The best ways to get links from EDU sites in 2021
Search engine optimization and link building are aimed at the continuous improvement of a site throughout its development. The more backlinks from trusted sites an optimizer will get, the faster the project will appear on the first lines of search result pages.
Links from websites of educational institutions are highly valued by webmasters. It is believed that they can significantly improve the trust flow of acceptor sites and increase visibility in organic search results.
1. Brief overview of EDU sites
The .EDU domain zone is designed for websites of educational institutions. The first domain in this zone was registered in 1985. Registration of a domain name requires state accreditation, and only representatives of educational institutions can apply for it.
For example, if an optimizer wants to register an .EDU domain and expects to get links from it on a permanent basis, he will not be able to do so. To register a domain, a verification procedure is required.
The domain zone is managed by Educase, the organization that authorizes the registration. A school, college, or university will need a document proving accreditation. The registrar also requests the contact information of the educational institution’s technical support representatives.
The list of domain zones for educational institutions also includes:
Not all educational institutions refused using .EDU in favor of more thematic domain zones; so, it remained the most popular option for educational institutions and the most attractive for optimizers who want to get a dofollow link from a profile or a reference from a Resource Page.
2. Why are EDU links of great value for SEO?
Many SEO specialists believe that links from EDU sites are more authoritative than other backlinks. For example, if an optimizer is promoting a site with educational content, a backlink from an EDU site is considered maximally relevant. And if a backlink is not nofollow or redirect, the recipient will get the link juice of the project with the maximum level of authority. To buy such a backlink on an exchange or negotiate a paid posting is hardly possible because administrators of educational institutions are not interested in such proposals.
Some SEO specialists use EDU links not only for educational sites. And if they manage to get a few of these backlinks, they expect an immediate improvement of ranking. In fact, backlinks from educational sites do not guarantee successful SEO.
2.1. High level of trust flow
Most EDU sites have a high level of trust flow, but not all projects are subject to this rule. There are abandoned resources that were used by spammers to promote their sites as much as possible. Backlinks from such donor sites may do more harm than good.
If the site of an educational institution has a small number of outgoing links, and they are all thematic, it does not necessarily have a high level of trust flow. It is wrong to assume that EDU projects have the highest trust rate by default compared to other zones.
2.2. High domain authority
Domain authority depends on a large number of factors. For example, if a college site in Michigan is referred to by hundreds of similar EDU sites that have no suspicious outbound links, the domain name can be considered authoritative.
Backlinks from EDU resources can be considered really valuable because they don’t participate in link schemes and can increase the recipient’s equity with the right approach. And if the resource to be promoted is dedicated to education, the link will be as thematic as possible.
2.3. Hard to get and less spammy
Webmasters target EDU links because these pages have a high Page Rank. If a link is posted with an administrator’s permission, it won’t disappear and will provide a long-lasting effect for SEO.
Not all EDU sites can act as potential donors. If resources are not maintained, spammers can find gaps in the moderation system and get an unlimited number of links.
2.4. High-quality content
One of the main advantages of backlinks from EDU sites is a strict content policy of such platforms. They publish news, scholarly articles, research, and other high-quality content.
A college or university may write about a program for students or a discount on services, but even in this case, an administrator is unlikely to agree to post boilerplate text.
3. What is important to know about backlinks from educational resources?
In a perfect world, links from any EDU sites are quality by default. But in practice, this is not always the case, because even among EDU projects, there are moderated and abandoned sites.
It is worth trying to get backlinks from educational resources only if you cannot achieve the necessary visibility in search results without them. They are especially important for educational projects, no matter if they are informational or commercial.
3.1. How does Google treat such links?
Webmasters form ideas about the details of search engine optimization based on their experience and the cases of their colleagues. It is commonly believed that Google highly values backlinks from EDU projects.
This can be explained by the fact that anyone can register a domain in the .COM TLD zone and that .EDU is only available to educational institutions that have been accredited by the government and verified by a registrar.
As for the official comments from Google’s representatives, John Mueller said something very vague about .EDU backlinks. In a recent thread on Twitter, he noted that he never said anything about rejecting most EDU links.
Google is positive about natural links. If a webmaster can find a legitimate approach to getting a link from a reputable EDU site, it will definitely benefit the resource being promoted.
3.2. Link effectiveness
The effectiveness of backlinks from educational institution websites depends on a large number of factors. Further in the article, we will discuss in detail all the parameters that affect the correct posting.
In some cases, a backlink can help not only improve recipient equity but also get targeted traffic. This is possible only if the landing page of the promoted site meets the interests of the target audience of the project referring to it.
3.3. Impact on website authority
Links from an EDU website can affect project authority only if the donor does not use backlink exchange schemes and is treated by search engine algorithms as a trusted one.
You can check whether a project is considered authoritative by Google only indirectly, using Semrush or Ahrefs to analyze the link profile and search for suspicious links. If a project refers only to authoritative resources, a backlink from it will be useful.
4. How do EDU links affect ranking?
Optimizers have long believed that backlinks from educational and government sites significantly boost recipients’ link juice. For example, backlinks from a COM domain are far less beneficial.
This can be true only if you compare EDU and COM domains with each other and no questions about the quality of the educational project will arise. However, it all depends on the authority of the second domain. In some cases, it is better to get a link from a standard zone than pay for a spammy .EDU.
There is no reason to doubt that backlinks from educational projects can affect site visibility. But they must be regarded as references from high-quality resources rather than as a magic tool for obtaining top positions and going ahead of competitors in organic search results.
Cases of SEO specialists confirm that EDU links can affect a site’s search engine ranking. For example, a travel project got 36 backlinks from EDU sites in 6 months thanks to student scholarships. After that, traffic increased by 834% compared to the previous year.
5. How to find relevant EDU sites for posting links?
The effectiveness of link building largely depends on the approach to donor selection. If you pay little attention to the task, many platforms for posting could be left off the list, and the link mass will not be as high-quality as it could be.
Links from EDU sites are not always high-quality, and this aspect must be noticed during the analysis of potential donors. If you check the domain after posting, it may turn out that the money was spent in vain.
5.1. Search queries that help find the right sites
One of the basic ways to find domain names in the right zones is the use of search operators. Entering a few keywords and collecting potential donors in one list would be enough.
However, this approach does not guarantee 100% coverage. Search engine algorithms do not show all trusted domains that may be useful for search engine promotion.
Examples of queries:
- site:.edu inurl:blog
- site:.edu inurl:comment
- site:.edu inurl:forum
- site:.edu inurl:advertisement
If you don’t specify a particular keyword for your search, there will be a lot of results, and not all of them will be useful for analysis. Making a list manually is very time-consuming; so, it is better to use automation tools.
5.2. Competitor analysis
If your niche competitors use links from trusted EDU blogs, you can expand the list of donors compiled using the first method. Particular attention should be paid to websites that have increased their positions in organic search results in the last 6 to 12 months.
Perhaps it was link building that helped them get ahead of their competitors and take high positions for high-frequency queries. It is not necessarily only links from .EDU. Educational projects may be in profiles of websites in different niches.
Ahrefs, Semrush, SISTRIX, and other platforms are great for analyzing competitor links. It is better to use several services at a time to get more useful data.
6. Types of links from EDU sites
The approach to posting links on EDU sites is specific. Unlike projects that build their businesses on backlinks, EDU projects don’t seek to make a profit on references to other resources. Therefore, standard approaches, like those for submissions or crowd marketing, won’t work.
In most cases, educational institutions will only agree to post a link to an external resource if they are confident in the value of its content or the potential of the offer. Often, optimizers use internships, scholarships, or discounts on products or services as «bait.»
6.1. Profile links
Educational websites sometimes have publicly available profiles of students. They display public information and may include links to external resources.
Webmasters are unlikely to be able to register a profile on a university site, but if it is a library or public educational organization, it may be possible to create an account.
The problem with posting links in this way is that most reputable projects do not provide access to a personal account upon request. And user or company profiles are publicly available and indexed by crawlers even more rarely.
6.2. Links in text
One popular option for posting is an integration of links in the text. For example, if a university writes about a bookstore in Brooklyn offering a discount, students will need not only the title but also a link to the site.
It won’t look out of place in the text and not raise the suspicion of search engine algorithms. Such posting, in theory, can give a significant boost to visibility increase in Google.
7. What niches are better to use educational sites for?
Published cases of working with EDU links show that they can be used for different niches. However, they are most useful for educational projects or resources related to a niche.
With the right approach, even a travel agency or industry site can get a backlink from a college or university platform. Representatives of educational institutions respond well to scholarships and discounts for their students.
EDU links would work for such niches:
- real estate
- SaaS services
The main aspect is that the educational project serving as a donor is of high quality. Moreover, it should not post links to all resources that offer a $5 discount to students.
8. Ways to get backlinks from EDU sites
When working with EDU resources, the main goal is to not just get a backlink but fix the link on an EDU site. If it disappears after a few updates of the search engine database, there will be no use.
There are plenty of ways to get a backlink from an educational institution or other organization’s website to an .EDU domain. They have their own special features, but the general approach remains the same: you need to provide the most interesting offer to the representatives of the project.
8.1. Guest posts
One of the most common ways to get a backlink is to post guest materials. On school and university websites, you can often find articles from affiliates, which are placed in a visible area and have links integrated into them.
Guest posts are a highly effective link-building technique. Preparing an article or other content for EDU projects is more difficult, but with the right approach, it is possible to get several backlinks from different sites if the material being posted is unique.
If you plan to make guest posting a priority in link building, use PRPosting, a company that specializes in guest posting. The service offers convenient filters by link metrics, domain zones, regions, languages, niches, and cost. The system even has 3 reputable EDU sites that post backlinks on a regular basis.
8.2. Blog/Forum Comments
Some EDU sites have blogs, forums, and other sections where users can leave comments, ask questions, or contact site administrators.
In most cases, external links are marked with appropriate link attributes, but backlinks with nofollow, ugc, or redirect are also useful for creating a natural profile.
8.2.1. How to quickly find blogs for posting?
If you can publish comments on a forum or educational blog, there’s a small chance of getting a backlink. Keep in mind that only comments that don’t look like blatant advertising pass moderation successfully.
To quickly find blogs or forums that allow posting comments, you can use the following search operators:
- site:.edu inurl:blog “comment”
- site:.edu inurl:forum “comment”
- site: .edu allintext: “comment”
If you know that competitors actively use educational projects to publish comments, use the filter in Semrush to quickly find links by given parameters.
8.3. Establishing scholarship
The essence of the method is that an optimizer allocates a budget for a scholarship, offers educational institutions to make an announcement about the upcoming contest, and requests to post a backlink in exchange.
For example, if you send 100 letters to universities and colleges, you can get about 30-40 links from EDU domains. The exact number depends on the approach to email marketing and the quality of the scholarship program. Many optimizers use the methodology incorrectly, which is why universities have recently become more rigorous in reviewing scholarships.
It takes an average of $200 to $1,000 to pay the winner. Assuming you can get 30 links for this money, the result can be considered decent, especially considering that a backlink in an educational niche costs an average of $150-$200.
8.4. Blogger recognition
The essence of the approach is to contact bloggers who periodically post content on educational sites. You need to find the potential affiliate’s e-mail or social media accounts and ask him or her to supplement the article.
In some cases, you can even get a link for free if the backlink to the proposed page fits harmoniously with the content. You can also post a backlink to the article on the university’s blog and increase the blogger’s interest.
8.5. News about alumni
Educational institutions keep track of their alumni’s achievements and create a virtual honor board to tell current students how education helps achieve global goals.
An optimizer can contact alumni and ask them to tell about their successes and then send a request for posting to the educational site administrator. This method is great for promoting education-related projects.
8.6. Getting links from resource pages
Websites of educational institutions often have pages listing partners or useful projects. If you can’t get an article posted, or if the university doesn’t want to participate in the scholarship contest, you can try to get a link from the resource page.
If you compose the proper letter for a project representative, the backlink can be posted for free. The result depends solely on the relevance of the page being promoted to the intent of the resource-donor page.
8.7. Interviews with professors/staff
One of the most effective ways to get a link is direct communication with the teachers or staff of the educational institution. Invite one or more professionals to be interviewed and post an announcement on the college or university website.
Educational institutions are interested in their employees having a good reputation and being mentioned in thematic media. But this method can only be effective if there is a website for posting interviews.
8.8. Detecting broken links
Links to non-existent pages have a negative impact on SEO; therefore, the tactic of reporting broken links can yield results. The only problem is that, unlike standard news projects, EDU sites rarely agree to replace their backlinks with the URL of an external resource.
This method doesn’t work for getting many links from EDU sites. But it allows minimizing the cost of posting backlinks, and it can be used in conjunction with other approaches.
8.9. Partnerships with educational institutions
Partnerships with educational institutions and organizations allow getting backlinks on a permanent basis. If the project promoted has already gained authority, administrators of educational institutions’ websites may be interested in a partnership.
If there is no such site, discounts, promotions, and vouchers can help. For example, you can offer a free subscription to services for students and give a certificate to buy equipment or stationery.
8.9.1. Student discounts
Universities are always interested in student discounts. If they are offered a good deal, they are more than likely to agree to take advantage of the opportunity in exchange for announcing the promotion with a backlink.
Discounts should be for products or services that students can benefit from. A university is unlikely to agree to announce a promotion with a promo code for a Spotify subscription. It is better to choose a recognizable educational product or multipurpose service.
8.9.2. Offers for employees
Offers for employees work in a similar way. Staff representatives may be interested in the same services as students. If you offer several promotions to an educational institution, you can get a few backlinks.
But over the years of attention from webmasters, educational institutions have learned how to filter offers; so, you need to be properly prepared for the beginning of a partnership.
8.10. Links from profiles
On some EDU sites, user profiles are in the public domain, and they are well indexed by search engine crawlers. This is a great way to get a free link to a project site.
Before creating an account, check if the link from the profile can get into search results. On some websites, this possibility is blocked by redirects and other methods.
8.11. Posting ads on local EDU resources
Some EDU websites not only post information about students and the educational process but also collect useful offers for students. For example, if a school arranges a trip to a neighboring city, a hotel can offer them a discount and get a backlink to its website.
Contact a project representative, tell him or her about your offer, and provide a discount if agreements are reached. After the first successful experience, you can negotiate a permanent partnership.
8.12. Creating a jobs page
Schools, colleges, and universities are interested in helping graduates find jobs. Many institutions have pages on their websites with a list of job openings and links to companies that offer them.
Keep in mind that posting a non-existent job offer will not help fix a backlink on a permanent basis. If university representatives find a discrepancy, the partnership will end quickly.
8.13. Getting a link from a Resource Page
The use of a Resource Page is an excellent link-building technique widely used by optimizers. Many educational institutions create pages and refer to external resources that act as partners and can be useful to students.
9. How can I get a link from an EDU website using scholarships?
The scholarship method is one of the most reliable ways to get backlinks. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on student support to use it. If you think through your program strategy and prepare content for your program presentation, costs will be relatively small.
Buying links costs much more if you compare the cost of 20-30 backlinks to a scholarship budget. One of the major advantages of a scholarship is that you can choose the support period on your own. You can allocate $500 a year or pay $100 each month.
9.1. Building a site database in the .EDU domain zone
The first step in working with scholarships is to find websites of educational institutions that may be interested in obtaining scholarships for their students. Search operators that allow filtering search results will work for this task.
Examples of queries:
- site:.edu scholarships
- site:.edu сollege scholarships
- site:.edu scholarships partners
After compiling a list of potential donor websites, be sure to analyze link parameters of domains and select websites that can positively influence the recipient’s ranking.
9.2. Creation of a scholarship page on the promoted site
Information about the scholarship should be published on your project so that potential participants and educational institutions can familiarize themselves with the terms and conditions.
If you want a unique article from each scholarship applicant, make sure to spell this out in the agreement. This approach will allow you to get the most out of link building.
9.3. Sending letters to the administration of selected websites
The first method of communication with representatives of educational institutions is via a letter. It is important to make it concise and motivational. Show how students at the educational institution will benefit from participating in the scholarship contest.
Be sure to use email marketing automation tools to send emails in bulk, track responses, and reduce time spent on routine tasks. Refuse templates — use personalization to build a strong connection with your interlocutors.
9.4. Posting a link by site administrators
If the offer of cooperation has a positive result, a short announcement or a comprehensive post for students may appear on the institution’s website.
If you post a scholarship agreement and a description on different pages, you will get several backlinks to the pages of the promoted resource at once. Various universities and colleges may be interested in participating in a scholarship program; therefore, the number of links is limited only by the scope of the advertising campaign.
10. Getting links through the creation of discounts
Discounts on products and services that may be of use to school pupils or students of universities are always of interest to educational institutions. For this purpose, they often allocate separate pages and put links to partners’ resources open for indexing.
To get the maximum effect from providing a discount, the product or service should be relevant to the interests of the target audience. It is desirable that the extent of the discount is tangible. Then, more potential partners will agree to tell about the offer on their websites.
10.1. Collecting a database of EDU sites
You can compile the database of educational projects in the same way as for scholarships but using different keywords. The principle of donor selection, in this case, is also the same.
Try to use as many queries as possible and expand your list of donors in other ways. For example, if the university website has never written about discounts, it may change its approach if a lucrative offer is received.
10.2. Writing letters offering a personalized promo code
If you used to send scholarship letters in the past and received a good response, you can tailor them for discounts and change the structure a bit with a focus on unique promo codes.
In the letter, specify all the conditions under which the promo code can be successfully applied. For example, if you are talking about a service with courses, the discount may only apply to new accounts.
10.3. Ask for a link on a page with discounts from each site
When writing a letter, you should focus the attention of potential partners on the fact that it is necessary to place a backlink to an external resource. This is a requirement for the discount, without which, the offer will not be valid.
If the discount is given for products or services of the promoted project, it is necessary to create a page with a detailed description of the process of activating promo codes and not delete it even after the discount is no longer relevant.
11. What does a quality link from an EDU site look like?
Forget the popular myth that EDU backlinks are quality by default. Even among websites of educational institutions, there are spammed resources that won’t help increase the project’s visibility in organic search results.
Backlinks from an EDU project can be considered high-quality only if several conditions are met. They should be checked in advance, not after the institution has posted the link on its site.
11.1. Website authority
Website authority is the level of credibility in the «eyes» of search engines. Quality websites are visible at a glance. They carefully select partners to refer to and rarely request individual posting terms.
One important indicator of authority is the level of difficulty in getting backlinks. If a website has a forum where anyone can post a link open for indexing, the donor cannot be considered high-quality.
11.2. Page authority
Page authority depends on several factors. For example, if it is a blog of an educational institution placed on a subdomain, the link from it may not be trustworthy enough.
A subdomain is considered an independent site, and if its link juice is minimal, there will be little use for organic SEO. A similar situation is with pages that already have a few dozen backlinks to other sites.
11.3. Domain relevance
Search algorithms pay their utmost attention to checking the relevance. This is one of the main indicators that allows distinguishing a natural link from an artificial one. If an educational project refers to an online casino website, this looks suspicious.
EDU websites can contain not only educational project posts, but if niches don’t match, you need to do everything to make the offer not look like it’s been paid for. For example, a real estate agency may become a sponsor for an educational institution if the offer is adapted to the specifics of the project.
11.4. Link position on a page
Link position also affects the quality of posting. Search crawlers not only crawl the page content but also analyze its structure. According to optimizers’ observations, links at the top of the page can work more effectively.
If the affiliate section has links to 20-30 projects, it’s not very profitable to post there. But backlinks can be beneficial if there are no other complaints about the quality of the project.
In most cases, educational institutions use safe anchors – page URL or project name. If desired, a partner may use anchors with keywords and corresponding anchor text, but in this case, you should be extremely careful.
Links with search phrases can make search algorithms suspicious, and they will launch a mechanism for checking link mass. Then, the money spent on the posting may do harm rather than good.
12. How to make sure that links are not harmful?
If there are no concerns about the quality of posting, another task that remains to be performed is to check the safety of the donor and the authority of the page before sending an offer of cooperation.
Most SEO tasks are automated thanks to services, but a manual quality check will be of use as well. Examine the content and make sure there are no security gaps that would allow spammers to access the site.
12.1. Popular backlink verification services
There are many link mass and donor quality analysis services on the market, which help reduce time spent on working with websites for posting links. It is better to use several services to get the most complete data.
It is worth highlighting the following platforms:
To check the domain for spam, we recommend using SpamZilla. This service helps work with abandoned domains, but it is also possible to check donors for spam posts with its help.
13. Why invest in .EDU backlinks?
Backlinks from EDU websites can be a lucrative investment. With the right approach, they will allow you to boost your link profile. And if you diversify it with submissions and other backlink formats, you can create a barrier to protect from penalties.
The main advantages of EDU links are:
- High credibility of donors. Most sites are platforms of existing educational institutions.
- No paid links. Unlike other projects, paid backlinks are rarely posted on EDU sites.
- A minimal number of external links. The sites of educational institutions are focused on the internal ecosystem.
- Backlinks are hard to get. Backlinks can be posted by students or project administrators.
- High-quality content. Websites publish news of an educational institution, research papers, and other useful materials.
Links from educational projects are not suitable for all niches. Do not assume that they can help in the promotion of highly specialized sites, which cannot be moved to the top with standard link-building methods.
14. Black-hat methods of link acquisition: what should be avoided?
Novice optimizers often look for easy ways to get backlinks from trusted projects, but they should not be used because the effect can be the opposite.
For example, spammers may find security gaps and post a large number of links on a forum, blog, or Q&A section of an EDU site and turn a reputable donor into a spammed resource.
If you see such an offer on a freelance exchange, it is better to refuse it. Unscrupulous link builders take advantage of the fact that the client cannot check the quality of the donor in advance, thus making money on the streaming approach.
15. Services for buying backlinks from EDU resources
There are services in the link-building market that post links to EDU websites. The cost of services is usually high, and the task itself is quite specific; so, you need to monitor the activities of the contractor at all stages of interaction.
The marketing agency SEOviser positions itself as a reliable provider of backlinks from EDU and GOV projects. The cost of packages ranges from $20 to $100, and it takes up to 7 days to place 300-2,500 links. Obviously, such a number of backlinks can hardly be posted manually.
Sure Oak, a US marketing studio, also offers getting EDU links. Specialists use a safe scholarship method, which involves a work cycle lasting 6 months.
15.1. Pros and cons
Delegating link building in the case of EDU websites is a rational approach to solving a complex issue. If an optimizer has no experience with EDU sites, much time can be spent on acquiring the right skills.
Pros of outsourcing:
- guarantee of results
- unlimited possibilities for scaling (optional)
- fast results (optional)
- the outcome of the case will be known after the work is completed
- additional costs
- difficult to control the contractor
Case studies and client feedback are proof of the quality of the services provided, but a link-building contractor may use not entirely legitimate ways of obtaining links or delay deadlines. There is no way to predict the outcome in advance.
15.2. What should you pay attention to when buying?
If you decide to work with a contractor, be sure to ask for examples of EDU links and carefully analyze the approach to posting backlinks. Errors can be spotted even upon superficial examination.
Careless link builders use public listings of EDU sites, most of which are already full of spam, and they will not be useful for ranking in the organic search results.
15.3. How much do links cost?
The cost of links depends on the specifics of the project, the conditions established by a contractor, and the desired number of backlinks. Marketing agencies are not always able to predict the exact amount in advance; so, the cost will be known after the work is completed.
If you use the scholarship or discount method, the cost per link will be relatively low. On average, a paid link on a trusted site costs from $50 to a few thousand dollars. The use of a complex approach helps to save money.
16. EDU website lists: should you use them?
Publicly available lists of EDU sites are only useful for analysis. In most cases, the projects they contain cannot be considered high-quality. They are not suitable for the link profile foundation of the promoted resource.
However, there are exceptions to the rules. For example, the UCLA Anderson School of Management website has a list of useful resources, and some links lead to content, not educational institution sites.
Publicly available lists are rarely updated; so, optimizers will have to spend a lot of time checking for the possibility of posting a backlink and creating a strategy to achieve the desired result.
17. Summing up
Links from EDU projects can be beneficial only if they are posted on high-quality authoritative resources. Some educational institution websites do not pay much attention to spammers; so, the value of such domains for SEO approaches zero.
Backlinks from trusted educational resources can give a powerful boost to your organic ranking and become a tool to get ahead of competitors in Google.
Choose one of the reliable ways: guest posts, scholarships, or student discounts. Negotiate a campaign with project representatives and get the desired result.
These are backlinks from educational institution websites, which can generate a boost in organic search results.
Provide students with a scholarship, offer a discount, or create content worthy of being published on the Resource Page of an educational project.
They are, as long as the optimizer or contractor follows the rules of effective link building and carefully checks donor quality.
Links from EDU sites can have a positive effect on a site’s ranking, just like quality backlinks from any other reputable resource.
Yes, you can get links for free if you choose the right strategy to interact with the site’s representatives.