As a linkbuilder, I love college websites. What’s not to love? Sure, getting authoritative links from .edu domains can pass a ton of equity, but college sites have a lot more going for them:
- They’re varied. Opportunities exist for every vertical.
- They’re fresh. You can expect the primary pages to be updated regularly. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding the perfect link opportunity, only to discover it was probably last viewed with Netscape Navigator.
- They’re transparent. With staff directories and generally good site architecture, colleges make it easy to find the exact person you need to contact.
1. Post a Job
Creating a page dedicated to your company’s career opportunities is just about the easiest way to garner .edu links. In the age of boomerang kids, colleges are keen to promote ways to keep graduates off of their parents’ couch.
Career centers offer lists tailored to specific academic fields and subject areas. You might need to research the language of your industry as it relates to academia. If you’re building links for a car site, you’ll likely be searching for automotive technology departments. Pages relating to design or textiles might have opportunities for e-commerce clothing sites.
Example: Roosevelt University lists job sites for a variety of industries.
2. Offer a Scholarship
Much like careers pages, colleges make a strong effort to promote scholarships. Create one. These can have an even wider appeal than careers, as they aren’t necessarily limited to subject area or location.
Look for language like “outside” or “external” to find pages that list general scholarships not related to the college. If your scholarship does pertain to a specific field, the related academic department might give you a link as well.
Example: Even a small college like Whitman provides a long list of outside scholarships.
3. Hire a Recent Graduate
If an employee graduated in the not-too-distant past, have your new hire reach out to his or her alma mater to let them know. Many career centers and academic departments are eager to highlight job search success of their graduates.
This is a direct way of providing value. It’s in the college’s best interest to demonstrate that its students are successful upon graduation or at least, in my case, prove that English majors actually can become gainfully employed.
Example: The University of Oregon’s career center blog showcases the new careers of former students in a series called, “You’re Hired!”
4. Leverage your Success
Just like their recent graduates, alumni organizations and academic departments also want to show off how rich and famous their former students become later in life.
Alumni organizations usually have directories that could provide links. Often, however, those pages are behind login walls and don’t get crawled, or the directories are on domains separate from the college. Instead, look for static, department-specific lists. Business schools link to entrepreneurs, law schools link to their former students’ firms, and journalism schools link to successful publications.
Example: You don’t need the chiseled features of Paul Rudd or the athletic prowess of Wilt Chamberlin to be recognized as a notable alumnus, but that certainly helped those guys make it on the University of Kansas’ list. The list also links out to another alumnus’ non-profit. Evergreen’s page paints a more realistic portrait of post-graduate vocations.
5. Befriend a Professor
At many colleges, faculty members can create personal pages that link out to resources relating to their course or field of research. Apparently, at one point in time it was a popular practice to publish your entire favorites folder. Years later, we have huge list of links to everything from television shows…
to obsolete search engines.
At first glance, you might think you’ve struck gold, as the barrier to entry seems comically low. These pages, however, are going the way of… well, AltaVista. These professors have likely stopped updating the page and don’t check their link-request-pummeled inboxes.
Similarly, pages for specific courses that list resources for students have begun to be replaced with services like Blackboard. There remain, however, many opportunities to get a link on a curated resource page—especially with software and tools. If you have an app for productivity that would benefit students or offer a free academic license of your software, professors will want to share it.
Example: The page referenced above is rare in that it is actively maintained by Dr. Larry Taylor: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lpt/links.htm. Note that most personal folders begin with a tilde (~). If you have a list of prospects in Excel, filter the column to only show URLs that include a tilde to easily find these personal pages.
6. Chat Up a Librarian
The job of the librarian is to connect people with information. Libraries publish research guides on every topic imaginable. They’re often on their own subdomains, so an “inurl” search for “libguides” or “libraryguides” with a keyword could be fruitful:
Some guides have single authors that you can contact to suggest a resource. Otherwise, find the reference librarian in charge of the guide’s subject or the library’s webmaster.
This is another ideal situation to provide value by pointing out the broken links on the page. Most librarians couldn’t care less about SEO, but they all want to ensure they’re offering valuable, correct information. If you find a broken link on the page, help them out! There are many apps to quickly check the status of links on a page, but my favorite is Check My Links by Paul Livingstone for Chrome.
Example: Here’s a great guide on a very niche subject, with the contact person right on the page, by Appalachian State University.
7. Get Local
Colleges, of course, want to accommodate the folks who are financing the whole endeavor: parents. Admissions pages offer information on local amenities for families who are in town for college tours, parents’ weekend, and commencement.
If you run a hotel, restaurant, outdoor gear rental store, golf course, or souvenir shop, do some “site:.edu” searches around “local lodging,” “local attractions,” or “local dining.” These pages exist to make it easy on the family, and administrators aren’t too picky about what is listed. Do you have any idea how many colleges across the country link to Applebee’s?
Conferences are another way to leverage a local presence, especially for hotels. All those conference-goers from out of town need a place to stay, and there are separate pages dedicated to conference lodging. Due to the seemingly endless variety of inspiration for conferences, from Pragmatics and Language Learning to Iowa County Engineers, opportunities abound.
Rule Worthy of Might
Colleges make it easy to get in touch with department heads and elite professors, but you know what they say about great power. Just like the rest of the web, college faculty, staff, and webmasters have been burned by untoward link building practices. If you want a valuable link, you’ll have to offer a valuable resource that matches the intent of the page. And always say please and thank you.
What’s your favorite .edu link building strategy? Is your industry particularly difficult to get .edu links in? Let us know in the comments!