Is this a Google Scholar SEO Problem?

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to figure out why an uninspiring piece of content is ranking #1 for the keyword “classroom management plan.”

Thankfully, I stumbled upon a Twitter thread from Dan Petrovic and found an obscure reference to a problematic PDF file. You see, Dan was hit with a manual penalty from Google, and Marie Haynes suggested that a PDF file Dan was hosting on his website was the problem.

Dan wrote about the issue here in the Potential Cause for Penalty, and it gave me an idea for why we aren’t ranking #1.

And I think I found a problem with Google Scholar Citations.

Here’s the top of the Google SERP for the query “Classroom Management Plan”:

You will notice a Featured Snippet, and in position #1 is a PDF file hosted on the Waterford Teacher’s Centre website.

Here’s the beginning of the PDF:

Not exactly impressive content (make a mental note of the the I. Rules heading).

But since the page was ranking just above our page, I assumed that the Waterford Teachers’ Centre must be a highly valued website. So I went to Ahrefs to take a peek:

Hmmm – A DR of 20.  Next I looked at the specific page:

Even less impressive!

So why is the file in the featured snippet and in the #1 position????

You may have noticed from the SERP above, that Google thinks the article is scholarly (see the “Cited by 5” notation). So, I clicked on the Cited by 5 link, and found my way to this page on Google Scholar.

None of the 5 articles are citing the Classroom Management Plan hosted on Waterford Teachers’ Centre. So why does Google believe this to be the case?

Next I did a search on Google Scholar for the file:

And here are a few clues:

    • This isn’t even the same PDF!!!!
    • Notice the title – the RULES – and recall the heading in the actual PDF that I mentioned previously.

Next I clicked on the “All 23 versions” to see the other “versions” of the file:

It appears that Google Scholar thinks that these files, by virtue of the Titles being the same, are all the same. And Google Scholar is giving the Citation credit to the Classroom Management Plan PDF file hosted by Waterford Teachers’ Centre.

Am I missing something? Why is Google making this connection?