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Obviously, these pages carry a large PR value with the clout of their respective institutions behind them. More concerning is that they seem somewhat lacking in the keyword relevance that one would expect to see in quality results.
What does this mean in the long run? A glitch? A new SEO obstacle? What other industries are seeing this type of phenomena?
Not that it's a big deal since I don't make money directly from my web site, but it didn't look like a good trend to me.
So what you're saying is that this is old news? Sounds like a project for some folks at Google to me. Am I nuts or is a course description NOT a relevant result for anything? Other than internal university business of course..
But are we to assume that someone searching for "fuzzy widgets" is looking to take a course about manufacturing widgets? That's last thing I would imagine. How many search terms could you think of that that would be the case?
Perhaps when I specified "internal university business", I was unclear. I would assume (maybe that makes me a jack-ass) that someone was looking to take a course they could specify the word "course" in the search as in "fuzzy widgets course".
Imagine searching for "easy dinner recipes" and getting results, HALF of which are course descriptions for the culinary courses at community colleges. How is that relevant? If I was looking to go back to school I would have searched for "culinary courses", "culinary course descriptions" or even "cooking instruction".
How about searching for "day care program" and half the results are course descriptions for child development workshops?
How about searching for "personal injury lawyer" and half the results are of course descriptions from law schools?
I think we can agree that this would be a bit wrong. Wrong as in OBVIUOSLY not what was intended.
As a side note this discussion ignores the fact that the course descriptions that I'm referring to hardly mention the keyword phrases searched for and do not have the anchor text, titles or any other attributees one would expect to see in first page results. Only PR.
Imagine searching for "easy dinner recipes" and getting results, HALF of which are course descriptions for the culinary courses at community colleges. How is that relevant?
That's no worse than searching for "[prescription drug] side effects" and getting a list of affiliate pages that are hyping the drug.
Obviously, Google's search results aren't what they should be in every case, but I doubt if course syllabi are a major problem in the overall scheme of things.
I have never understood the reasoning behind complaining about half the results for a search seeming irrelevant to a specific searcher.
If only half are irrelevant, then the other half are relevant and the searcher can find the results they are looking for. That seems like great results to me.
And if someone is searching for [easy dinner recipes] they just might be well served by looking into taking a couple of cooking classes.
As it is, there are a few times where I have come across a course description and followed some links to the course materials to find a solution to my problem when the rest of the SERPs were filled with useless commercial sites.
Google needs to take a guess at what you are looking for, and they also have to take a guess as to what a page is about. I think we, as searchers, are much better off if google serves up a mix of results instead of results that are filled with one specific type of result.