Most SEOs will tell you getting .edu links is a huge boost to any link profile. While this is true, I want to warn you upfront that “getting .edu links” is not as easy as it sounds.
I also want to warn you that you don’t simply get them. You have to earn them. And you earn them, not by making the backlink your main goal, but by making it a side effect of something more noble. Link building is important, but you must do so in a scalable, strategic, and ethical way.
I’ll share my ideas in just a minute, but I first want to make a few observations about .edu links, and how they could benefit your link profile.
Do You Need .Edu Links?
The simple and honest answer is “no”. A great link profile doesn’t have to have .edu links to possess authority and great ranking.
My site, Quicksprout.com, has very few .edu backlinks. Nonetheless, the site has strong trust and authority, as rated by Majestic SEO.
That being said, it’s possible for nearly any industry to gain some sort of .edu backlinks. Educational institutions are widely varied, meaning that you can probably find some school that is connected in some way to your vertical.
If you are targeting .edu links in your link building strategy, keep these two important features in mind:
If your link profile suddenly gains a bunch of new .edu links, this could set off a spam alert in Google’s algorithm. Too much too soon of a good thing is not a good thing. Go easy.
One of Google’s primary signals for the validity of a link is its anchor text. In my research, anchor text is the second-most significant component of a link, right after the domain/authority/trust of the originating domain.
If the anchor text is exact-match or keyword dense, then the .edu link may be doing more harm than good. The Penguin algorithm is known to target links with keyword-stuffed anchors.
Here’s How to Get .Edu Links
You can’t merely build backlinks like these. They require enormous effort, time, and involvement in an educational institution. Gaining a backlink from an .edu site is rarely as easy as just snagging a link. Instead, it is a byproduct of a holistic involvement with the college or university.
If you think .edu links are important and valuable for you, then there are several tactical ways to score some. Keep in mind that this isn’t some random grab for a bunch of links. This is a cautious, straightforward, honest, and trustworthy approach to establishing relationships with educational institutions.
Teach at The College or University
If you can speak with clarity and possess expertise in a field, then you can be a guest lecturer at a college class. Many community colleges and trade schools are eager to accept professionals who can talk about their area of expertise for an hour or two.
For example, let’s say a local community college has a freshman course on programming. You are a programmer with professional experience in a web development agency. You can volunteer or submit an application to the community college to share with students about your career.
Obtaining a guest lecturer position is, most importantly, helpful for the students. It also allows you to grow your reputation as a thought leader and speaker. Finally, it may allow you to earn a backlink. If the university lists guest lecturers or updates its blog with information about upcoming guest lectures, then it’s likely they will provide a link to your personal “about” page, social media profile, or business website.
Interview a Professor
Networking with professors has a host of advantages. Professors are usually intelligent people, so you can probably learn a lot. You can also interview them to gain information for an article.
Universities love to promote their professors. Interviews usually get picked up by the university and featured on their website. Often, the professor herself will link to the interview, especially if she maintains a personal website on the .edu domain.
Your website may not have the same cachet as the Los Angeles Times, but you can still get links for your interviews — like this one from UCLA Law.
Service The University With Your Local Business
Universities often list the local businesses who provide services to a university. If you have a local brick-and-mortar near a university, this is the perfect opportunity to see what kind of opportunities are available for serving the guests and student body of the university.
Local restaurants, hotels, boutiques, and even shopping establishments are sometimes listed on a college’s website.
Provide Resources For University Libraries
The job of university libraries is to provide as much information as possible to students who are seeking it. In addition, libraries usually have developers or web technologists on staff. These individuals are responsible for organizing the digital information and making it available to the public or to students.
If you have quality content that is relevant to a specific field or to students in a course of study, then you can bring it to the attention of the library. If they find the material useful, they may link to it.
A master’s thesis, technical guides, e-books, an instructional PDF, open access textbooks, or some other form of trustworthy and reliable content is all fair game for a great link from a university library.
Here is a page from USC.edu’s library website that provides a list of such resources.
Become Active in Your Alumni Organization
Many alumni associations are great, not just for business networking, but also for earning mentions and links on an .edu website. Your alma mater may not provide a publicly-available alumni network with links, but it’s worth checking into.
This page is a from a publicly accessible directory listing of Evergreen.edu’s notable alumni:
If you become a really famous alumni, then you may even get featured more prominently.
Participate in a Seminar
Many colleges provide seminars where students can gain additional information about specific area such as current events, career guidance, or niche topics in their area of study.
Universities bring in outside speakers to address the students. If you want to participate in one of these events, call up your local college and see what opportunities exist. Visiting speakers may be mentioned on the website, along with a link to their business.
Here’s what such a page looks like on the website of IIT Architecture Chicago.
Create a Scholarship
If you provide a scholarship, then you will almost certainly get a link from an .edu domain. Nearly all universities have a list of scholarships that students can apply for, along with links to more information about the scholarship provider. Usually, these are considered “outside/sponsored scholarships.”
Here is the list of outside scholarships for Harvard Law School.
Creating a scholarship is not a simple or easy task. Make sure that you allocate the personnel and resources to develop a legitimate and desirable scholarship.
Post on an .Edu Career Portal
Universities are full of students who are about to enter the workforce, and are seeking for their future career. Universities serve this need by providing resources for their students to find jobs.
When a university has a job fair, it is a perfect opportunity to work with the university for recruiting needs. If you’re in the market for an intern or employee, use this opportunity to work with the university to secure a recruiting display table and/or a mention on the website.
Some universities have lists of job websites, such as this one from Roosevelt University. Their career page has a list of hundreds of websites where students can apply for jobs.
Let me reiterate the most important thing about getting .edu links. The link is only a side benefit of something bigger and more meaningful. Make it your goal to truly contribute to the university, not just score a link.
Whatever you do, steer clear of websites with offers like this:
What is your experience with .edu links? How did you earn them?
Editor Note: Neil was the opening speaker for our SEJ Summit in Santa Monica this year. Want to learn more from speakers like him at our Summits throughout the year: in NYC, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami, and London? Sign up for a FREE ticket, covered by our partner, Searchmetrics.
Featured Image: archideaphoto via Shutterstock
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!