Recently there has been a lot of chatter about .edu top-level domains. From whether a .edu TLD packs more Google-juice punch to whether one can actually register one, there’s been a lot of mis-information floating around the web. So let’s once and for all set the record straight on .edu domains.
What are .edu domains?
Edu domains are those domains ending in “.edu”. Like “.com”, “.net”, “.org” and others, “.edu” domains are a top-level domain (TLD). The majority of .edu domains are associated with an American post-secondary educational institution, such as a college or university.
How do you get an .edu domain? What are the eligibility requirements?
The registration of .edu domains is governed by Educause, which limits the registration of such domains to post-secondary institutions in the United States that are institutionally accredited. “Institutionally accredited” means that the entire institution and not just a particular program or department is accredited by an agency on the U.S. Department of Education’s list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies. Those recognized accrediting bodies included “Regional Insitutional Accrediting Agencies”, as well as “National Institutional and Specialized Accrediting Bodies”. In other words, it’s going to be very tough for an individual to register a .edu domain.
Other schools, like elementary schools, high schools, middle schools, and even charter schools are not eligible to register a .edu domain. It is reserved solely for post-secondary schools.
Are there any exceptions?
Educause did not take over the administration of .edu domains until 2001, and according to the terms of the Cooperative Agreement between Educause and the U.S. Department of Commerce, all .edu names in existence as of October 29, 2001 are “grandfathered“, regardless of all current of past eligibility requirements. Because of the rarity of these grandfathered edu domains, actually being able to find one will be pretty hard, and if you do, it will likely run you in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An interesting domain which has raised some eyebrows in recent months is the domain America.edu, which is one of those “grandfathered” domains. America.edu recently changed hands through the sale of an “educational institution”, which permitted the continued use of the domain. At one point it was an actual institution website, and then somewhere along the line it became a bit of a spammy link-fest. Now, however, under the new ownership the site is making a turn around, seeking to be an information source for current and future college students, instructors, and parents.
Will an .edu domain give you more weight in the search engines?
While some insist that simply having a .edu domain, regardless of the site’s quality, content, and incoming links, will give you more weight with the major search engines, it’s just not true. Who says so? Matt Cutts, a top engineer at Google, in this video.
But don’t most .edu domains have exceptionally high page ranks? And don’t links from .edu sites usually pack a good punch when it comes to PageRank? The answer to both is yes, in some cases.
The reason that .edu domains typically have high PageRanks is because they are quality, respectable sites. You wouldn’t honestly expected a revered institution like Harvard to have a lower PageRank than your homegrown financial blog now would you? The same is true for why .edu links seem to carry more weight. They’ve earned it, like any other site, and don’t get any extra-special added consideration. That also means that not all .edu links are created equal, and if getting .edu links is a part of your link building strategy you’ll want to consider it carefully.
How can .edu links help me? And how can I get some?
We all like getting links to our websites, especially ones from sites with high-traffic, large followings, and high PageRanks. Getting a good quality .edu link is like getting one of those. You might get one organically by chance, but more often than not you’ll pay out the nose for premium links, or it just simply won’t be available to you.
No matter how many people you try to bribe, Stanford isn’t going to link to your SEO website from their front page, or even a sub-page. The reasons why are pretty obvious, but if you need it spelled out for you, it’s because they aren’t willing to compromise their integrity. Few, if any, schools would be willing to do that.
So how do you get one?
You can hope and pray that a school will link to you, but the chances are pretty slim that they actually will. I’ve actually been successful in acquiring numerous .edu and .gov links to a librarian-oriented website of mine, but it all happened by chance and was because it was something they found useful and relevant. The links I got were mostly on the school’s library pages, or school-run blogs (not those run by students), and I didn’t beg or ask for them.
Most .edu link sales that I see online are students selling a link on their school-sponsored blog, located on a subdomain of the school’s website. So before you get all excited when you spot one of these .edu link sales, read it over first. More than likely your link will be on fsu.edu/student/blog/jdoe, and not fsu.edu. Buying or getting one of these links is just like any other link. Does it get traffic? How much? Does it have a PageRank? How many incoming links does it have? Those are the kinds of things you’ll want to consider. Just don’t get blinded by the .edu, and you’ll be able to make a smart decision.
Getting a high-powered link from a respectable .edu domain is great, but don’t put all your eggs into one basket.