Top search results for Japan include……The CIA?

I search for things about Japan a lot. Living in Japan, Japan news, how to learn Japanese ect ect. I get a huge amount of information that I need from the internet and it tends to be my first point of call when I need to know something. Despite all my time looking things up about Japan I’ve rarely had reason to actually put Japan by itself into a search engine. I usually look for more specific information and don’t want to wade though a bunch of general pages to find what I need. So I was a bit surprised when my first ever general search for Japan turned up the CIA as the fifth result on .

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Surely I thought there has to be a mistake. Ignoring entirely that the CIA isn’t exactly renowned for their popular and informative website I just couldn’t understand how it could be near the top of a Google search. Surely there was something more regularly updated, more popular and with more link backs which should have been more likely to come on the first page.If Google is trying to give Its users detailed and relevent sites about Japan its algorithms should be returning blogs, businesses and organisations likely to appeal to the type of person that would search for Japan.

The other top links all made sense although I was surprised that more popular blogs like Gaijinpot didn’t make it onto the top page. The results above the CIA were:

  1. Japan-Wikipedia
  2. Japan National Tourism Organisation (English)
  3. Japan National Tourism Organisation (Japanese)
  5. Japan-CIA

I suppose a search for just Japan is likely focused on statistics and factual information rather than other types of writing but this still seems strange to me. The factors search engines consider are things like popularity, history of the site, update regularity and  back linking. I just can’t see the dry, boring and very limited statistical information of the CIA website beating all other sites on those criteria. Even if it does the aim of search algorithms is to return the results the user are likely to want. Outside of school children doing very general school reports who exactly do they envision wanting this information when they search for Japan.

The site itself is little more than dry facts about population, land mass and some carefully worded history. It’s clear that the site is kept up to date as it makes mention of relatively recent things like the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Fukushima earthquake but it still likely isn’t updated anywhere near as often as many other sites.

I don’t really have any particular point for this post. I’m just curious about how a CIA page rather than any of the millions of other far more informative pages out there ended up with such a prestigious place on Google.