EDU Links: 6 Best Practices For Building Quality Backlinks

Adam Steele
Aug 17
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From the name alone, you can already tell that edu links are somehow connected to the field of education. What might not be obvious, however, is the equally critical role they play in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

You see, as people search for information on Google, the search engine tends to consult special indicators like edu links for pointers on the result ranking order. So influential have they grown, in fact, that they now possess enough power to push your website to the top positions of the search engine results.

The only problem is, edu backlinks are not for everyone. If you ask digital marketers and SEO experts, they’ll tell you that while edu links are highly treasured, they happen to be exceedingly elusive. The opportunities are extremely limited, and only a select few get to leverage them.

We’re now inviting you to follow along as we break them down into the simplest – yet exceedingly powerful  – tricks for building high-quality edu backlinks. Think of this as the headstart to improving your Google search rankings.

What Are Edu Links?

The term “edu links” refers to hyperlinks that are published on a domain with the .edu extension. Some of them operate as internal links pointing to web pages and resources on the same website, while others act as outbound links that point to materials on third-party sites.

“.edu”, in this case, stands for “education” – which means that the publishers are learning institutions.

You see, while .com, .org, .net, and other mainstream extensions are open to everyone, .edu is exclusively reserved for domains owned by post-secondary academic institutions such as universities and colleges.

This is a policy under the .edu Cooperative Agreement, which was drawn up between the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and EDUCAUSE, the body that manages the domain extension. It happens to restrict the use of .edu to U.S-based institutions of higher learning that have been duly accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.

Examples include:

…and so forth.

Such websites are known to publish not just educational journals and research papers, but also news, and sports articles, as well as information on achievements, events, student resources, alumni, staff members, faculty activities, campus life, etc. They even have blogs that are dedicated to anything of interest to staff members, students, plus other on-campus and off-campus stakeholders.

It’s within these pieces of content that you’ll find edu links in the form of dofollow and nofollow hyperlinks. They appear as highlighted anchor text or media, which when clicked on, redirects you to the sources from which the subject information was referenced.

Consider, for instance, this article on “COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy”, which was published recently under the “News and Research” section of the harvard.edu website.

You’ll find several edu links embedded within the content – with the main one appearing in the second paragraph through the hypertext “published June 28 in Nature Communications”. This is an outbound link that is meant to point out the publication from which the story was originally drawn.

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Sample edu links as published on harvard.edu.

The rest happen to be internal links, intended to offer more context to the story.

Why build Edu backlinks?

Of the more than 15 types of backlinks that you could leverage for SEO, edu links happen to be one of the most impactful if done correctly.

All that power comes from the authority .edu domains have over other types of websites. Educational organizations are known to publish high-quality, well-researched articles, whose insights have been checked for accuracy and authenticity. As such, they can be relied on for credible information on a wide range of subjects.

These sentiments, as it turns out, are not limited to web users. Even search engines like Google have caught on, and they now recognize .edu domains as some of the most trustworthy authorities and subject matter experts.

Now, that alone gives edu links special significance, which in turn makes them superior to backlinks from regular sites.

You see, Google and the likes interpret each edu backlink as a vote of confidence from a highly credible domain. The endorsement then ends up influencing search ranking algorithms in favor of the source domain.

6 Best Practices For Building Quality Edu Links

What makes edu links exceptional are more or less the same things that make them elusive and challenging to build.

Google likes them because they are usually placed naturally and within the context of the subject matter. What’s more, edu backlinks are never sold or used as part of a commercial link scheme.

That means you can’t really count on traditional link building strategies when it comes to edu links. This is not where you pitch guest posts to publishing editors, pay to publish backlinks, or maybe try out link exchange programs.

You, instead, need a combination of finesse, a solid network, highly insightful web assets, a well-calculated outreach strategy, and a lot of patience.

A huge campaign kitty could also help – as you’d court attention by offering donations or maybe scholarships. The resultant beneficiary institutions would happily share the news through their academic domains.

For website owners who’d, otherwise, prefer a less capital-intensive approach, here are six effective strategies that’ll gain you high-quality edu links.

#1. Seek recognition as an alumni

Most academic institutions have reserved a website section for their alumni. This is where they showcase notable achievements made by ex-students – in the hope of inspiring current students, as well as marketing the institution as a center of excellence.

Such success stories are often accompanied by links to appropriate information pages.

You will, for instance, notice some of them with outbound links pointing to brands, companies, products, and creations attributed to various alumni.

Now, to capitalize on this edu backlinking opportunity, you need to reach out to your alma mater as an accomplished alumnus. Write to them explaining all the major achievements you’ve made thanks to the skills and knowledge gained from the institution.

In particular, you might want to mention all the disruptive projects you’ve worked on, businesses you’ve built, companies you’ve managed, notable positions you’ve held, prestigious accolades you’ve won, plus features in notable publications.

Here’s a good example from Montana State University, which features a brief story about an alumnus from the class of 2002.

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A sample alumnus profile from MSU. Source: MSU

The article highlights the primary lessons he learned from the institution, and then explains how they all facilitated the career and personal achievements he’s made through the years.

#2. Set up graduate programs

Don’t restrict the campaign to your alma mater. It’s also possible to win over alumni-related edu links from other academic institutions.

The trick entails using recruits from your target referring domains. You just create a mentorship program for graduates from the institutions, and then proceed to share the news as you take in new hires.

These employment opportunities could be in the form of full-time jobs, part-time contracts, or even internships. The terms will depend on your company goals and human resource management plan.

Whatever recruitment approach you choose to use, ensure that the whole program is aligned with the mother institution’s core principles and interests.

For example – if you intend to attract graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the graduate program should be tech-centric – with job positions that support innovation, advanced computing, and/or modern engineering.

If you get that right, the academic institutions will gladly publish the story on their websites, as a way of showing off favorable graduate placement rates.

College and university administrators already recognize that prospective students will always judge their institution’s course marketability based on the graduate employment rate. As such, they’ll happily feature your hiring program to show how well they prepare students for the career world.

Your edu links might additionally be featured in magazine articles, career testimonials, alumni success stories, job listings, or internship offers.

Consider, for example, this page on the careers section of the University of California, Davis’ website.

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Sample edu links for internship opportunities. Source: UC Davis

It lists edu links to various health-related internships that are available to students in the faculty of medicine.

Other types of opportunities that you’ll find on the site include volunteering, international openings, undergraduate research, career positions, and part-time jobs.

#3. Interview staff members or institution faculty

Another way to get attention from academic institutions is by baiting them with flattering publicity. You essentially publish articles that show influential institution leaders in good light, and they’ll be happy to share the backlinks on their news articles.

Now, for the best possible results, you might want to approach this whole exercise as a professional interview. Start by identifying popular department heads and faculty principals who are not only relevant to your niche, but also happen to have a history of influencing what is published on their school website.

You can reach out to them for interviews on their achievements, academic projects, and career awards, as well as topics of interest on controversial subjects. Be sure to ask relevant questions and then capture every bit of the responses.

Once you’ve published it all on your website, you can go ahead and share the links with the interviewees. They’ll then take it up from there and get their stories published on their school website for even more publicity.

Some institutions could, for example, post a news article about the interview – complete with edu links to your site – while others would mention it on the profile pages of the interviewed staff members.

.edu domains are always on the lookout for such positive stories about their faculties and members of staff. They see it as a credible way of showcasing their expertise and authority in the subject matter.

Here’s a sample article from Nothern Arizona University, which was posted after one of their professors was featured in a local magazine.

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A sample news article on a featured staff member. Source: NAU

The post even provides basic details about the magazine, along with edu backlinks to the original article.

#4. Get featured in local resource roundups

In addition to news articles, research papers, and course details, academic institution websites tend to publish information on various local amenities that would interest students and staff members.

You’ll find, for instance, a directory of accommodation providers, cafeterias, shopping outlets, parks, libraries, and so forth. Most of these are structured as listings, providing a roundup of multiple resources along with edu backlinks to the subject websites.

The information is fundamentally directed to students and families coming from out of town. It points out some of the most essential amenities that they might need to use as they acclimatize to the new neighborhood.

This, of course, means such edu links are not open to all types of outlets and businesses. Only a select few that would be most helpful to students and their folks get the privilege to build edu backlinks from the listings.

If you think your business ticks all the boxes, you can reach out to the webmasters of relevant university domains in your locality, and then politely request them to add your details to the listings.

The websites can be easily identified by running appropriate search filters on Google.

Consider, for instance, combining the search operator site:.edu with keyphrases like “local businesses”, “student housing”, or “restaurants” – each with the quotation marks as indicated.

Here’s how each of these search commands would appear:

  • Site:.edu “local businesses”
  • Site:.edu “student housing”
  • Site:.edu “restaurants”

From the search engine result pages, you’ll be able to identify local .edu domains that feature roundups of your type of business. You should then write to the institutions explaining your products and services, the value that you stand to offer their students, plus the proximity of the business outlet to the main campus.

If all goes well, your business and its edu links will ultimately be featured in directories that may appear a lot like the University of Washington’s listings.

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A sample of a business listing on the University of Washington’s website. Source: UoW

The web page lists brief profiles of local entities – from which you get to find out what the businesses deal in, how and when they were established, their location and contact details, plus edu links to their websites and social media pages.

#5. Offer exclusive discounts and perks

If you can’t afford to provide donations or scholarships, you should at least be able to piece together a couple of decent product deals for students and/or staff members.

The offering doesn’t have to be complicated. Something as simple as a price discount for faculty members could do the trick, especially if it’s on products that are already popular with them.

Each of your discount offers should then be relayed to the admins of .edu websites, from where they’d be disseminated to the target market. Academic institutions are happy to pass on the information to their students and staff members – as long as the featured products or services seem useful.

Don’t get us wrong, though. Useful, in this case, doesn’t mean that everything should be educational.

Universities are, instead, open to publishing discounts and perks on all sorts of products and services that faculty members would seemingly be interested in.

Consider, for instance, these mixed product options published by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Merchant discounts and offers with edu links. Source: University of Nevada

The table features edu links from a wide range of vendors, each specializing in a different set of items.

You’ll find discount offers for printers, notebooks, bags, courses, clothing, accessories, software, jewelry, dental retainers, cabinets, beauty products, meals, and video games, as well as services like website development, car rental, voice crafting, language translation, and mobile repair.

To be added to this list, the university requires you to fill in a basic discount vendor form. You just need to enter your business details, specifics of the discount coupon, plus the homepage URL.

Otherwise, if you’d like to discover other university sites with similar edu backlinking opportunities, try running a Google search with the following search operators:

  • Site:.edu “discounts”
  • Site:.edu “student offers”
  • Site:.edu “staff coupons”
  • Site:.edu “discount offers”
  • Site:.edu “savings”
  • Site:.edu “rewards”

#6. Leverage broken link building

Last but not least, you could always build edu links by overturning existing opportunities.

The technical term for this is broken link building. And just as the name suggests, it involves creating new backlinks by validating invalid links.

You begin by identifying relevant dead outbound links on your target referring domain. These are backlinks pointing to web pages that no longer exist. Clicking on them would only generate a 404 error, which basically translates into a dead-end.

Once you confirm the status of the broken link, the next step is to reach out to the domain’s webmaster. This is when you flag up the error, and then provide a solution in the form of an alternative link that points to a valid resource on your website.

Hence, it all ends up being a win-win situation for both parties – you gain an easy backlink to your website, while the webmaster manages to mitigate a dead outbound link that was previously compromising their domain’s SEO health.

Now, when it comes to edu links, you just need to discover appropriate broken links on authoritative academic sites, and then find ways to replace them with your live links.

The process itself is particularly easy if you leave the digging to specialized broken link checkers like Ahrefs or SEMrush.

With Ahrefs, for example, you’re essentially required to enter the .edu domain you’d like to get featured in and then hit “Check broken links”.

The system will immediately display the top 10 broken outbound links, along with a parallel list of the top 10 broken inbound links. You could, otherwise, unlock thousands of additional links by upgrading to a premium subscription package.

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A breakdown of top broken links on harvard.edu. Source: Ahrefs

Whatever you choose, remember to keep your focus on the list of outbound links.

And to be specific, you ought to identify dead links whose subjects are perfectly aligned with your website’s niche and content posts. At least then, you’ll be able to propose a relevant replacement for the dead edu backlinks.

Over To You – Where To Start

The six strategies we’ve featured here represent simplicity and efficacy. They are the best methods that you could use for simple edu backlinking. That means you won’t need any technical skills or highly advanced tools to proceed.

But, get this. You might want to manage your expectations while at it because building edu links is not exactly as easy as we’ve made it seem. Even if you manage to find suitable .edu websites, you’ll notice that convincing them is a different thing altogether.

You can blame it all on the fact that learning institutions are never keen on SEO and digital marketing. This makes them indifferent to the whole issue of publishing quality backlinks.

As such, you ought to be very methodical when it comes to creating edu links. Instead of going it alone, consider partnering with someone who has built a diverse network of connections with webmasters and publishers of renowned .edu websites.

A partner like Loganix, for instance, would leverage its strong connections to get even the most elusive domains on board. Then to top it off, the SEO team will be running the full range of specialized link building campaigns for maximum benefit to your search rankings.

We’re talking about guest posting, press releases, HARO links, brand links, directory links, link audits, backlink gap analysis, etc – all the while staying safely below any parameters that would set off Google’s alarm bells for overoptimization or link spamming.

Book a strategy call today and let’s talk it over.

Written by Adam Steele on August 17, 2022

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.

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