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.
Since Penguin, folks are really interested in quality link-building practices. Here are seven strategies for getting .edu links.
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.
Example: Hotels get links from Harvard and Yale by simply being physically close to campus.
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!
Hi Nick, I really enjoyed the post and. All of the ideas presented are great tips for acquiring .edu links. The one that really caught my attention was to chat up a librarian. All of my clients are resources in different industries so I will definitely be including this in our strategy. It will be interesting to see if more acquiring more authoritative links can offset the damage done to sites hit hard by Penguin. Again thanks for the post.
Thanks, Brian! Library research guides are great as they’ll often cover multiple subjects. Best of luck!
hmm,,, a couple of days back, I saw a presentation that said STOP LINK BUILDING from Ian and now this..
What is it that Portent is trying to say? mixed signals…
create marketable content that wins links by itself or go hunt edu links…
Yeah I love Ian’s idea – “saying what matters now” and creating content that builds links itself, but I also think that’s quite a bit easier said then done. Especially for smaller brands just starting to build their online presence.
While the value of links has been changing a lot lately, and links from low quality sources don’t matter so much anymore, .edu links can still give you a nice authority boost. .edu link building is still a solid strategy if you can form connections with universities in the ways Nick lists above.
“If you want a valuable link, you’ll have to offer a valuable resource that matches the intent of the page.”
This is probably the best line in the entire post (and it was a good one). One of our sites has been able to build dozens of links to .edus b/c we have a test prep service that appeals to students at thousands of schools.
They not only have to the option to link to our main page but also to pages w/ sample quizzes students can take. The .edus love that kind of stuff.
Thanks for the kind words, Shawn! A company that directly appeals to colleges or students like a test prep service is gold.
You make a good point about the sample quizzes, too. A lot of college faculty and webmasters I get in touch with won’t explicitly endorse a commercial product. You have to offer something unique and beneficial that fits their needs. Sample quizzes are are a great example!
Nice post Nick. As far as chatting up a librarian is concerned, do we request them to put up our link (“can you please link to this?” or present the material and ask them “I hope this helps, you can link to this if you want”?
Thanks for reading, Jasjot. It depends on the situation, but in general I keep it pretty casual. I’ll tell him or her to “have a look and let me know what you think.” If they follow up and don’t mention linking, I’ll ask them if they wouldn’t mind including it on their page or list.
If the page, however, provides an email address for the webmaster and solicits suggestions or corrections, then I’ll directly ask for a link since they’re probably used to those sorts of requests. Hope that helps!
Money, I bookmarked this. Planning on posting some “internships” for some of my web properties tonight on college job boards 🙂 Great post.
Thanks very much, Jeremy.
This is really great tip, thank you so much Nick…..
It is very difficult to get links like this, but they are more authority 🙂
I will work on this….
Once again thanks dude…
These are some great tactics. I’m glad you provided some legitimate ones as I think people often mistakenly think that all .edu links are created equal. Whereas, just like all the other links out there not all all links are created equal. Just keep in mind that “trust” is what you’re after. If it’s too easily spammed/manipulated you can guarantee that if it isn’t already devalued that G will eventually devalue it.
Nice post Nick.. I have not yet explored .edu links or .gov links..
Usually using .com, .org to build links..
Any suggestion on those offer from Fiverr, are they useful to create .edu links??
These are some great strategies – thanks. How do .edu links stack up against .gov links in terms of quality?
Another suggestion is to offer to be a guest speaker. Many colleges are looking for speakers in different industries to give insights to college students about the field. This could also be a good recruitment opportunity if you are looking for recent grads for entry level positions.
Nick, that’s a pretty great idea.
Thanks for this tips i’ve learn a great methods to find good links.
Thanks a bunch for the 411 Nick. I worked at UC Davis for a couple years after grad school before anyone knew what SEO was… I’ll share your article with my friend Andy Jones, the campus guru on technology in academia. Cheers!
SEO’s know that how important .edu links are and they play a great role in off-page strategy. Thanks for sharing the tips to create them.
Thanks for these tips, they helped me to find good links.