No matter what you call them (EDU, edu, .edu, EDU TLDs), backlinks from edu websites are high-quality links that usually show value and trust.
Building links to these types of sites can make even the most seasoned link builder smile more than they did at their own college graduation. Nevertheless, this reaction may seem overblown to those unfamiliar with the power of edu backlinks.
Why are edu backlinks so sought after and how could someone relatively new to link building find these opportunities and build these powerful links?
Why are EDU Backlinks Powerful?
Before we get into finding these edu linking opportunities and building powerful backlinks to your site, it is important to understand why they are so powerful.
While some may theorize that Google values these types of links simply because they are edu domains, there is no proof of this – in fact, Googler John Mu actually wrote just the opposite in a Google Group.
However, the true value in edu backlinks comes from the same place as any other authoritative site on the web. Sites with edu domains typically have high authority as they have been around for a long time and have many trusted and quality sites linking to them.
This is why many of these sites are viewed as authoritative by Google and this where the power in building backlinks from them exists.
How to Find EDU Backlink Opportunities
Finding the appropriate edu domains is the first step in implementing the necessary strategies to build these powerful backlinks. The list of appropriate sites will vary depending on the particular strategy you are employing, but to get started there are some advanced search modifiers you can use to compile a basic list of target sites.
For example, using the modifier “site:.edu” will narrow your results down to edu domains.
However, you can use these modifiers to get even more specific and find the best possible targets for your niche.
Here is an example of a search string a local restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin might use to find potential edu domains to link to.
As you can see, the SERP returns only edu domains in the Milwaukee area.
Keep in mind that, as with all link building, when you are building these edu backlinks you should keep relevancy and usefulness (to the audience/user) in mind. You should focus on finding places where your links would make sense and add value. By doing this you can build truly powerful links.
Tactics for Building Powerful EDU Backlinks
Now let’s take a look at some of the strategies you can implement and how to get edu backlinks. Part of the reason many edu domains are viewed as authoritative is that they do not typically hang out in bad link neighborhoods and they do not simply hand out backlinks. To acquire a backlink from one of these sites, you need to add value. Here are some different techniques you can use to add value to edu domains and get the links you want.
Local Link Building
One of the best strategies you can use to gain some quality edu backlinks is start locally. If the site you are building links to is a local business, start by targeting some local schools and colleges. Look for sites that contain something like a “Local Resources” or “Local Businesses” and ask that you be included.
You can even take things a step further on the relevancy scale if you can find a local section of the site that pertains to your company’s particular niche i.e. restaurants (local dining) or hotels (local accommodations).
Offer Discounts to Faculty/Staff
Another effective strategy for building edu backlinks is to offer discounts to faculty and staff of specific universities. It is important to remember that Google frowns upon paying for links, so you should not be exchanging discounts for links. Rather, inform the person in charge of discounts at the school (typically someone in the Human Resources Dept.) that their faculty/staff are eligible for a discount for your business and they will most likely be happy to link to your business as this makes it easier for their employees to get your discount.
Again, if you are a local business you should be contacting local colleges. For an e-commerce site, it is really up to you to include as many schools as you want for the discount.
Typically the webmaster will include a description of the discount you are offering and backlink to your site.
Offer/Create a Scholarship
Alternatively, you can provide value to the students of the school you hope to receive a backlink from by creating a scholarship. Not only will the students benefit, but colleges are usually open to making more scholarships available to students as it makes their institution more affordable.
Look for a section of the site labeled External/Outside Scholarships and ask if you can include a short description of your scholarship with a link back to your site. It might be a good idea to create a specific landing page for the scholarship that you can link to naturally. In the above example, you can see the college linked to commercial sites like Tylenol and Campus Explorer.
Interview Prominent Faculty/Staff
Another way to naturally build an edu backlink to your site is by interviewing a prominent member of the university’s staff or faculty. This is a great example of egobait as this person’s employer (the college) will most likely want to promote how talented their employee is by linking to the interview. By hosting the interview on your site, you can obtain an edu backlink.
Again it is important to keep relevancy in mind here. For example, try to find a professor who teaches subjects that are closely related to your niche.
Create a Careers/Jobs Page
Creating a careers/jobs page can be another effective way to get edu backlinks. By creating this page you can post job openings at your company and create a linkable asset at the same time.
College career centers often provide links to job openings that could be pertinent to their students/alumni. It may be possible to get even more relevant here if you can find a specific department posting jobs related to your industry. Furthermore, if you are a local business it would be wise to start with local schools.
Create a Resource Specific to your Niche
As mentioned before, edu link building, and all link building for that matter, is about adding value. Creating a valuable resource specific to your industry will give you something that an edu website would be willing to link to. Examples would be an in-depth case study or educational white paper that would provide valuable information to students.
In this example, Cheap Car Insurance.net created this resource on environmentally friendly cars. They were able to get an edu backlink by finding a place on GRU’s website where the resource would be relevant and valuable.
This is why it is useful to target the specific department relevant to your niche and see if they have a resource page where your link would be helpful.
Broken Link Building
Finally, the 404/dead link building strategy can be used to get edu backlinks as well.
Utilizing a link finder tool can help you find broken links quickly and easily. This strategy can be combined with your aforementioned resource by finding an edu with a resource page that has broken links. Simply point out the broken links to the site’s webmaster and ask that they replace them with your relevant resource.
Check My Links will highlight the link that is 404ing for you and you can even see in this example there is a helpful link that will direct you right to the webmaster.
Backlinks from edus can be very powerful and valuable to your SEO efforts. However, it is important to remember that their value doesn’t come from simply being an edu domain. You still want to make sure the sites that link to you are authoritative and trusted. Due to the fact these sites are typically high quality, it will not be easy to build links to them and you’re not going to get the links if you don’t do the work. However, by following the strategies listed here and ensuring you can add value to the sites you pursue, you can find viable edu backlink opportunities.
Image via DepositPhotos, screenshots taken February 2014.