Our .edu is jealous of her prettier, more popular .com sister
November 14, 2007 10:50 AM   Subscribe

My university department has a dept.com as well as a dept.univ.edu domain. The .com is just a pointer to the .edu. dept.com is the top google result for searches on our name, but results for dept.univ.edu are buried many pages deep. Here is the problem: there is now a problem with registration of dept.com, so Google's links are not working. What can we do? Is it possible to have Google replace instances of one with another or something?

I don't understand this fully, obviously, but afaik the problem stems from DNS changes made by my university's IT dept. Furthermore, they do not agree with my dept's desire to have a .com domain. Our .com registrar says there is nothing they can do, because the school's DNS servers are not in the .com/.net registry.

Can Google even do anything about this? More people on the web are linking to the .com, which explains its higher rank in search results, right? I used their webmaster tools to explicitly add our .edu URL, but it seems that does not guarantee anything. The .edu is ostensibly our "official" URL. That is, it is the one on printed materials, business cards, etc. But does that concept even make sense, Google-wise?

Okay, I hope that made sense. I know I am confused. It seems to me that the simplest solution is the political one: convince the school to allow our .com and make it work. Barring that, what are my other options? What should I be doing to move the .edu above the .com in search results?
posted by Fred Mars to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Point the .com address to a 301 redirect to the .edu page?
posted by dendrite at 11:08 AM on November 14, 2007

Oh, that's probably what you already have...301's preserve the ranking for that page, and you want a new ranking. Hmmmm.....
posted by dendrite at 11:10 AM on November 14, 2007

Best answer: Google probably can't do anything about this right now without you changing the way the .com domain works.

I can only guess at what is going on here, it might help to know both domains so I could see for myself.

My guess though is that you have registered a .com domain. That .com is then pointed at the universities servers either by a CNAME pointer to your .edu host name, or directly by an IP address.

Your university IT department has recently made a configuration change so that your website is a virtual server distinguished by hostname, but that they refuse to use your .com domain for that virtual server. As a result anyone visiting your old .com URLs is either getting an error message, or the default site on that server.

Your .edu pages are probably low on the Google search results because they duplicate the content on your more linked to .com domain.

You have a few options at this point.

You could work with the registrar for your .com domain to put in place a redirect to your .edu domain. If you make that redirect a "Moved Permenantly" (301) then google should eventually migrate your page rank to the .edu domain. If my make that redirect a "Moved Temporarily" (302) then anyone visiting them will get bounced to the same page on your .edu domain. I'm not totally sure what google will do about your page rank.

The former is probably the course you want to take if you are just going to cave to your IT department. The latter is probably your best chance to help people find your pages while you try and work things out with the university's IT.

The other option is to make a copy of your whole site and post it to an inexpensive commercial hosting account on your .com domain.
posted by Good Brain at 11:12 AM on November 14, 2007

Another vote for 301 redirects from the .com URLs to the corresponding pages on the .edu (not just a blanket redirect to the home page). Explain to the IT dept that you agree with migrating away from the .com and that setting up the redirects will ensure this takes place smoothly and efficiently.

If you have control of the domain you could point it at DNS servers elsewhere and get someone to configure the redirects, but that might irritate the IT people even more (to be fair, I think they're right to frown upon the .com, but seemingly not bright/conscientious enough to understand how to phase it out without problems).
posted by malevolent at 12:39 PM on November 14, 2007

Any approach there might be that would help you in this situation, is also an approach which would be abused by spammers. Thus Google has a vested interest in not permitting the thing you're trying to do.

Why would a university department be concerned about its google hit ranking anyway?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:31 PM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks very much. Surprisingly, I think my department worked it out with IT, because the .com is back up.

But a 301 status code sounds like the right answer for the long term. Old .com links will still work, and the .edu's PageRank should rise over time. I am guessing the .com registrar can insert some URL rewriting rule in their web server config file, right?

Strangely, for a university department, our .edu domain is a recent development. For the majority of the time we have had a web presence, it has been under the .com domain. Recently we decided to switch, but most people out there know our old address. I suppose we are only maintaining the .com domain to avoid breaking links out there.

Thanks again!
posted by Fred Mars at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2007

Why would a university department be concerned about its google hit ranking anyway?

Umm, perhaps because "results for dept.univ.edu are buried many pages deep," making it more difficult for people to find the department's page? Why is that difficult to understand?
posted by dersins at 2:58 PM on November 14, 2007

Why would a university department care about being found using search engines? Students know where the university site is; even if they're doing a search, it's going to be localized to the university web root.

Why would auniversity department care about whether it's difficult for the general public to find the department's page?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:03 PM on November 14, 2007

Maybe because the university department aspires to something unthinkable, like being an authority on a given subject?

PageRank is basically a turn on classic citation analysis which is itself a means of trying to measure intellectual influence among scholars.
posted by Good Brain at 5:11 PM on November 14, 2007

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