The short answer to this question is: it depends. Now before you grown and think this is another rehashing of old topics, the question of whether .gov links are worth “thousands of dollars” depends on more than just the perennial question of what makes them valuable to begin with (a refresher on this in a moment). There are other factors involved as well.
What Are .Gov Links?
As you know, a backlink is basically considered to be a kind “vote” for your website. When you get a .gov backlink, it’s basically a “vote” from a government website. The thing is, just like with regular links, not all .gov links are created equal. Thus some .gov links may indeed be worth thousands of dollars while others are worth the time it takes for you to create them yourself.
Why .Gov Links are Popular
I won’t spend too much time re-explaining why these kinds of links are popular. As I’ve mentioned in this blog in the past, there are two theories. The first theory is that Google and other search engines consider such links to be inherently valuable because they come from an ostensibly reliable source (i.e. a government).
The second theory holds that these links are worth more because .gov websites tend to be linked to more often and thus tend to get higher PR ranks which in turn means that links on the sites are inherently more valuable.
Why It Matters
The distinction is important because this would mean that even a very obscure government agency which happens to have a website (for example, the US Board of Geographic Names, which decides whether or not particular names will be adopted by the Federal Government) could give you a valuable link. On the other hand, if only government agencies which actually get linked to regularly are valuable, then something on WhiteHouse.Gov is likely to be much more useful.
The Difference between Links
Now here’s the real kicker though and the reason that I said that it depends when I discussed the question of .gov links – regardless of what the reason for .gov links being more or less valuable may be (and again, it’s not clear one way or the other), the fact remains that just like with regular links, different links have different values. A link from a page entitled links is going to be worth less than a link from a page with news releases is going to be worth less than a link from the homepage.
Nobody knows for certain what makes .gov links valuable to begin with and I’ve seen passionate supporters of one opinion or another everywhere on the web. Therefore, when asking the question whether they are “really” worth thousands of dollars, I prefer to examine what kind of link it is. Obviously, the government blog comment link is worth less than a link from the President’s Home Page. However, one thing is certain: all of these are likely worth more than a link from some unknown blog on Blogger.com. . .