward, and took ownership of them.

    If a state like Virginia wants to improve its economy, it needs to be a driving force in enabling communities to build better tools and provide them with better information in best practices when it comes to using the Web to communicate and provide services to its citizens.

    Virginia does have an interesting history, and being close to Washington DC opens up some other opportunities to look at how we’ve arrived at where we are now. There’s a little park nearby dedicated to John Marshall that I’m dying to revisit once it gets a little warmer again.

  5. Hi Matt,

    I’m glad I’m not undertaking this study in California either. That would just be too much. :)

    Unfortunately, I’m going to second your suspicion that most government websites are developed at much higher costs than they should be. I’ve heard the costs of some sites and found myself startled by how much they were developed for. I’m hoping that some of my posts in the future can help provide ideas for better decision making and reduction of some of those costs in the future.

  6. Hi pays to live green,

    It’s good to see you.

    The better a website, the more informed its citizens will be.

    A few months ago, I read in my community news weekly about a local initiative between local government agencies and non profit service providers to create a guide booklet to services in the area. The booklet would be printed and provided to all of the participants, and I believe that there were more than 80 involved, so that when someone at any of the offices received a call, they could look in the booklets, and provide the right contact information to callers.

    The initiative was started over two years ago, and it even had a name – the Partnership for something or another. I tried to find more information about it on the Web, and couldn’t. I’m finding myself puzzled that they would contemplate creating a print publication limited to distribution amongst the participants rather than a website that could provide the information directly to the public.

    That booklet should be on the local town website, so that it could be updated as needed, accessible to as many people as possible, and not require that someone make a call to find the information. It would be just as easy, if not easier, for someone receiving a call to go to the guide on the Web and provide the information than it would be for them to try to dig up their paper guide. This community partnership is missing an opportunity with their choice of dissemination of useful information in a very limited manner.

    It would be great if State government took an active role in helping local communities develop better presences on the web, and took the initiative to help people find that information. If states are looking for wise ways to spend money to create beneficial channels of communication, they would be hiring web designers and developers and programmers to work with local governments. They would develop some standards and style guides and trust seals.

    Stronger web sites not only mean more informed citizens, but they could also benefit economic development for businesses, and improve the services provided by nonprofits. I’ll be looking for a copy of that guidebook I mentioned above once it’s printed, if I can get one. First thing I’ll do with it is to type it out, and publish it to the Web. Hopefully some common sense will prevail, and I won’t have to.

  7. Great idea Bill. SEO is largely seen as a commercial activity, but it is obvious…at least to those within the industry…that non-commercial entities could gain much from applying many basic SEO principles.

  8. I found that cities are making specialty sites for certain programs or topics, which you will not readily find on the main city website. These sites can be great, if they can be found. Another topic to explore with city sites is their information architecture, and how can a user find the data needed? Sometimes you have to know which department handles a particular topic to discover the data. Even then you may not be in luck. I tried data.gov to find a report from the Census Bureau (I knew that the report was produced by them, and not HUD, but it could have easily been from that department). I could not reach the report from that site, so I had to go directly to the Census Bureau site to dig around. With a little consideration of SEO, internal search may be better on these sites.

  9. Hey Bill, this is a very interesting post and a very interesting research you have been doing! Thank you for that!

    I come from Germany – and I took the liberty to check out – inspired by your research – how the government (or the official entities) do perform on the web.

    The result is as frustrating as yours. Almost impossible to find what you are searching for in terms of government websites. If you find the website (which you most probably don’t), you probablywon’t find the searched information on it.

    At least, the good news for you is: It’s not better in other countries! ;-)

    Kind regards from Germany,
    Martin

  10. Hi Bullaman,

    Thank you. As searchers, I think we miss out on some very important information when search results are filled with commercial pages, and noncommercial information is hidden deeper in search results.

    There aren’t enough helpful resources for people who focus upon developing and designing government and nonprofit sites, and their budgets often don’t allow them to engage in some of the opportunities that commercial organizations can, such as paying for being listed in paid directories.

    Hopefully we can step up and try to help make a difference.

  11. Hi Martin,

    Thank you. Sorry to hear that you’re seeing something similar in Germany. Maybe if we all start creating more resources, and sharing more information that people working on government sites can use, we can help make a difference.

  12. Hi Frank,

    I’ve seen some “microsites” like the ones that you describe, which are created to address a specific problem, but can be hard to find on their own, and aren’t always publicized or linked to well.

    Aaron Bradley, of SEO Skeptic recently pointed me towards the Directgov web site, which does a very nice job of directing people towards government pages in the UK. It’s the kind of effort that I would love to see more governments undertake.

    I have seen some pages from the federal government in the US that provide suggestions and advice to people working on government web sites to help them build better information architectures, improve their SEO, and more, but some of those need some work as well. One of the best sites I know of on Usability, usabilty.gov, was created by the National Cancer Institute, to help treatment providers build more usable web sites. I’m going to write some more about those resources in future postes.

  13. Love the photos of the government offices in Warrenton. It’s a beautiful city. To know that George Washington was once walking around to survey the city is a nice bit of history. I like your Google map that shows the state capitals. I see that you’ve got the addresses to some of the capitol buildings. I’ll show it to my students. It’s a nice teaching resource and looks like a fun project. I don’t teach geography, but a nice assignment would be to have students create a map like yours with the capitals. Good practice. As far as government Web sites go, they do seem to change a lot. I looked up a few of the city Web sites in my area here in Orange County, California, and found the same thing you did. They aren’t always ranked above the fold. Read the blog posts on your new government section. Interesting. Hope you cover this subject more. Both my grandmother and mother were from Kilmarnock, Virginia. They were both named Virginia after the “grandest state in the country” (So, said Grandma).

  14. This is truly an interesting research. I actually like the fact that you thought of researching about this. I do agree that government websites should also know SEO. They might be thinking that they’re not selling anything but in this case, they are providing good information to their citizens so good and reliable internet service in these government sites is of extreme importance.

  15. Your post made me curious to check out my own city’s website and I had to print tax papers from there eventually so I checked it out tonight and it was definitely lacking. The News page had not been updated since the beginning of December and mostof the department information was lacking. They also use a .us domain name and not .gov, which I guess is ok, but can be confusing. I do have to say though that out county library website is much better than our city’s sight so at least we have that!

  16. Hi Christina,

    Thanks. George Washington was surveying back before the town was actually a town, but it is fun to think of a 17 year old Washington running around in the woods in the area. It’s not easy finding the addresses of the capitol buildings, but I need to go back in and finish them.

    It looks like federal and state governments are a little ahead of local governments when it comes to being easy to find on the web.

  17. Hi tfontan,

    I’m seeing some local city web sites with copyright notices on them from 2003 and 2004. and news and events pages that haven’t been updated in a long time. Maybe the people behind those sites don’t quite understand yet how helpful their pages can be. There are a number of others I’ve seen that are updated regularly, and do provide some pretty useful information.

  18. Hi bruce,

    I’ve been to the Manassas City web site, and it’s one of the better Virginia local government web sites that I’ve seen. It’s up to date, informative, and provides useful information for a wide range of audiences.

  19. Looks like it’s a universal issue. Add Israel to the US and Germany… I was working on a page of places to visit in Israel and tried to link only to official sites or to the official municipality sites where they list their town’s touristic attractions. Let me tell you, finding those on Google is a real challenge!

  20. Hi Anne,

    Those searches can be pretty frustrating, especially because it’s pretty likely that the information is available someone online, if you can only find it.

  21. I really think that official government web sites should be given a great deal more authority when it comes to their keywords in searches. It should be almost impossible to outrank them for anything relating to their city or state, regardless of their SEO.

  22. You live in Warrenton, VA?! NO way. This is completely random. I came across your blog by chance… I live there. Off of Cedar Run, between Rick Hunt Ford and the BP station. Granted, I don’t live in Old Town where those photos were taken, but still – strange coincidence!

    In any case, I have noticed that searching for the name of a town can often pull up unofficial sites or tourist-type pages that can be somewhat misleading. It should be standard practice to require all official government websites to carry a .gov domain name so there’s no confusion. The process of getting a .edu or a .gov URL should be equally as stringent.

  23. Hi Keith,

    I think I’ve seen too many poorly written and designed government web pages to agree with you completely. It’s frustrating not to be able to find the right page on a government site in a search engine when you’re trying to, but there are so many different kinds of mistakes being made on many government web sites that I’m not sure that search engines can favor them.

    For instance, the title for the home page of a County web site should at the very least include the name of that County, and yet I found a few home pages for Virginia Counties this past weekend that only use the word “Home” in the title for their home page.

    I’ve also seen a number of Virginia government web sites that use pictures of text rather than actual text to convey important information on their pages, such as the address of those City governments. Regardless of whether a search engine wants to rank those pages highly for those addresses, or even favor them somewhat, the search engines can’t read text that only appears in images, and index those pages for those addresses.

  24. Hi Sharon,

    It’s a small world.

    I’m not sure why more local government sites don’t use .gov domain names, but many use .org, or .us, or even .com addresses.

    There are some requirements that sites using .gov addresses are supposed to follow that are more stringent than if they use a non .gov address. A number of those cn be found at the following address:

    http://www.dotgov.gov/program_guidelines.aspx

    I do think it would be really helpful if local goverment sites where required to do something to make it obvious that they were official government sites, whether imposed on a state level, or a federal level, such as some type of certificate program or posting an official seal or something that could be verified in some way.

    I’ve run across a number of sites that were hard to tell if they were official sites for towns or not. Some of those were from the tourist arms of those governments, or business and/or economic development pages or chamber of commerce type pages. I’ll be writing more about this particula topic in the future…

  25. In the mid-nineties, we tried to launch a site that would aggregate local government services, in addition to local business products. We never got that far, there just wasn’t much demand, or budget. Then, in the late nineties, we saw a few well-funded startups spend a lot of money and burn out in the same space.

    Are there any of these types of businesses left? I imagine the upside is low, and the local council would rather hire someone’s cousin at the end of the day, than pay an outsider. And there’s not enough money in it for an outside company to really do a whole sales push – not like they’re buying twenty police cars!

    We’ve moved on to business services – sales cycle is a lot faster.

    Thanks for the article.

  26. Hi ibank,

    It seems that more government sites on the federal and state level are investing more time and energy and money into their web presences, but I’m not sure that’s true on the local government level.

    I do think that local governments would be more active with their web sites if they had more helpful resources, and more information on what they could do with their sites to help them save money and work.

  27. Same here in the Philippines, almost all government websites sucks big time, don’t give much information you want and worst they’re prone to vulnerable attacks.

  28. Hi Orville,

    I have seen some very good government web sites.

    I wonder sometimes whether many local government sites are primarily satisfied with just having a web presence, and if they collect data on their sites are more interested in security and limiting the access of that data to outside providers than they are in making it more likely that they will be found on the web by people searching for the information and services that they offer, or that they should consider offering.

  29. Bill,Thanks for sharing us this topic.I’ts a very interesting research.They might be thinking that they’re not selling anything but in this case, they are providing good information to their citizens .The point about .com and .gov should be greatly considered by these government organizations.

  30. Hi Arries,

    I went to my local Town’s monthly meeting and during their “citizen” time, raised the problem they had with having a .com and .gov version of their web site, where the .com version was being found in web searches but you had to go to the .gov version to pay your bill, and couldn’t on the .com version of the site.

    They asked me to send them an email explaining the problem in more detail, and I did. They forwarded it to their web designers, and now the .com version of the site redirects using a 301 redirect to the .gov version of the site. So sometimes local governments do listen.

    Hopefully they are thinking more about their website now, and what the impact that some decisions they make about it can have upon people in their community.

  31. Thanks for the info Bill.

    I have to agree with another reader here that an interesting point I think you stumbled across is the fact that nobody in government seems to be held accountable like regular businesses.

    If something goes wrong or doesn’t work, the buck just seems to get passed along with no real ramifications, with a few exceptions.

    But in the “real business world”, people want answers and want someone held accountable, which usually happens. That way seems to get things done correctly :)

    Kind regards,
    Jason Sandor

  32. Hi Jason,

    Having worked in government for more than a decade, I can assure you that accountability does exist within government offices and agencies. :)

    I think the main problem with government websites is more often a lack of understanding of the value that a website might be able to provide, and a lack of adequate training and resources in presenting information in a helpful and meaningful manner.

  33. Hi Bill,

    Wow You really put lot of research in the article.

    It’s really stupid that most of these websites were not using redirects. Its really pathetic. Like you said “Seriously, Pick a Domain and Stick to It”.

    Is there any way to complain about these websites to force local governments to fix this issue?

  34. Hi Max,

    I’m not sure why many of them don’t bother to use redirects to point the older domains to their new ones.

    I did attend a town meeting in my town, and point the problem out, and they connected me with the town web designers, who went ahead with a 301 redirect. So, there is something that can be done.

  35. i must say that in our case we supply SEO advice to many websites for the ministry of education and it takes
    them an awful lot of time to understand the correct usage of 301 permanent redirects.

    most of their websites are built on different systems such as MOSS, and CMS. since every year there was a new platform no one thought about straightening up the line to one platform and these creates major problem to deliver the solutions.

    actually i was wondering if anyone got a solution or a link to how 301 permanent redirects are made in MOSS ?

  36. Hi Duran SEO,

    It is sad when some potentially important information disappears from the web when a site changes a platform and doesn’t use 301s correctly – whether the old URL is on the web, in a set of bookmarks or a newsletter, or on printed documents. Those pages also lose the benefit of backlinks they may have acquired before the change in URLs. Thanks for sharing your experiences here.

    I haven’t created 301 redirects for MOSS, but I see what look like a few potential approaches that you could follow when I search for “moss cms rewrite” (no quotation marks) in Google.

  37. so true. thanks for sharing the stats. the scene in chicago government is pretty much the same as you have described above.

  38. Hi Darren,

    You’re welcome.

    The terrible thing is that so many local governments are struggling with budgets, and yet the Web offers them multiple ways to save money on the services that they provide while also creating easier and faster access to information to citizens and visitors. Perhaps one of the best uses of economic stimulus money that the federal government might engage in would be in building educational resources on best practices for improving local goverment web sites.

  39. I have heard many times that links on “.gov” and “.edu” webpages are much more important than links on normal extensions like “.com”.
    “.info” is also considered of the important ones.

  40. Hi Pau,

    It’s pure mythology that links from .gov and .edu sites are more important than others. It’s possible to make an argument for their value, but I know that Google’s Matt Cutts has debunked that myth a number of times. As far as .info, I can’t think of any arguments whatsoever to consider it to be more important than a .com or other tld. As a matter of fact, it’s been my experience that I’ve seem more spam sites on .info pages than any others.

  41. Hi Bill
    Like others i have been hearing about the importance of .gov and .edu sites in my SEO sessions and believe me no one could answer why google gives preference to these. your findings are interesting. I will definitely share it with my other colleagues.

    thanks for sharing

  42. Hi Bill , im afraid 301 doesent work so good these days ,
    i have very bad experience with punished domains that moved to a new address
    EDU , GOV are not that good links in my opinion.

    thanks for your input!

  43. Hi Zia,

    Google doesn’t give preference to .gov and .edu sites, and in some instances, sites using those domains (especially the .edu ones) aren’t well enough maintained to avoid being spammed by some malicious people.

  44. Hi Amir,

    I’ve seen 301s work very well, very recently. Of course, it’s essential to make sure that you chance all of the internal links on your own site as much as possible, and to try to acquire some new links to new versions of your pages as well.

    There always has been, and likely will be some initial dropoff in traffic when you change a domain or a good number of URLs, and set up 301 redirects to point to the new locations of pages. That seems to be overcome once the search engines have had a chance to identify all of the 301s, and recalculate things like PageRank or link equity.

    An .edu or .gov link is just like any other link.

  45. This experience shows how SEO is currently implemented only for profit interests, and not for other purposes. Maybe things change in a few years.
    Regards!

  46. Hi Tomas,

    I think a number of the things I pointed out in my post are very relevant for government and nonprofit websites, such as choosing a specific domain for the site and sticking to it, showing signs that a site is the official site for an organization in a number of ways, and making it easier for people who want the information on those sites to be able to find it.

  47. Thanks for the information on this subject.

    I actually applaud you for taking the time to delve into this matter. Government should know SEO just the same! They might realize that they’re not “selling” anything but in this case, they are providing information to the people that appointed them. A good and reliable internet service in these government sites is of extreme importance. I wonder what it would take to actually have something happen or get this point across more?

    V/R
    Mike “Bail Man” Rogers

  48. Hi Mike,

    I worked for the Court system in Delaware for 14 years, and know first hand how much a great website can impact the services provided by Government. There are so many benefits to having a strong website, such as:

    1) Being able to answer many people’s questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week,
    2) Providing the right forms for people to them to fill online, or before a personal visit
    3) Letting people file for many things online so that they don’t have to take a day off work to come to an office
    4) Making it easy for people to find the right person to talk to about issues when they need to see or speak to someone in person
    5) Giving people a clear understanding of how to do something that they might be uncertain about

    A well considered and constructed web site can result in considerable savings when it comes to budget and time, and frees up government employees to handle more important issues than answering many of the questions and concerns that people might have that the website can easily address.

    But even if goverment offices build a great site like that, it needs to be easily findable, not only for the name of the specific agency or office, but also for the services they provide.

    I don’t know how well the Courts in the areas that you provide services for explain online how bail works, but I imagine it would make life a lot easier for you if their websites were easily findable, and they provided some details on how to work with a bailbonds office.

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