While Google has claimed .edu links don't count more than typical links, many top tier professionals in the SEO community disagree. Even if .edu links don't inherently carry more weight than typical links, most .edu domains are more authoritative than typical domains, due to a natural tendency to attract wonderful inbound authority links themselves.
For many beginning SEOs, a .edu link sounds like an impossible goal, a holy grail. In truth, it's not nearly as difficult to get a link from an educational institution as you might think. While it takes a great deal more effort than dropping an article in a content farm, the payoff for the amount of effort is actually much higher.
What Not to Do
Here are a few ways to get .edu links that are worthless or counterproductive:
- Profile Links - Do a search for .edu forums, set up a profile, and link it back to your site. Sit back and wait for nothing to change.
- Comment - Find .edu blogs and leave comments. Spend years looking for a .edu blog that allows do-follow links in their comments. Leave a comment and watch it get deleted as spam.
- Set Up Your Own EDU Domain - Create a fake educational institution, link back to your site, and if you're lucky, don't go to jail. (I'm only being slightly facetious.) Link back to your site and wait until the end of time for Google to decide that your site is a legitimate educational institution.
- Bribes - Contact .edu webmasters, offer them money in exchange for a link to your site, alienate yourself from the educational community, and fall out of Google's favor.
A "Right" Way to Do it
This is not the right way to do it, but this approach should give you an idea of the mindset behind link building with .edu domains (and any other authoritative domain, for that matter).
- Choose a topic - Brainstorm subjects that are related to the content of your site but completely noncommercial in nature. Think of subjects that your college professors would give you a good grade for.
- Write and Cite - Write the best article you possibly can on the subject. It should have appeal to your standard audience, but it should also hold up to academic scrutiny. Cite everything. Get your data from authoritative sources, especially, and this is key, from educational institutions. Use scholar.google.com. Record your citations in a spreadsheet. You'll need them because they're vital for...
- Outreach - Contact every source that you cite in your article. Let them know that you'll be mentioning them in your post and you'd like them to take a look and make sure you aren't misrepresenting them. Ask if the article would meet their own standards and if they'd be willing to offer any advice.
- Revise - Make the requested changes to the article. Ask if the professors have anything else to add, and incorporate quotations and facts that they offer into your article.
- Publish and Promote - Publish the article and promote it through all your traditional channels. Contact the academics that you spoke with and let them know that you've published the article. Thank them for all the help and let them know that they helped you write one of the best articles on your site (it's almost certainly true). Mention that you would appreciate it if they shared the article on their site.
This is not the only way to get links from authoritative .edu domains, but it should give you an idea of how to approach this goal. The key is to tackle noncommercial subjects and avoid anything that feels like selling.
Have you received links from .edu domains? What was your strategy?
Image credit: Paul Stainthorp