In most markets, link building is a crucial element of an SEO campaign. If you have experience in this realm then you likely know how valuable a link from a .edu site is. You’ll also understand just how difficult they are to obtain.
If you’re not aware of the hoopla surrounding .edu links, they’re known by many as the holy grail of link building. The understanding is that in the very rare instance that an inbound link from a .edu page is acquired, the site’s link popularity will significantly rise. This boost to link popularity usually results in tangible increases in search engine rankings and traffic.
You would think that with the immense benefit to rankings a .edu incoming link generates, that everyone and their dog would be trying their hardest to grab them, right? The truth is that those who manage .edu web sites do not blindly hand out links to other sites with commercial interest. A university’s reputation is at stake, as well as the relevance of educational content contained on their web site. Because of that, most webmasters and SEOs don’t aggressively go after .edu links when other more accessible linking opportunities are available.
But what makes .edu’s so much better than other sites? To say that certain TLDs (top-level domains) carry more weight than others is false. There is nothing about the .edu TLD in itself that is superior to a .com, .info, or country TLD such as .co.uk, .ca, or .com.au. The key difference lies in the trust that search engines have for most university sites.
To register a .edu, you must be a post-secondary institution on the list of recognized schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Alternatively, registrations for .com’s are open to any individual with $10 to spend.
Furthermore, U.S. schools are not in the habit of exchanging and generating links en masse like the business world is. Those who manage .edu pages will not actively pursue inbound links. They usually only link to another site if it can provide exceptional information to students or is a significant resource related to their department. Information they will link to is mostly limited to studies, research data, and other academic facts or resources.
A school’s law or medical program, for instance, may get linked to from government web sites, international organizations, major media or other high profile sites. That is why .edu’s are so highly regarded by search engines: they don’t actively seek out links like sites in the business world do – their links are naturally generated out of interest from others and quite often those links are from high quality pages.
The quality of a site has nothing to do with .edu trailing the domain name – the quality lies in the content and trust factor the web site has achieved over time.
In short, if your main goal is to get results for a link building campaign, it’s probably not wise to waste your time attempting to coerce links out of .edu webmasters. Some will operate blogs (and a few even without the ‘nofollow’ attribute on links) and it may seem like a good opportunity to leave a comment with a link to your web site. But remember — links without the nofollow attribute may be temporary. If the blog administrator finds a lot of spam comments being made, he or she will apply the nofollow attribute to all outbound links, thus weakening the value of blog comments as part of an SEO scheme.
If you truly have valuable information, webmasters who run high quality sites will naturally want to link to you (.edu, .com, whatever). By all means, if you have content related to .edu web sites, give the webmaster a shout and suggest your site. But don’t waste your time attempting to make them a big part of your link building campaign.