Building .EDU/.GOV Links Ethically
I recently piped in on a REW thread concerning links from .edu’s and .gov’s, and it got me a little “miffed”. I thought it would make for a good post topic to cover here because there are ways of getting these links without being spammy. My ideas come from real world knowledge that doesn’t require a black hat, and they’re something you can do even without needing to hire me!
There is always a buzz and attraction to want links from those TLD’s, but there are a few concerns I have about this. First of all, those TLD’s have no more magical link juice power than others. The reason they can be such a great link is because that page and or site has an insane amount of quality links pointing to it. Secondly, you have no business (99% of the time) getting a link from NYU if you’re over in Vancouver BC.
I know it’s so tempting to go comment on blogs, forums and other guest scripts that reside on .edu’s and .gov’s. The reality is you’re just spamming and this can reflect poorly on your link profile. Do it too much and risk getting an anchor text filter slap or even worse, a demotion across the keyword spectrum. Too many gamed links can lead to trouble in the long run, even so if you’re heavily targeting certain anchor text. Overstock.com and Google teamed up to give us a public example of this very thing happening…what a nightmare!
Keep It Local & Start Snooping:
I want you to bust out your favorite spreadsheet editor and make a system up for keeping track of link targets. I personally like to keep the .edu and .gov separate but otherwise make a column for;
- link target URL
- contact information including name/twitter/skype/phone
- # of links pointing to the target page
- topic of the page at hand
- a score 1 out of 10 on what you think your chances are of nabbing a link
- and if you’re anal like me, perhaps a score based on what quality you think the page rates in at
- when last contacted
- status of contact details
This is a great way to keep track, especially if you don’t get any response in your first round of reaching out. The more information you have prepared the better off you’ll be, even if you only manage to get one link it is worth it. If you’re the first agent in your area to get that link, chances are good no one will follow suite since you have things on lock.
Most importantly, take note of what types of sites and content they’re linking out to. Put yourself in the shoes of the webmaster and see if you deserve to be considered a response, let alone a link.
Attainable .EDU/.GOV Links:
So what are ways of getting legit links from these TLD’s? Well, we’re finally at the good bits but I’ll tell you now it will require some work on your part. There are no shortcuts, no paying off anyone and it certainly isn’t going to magically do it out of thin air. We’re going after prime target links that will make your competitors dream about at night while they toss and turn.
I covered the basics in that REW post, but I’ll go in depth a little more here to get your brain juices flowing. There are going to be opportunities presented that I cannot predict, it’ll all depend on what’s going on in your local market.
Blogs – There are sure a lot of blogs within the two TLD’s and most people resort to making some lame comment and they’re gone. If you’re wanting a nice in-content followed link then you’re left with a few options. If there’s a business/marketing/real estate class or course then you may be able to swing a guest post or get interviewed. It may be a long shot but give it a try.
I’d even try to come up with some awesome link bait that might be worth asking for a mention in a future post. It of course will completely rely on how relatable you are to that department so be creative.
Job Boards – This can apply to both TLD’s and obviously requires a certain proper job opening to work out. I highly recommend local marketing, business and design students to help out with the day to day. Not every local .gov or .edu will have one, but keep an eye out and think about it the next time you’re hiring.
Speaking Engagements – If you have the gift of gab, and as an agent you most likely do, then a speaking engagement might be a great opportunity. Do all you can to find the right connection and do some networking. Remember that building the best links requires you to build relationships.
Local Business Resources – There are a surprising amount of link/resource pages on these TLD’s so make sure you look hard. A lot of them also have real estate resources, so if you have a really cool tool, app or widget then you’re off to a good start for earning a link. I wouldn’t chance it just asking if you have nothing but your MLS listings.
Student Internship – A lot of universities have a program in many of the classes and we’re even a recipient over at Linkbuildr. For example, giving marketing students a chance to prove themselves can be a really great experience. They’ll definitely have a blog going over in that department, so be on the lookout and see how you could get in on that. Other than that, look for lists of companies in on the internship program because usually links are offered.
Donations/Sponsorship – While we’re treading on paid links territory here, there are usually a couple of opportunities a year for donations or sponsorship opportunities. You’ll have to really scour on a monthly basis to hunt these down, but set up a Google Alert to see if you can catch anything without any hassle.
Offer A Free Event – This is another tactic that works for both TLD’s so hunt down all the event boards you can locally and see what’s being offered. I imagine more than a few aspiring real estate agents are in the house, so that’s a great opportunity. Do a once a month event, or at least quarterly and score some links. You’ll usually find the event being pushed on blogs, event listings and other random places.
Reaching Out For The Links:
So you got your spreadsheet ready and it’s time to start reaching out. I want and hope you also took down names, phone numbers, Skype contacts and even Twitter profiles of people you’re going to reach out to. Sticking to email only will leave you to experience more FAIL than not, so be prepared to pick up that phone.
I have a lot of luck scoring links via phone calls, so don’t be afraid to go down this road. Don’t be pushy either, just be your normal friendly self and your link acquisition numbers should increase significantly.
I know how tempting it might be to go with one of those “services” you’ve seen out there selling .edu/.gov links, but don’t bite. You’re paying for pure spam, and most of it will be institutions from Asia and other places. I don’t want you setting off any flags with Google due to links, so go down the right path kimosabe.
Don’t ask for any specific anchor text either, just get a natural site/brand name link because this will also start to look like a link scheme. As long as your on-page SEO is sound, those links will still be a big help in pushing juice. Hopefully this has helped some of you move toward getting some great links. The hard work will be worth it and your competition will really have a hard time copying what you’ve done!
Simon GerardPosted at 15:50h, 02 September
great post ryan, especially the ‘real world’ tactics like internships, donations, speaking. funny that those real world tactics are ‘outside of the box’ for seo and are rarely mentioned in related posts.
DanbPosted at 13:31h, 03 September
Free events and internships are great ideas. I know of an agent in the DC market who sponsors free events at different venues twice per year. He spends an average of $10,000 or so on food and drinks, but makes back many times that with all the clients he has brought in from them.
AnonymousPosted at 07:58h, 24 November
Hello I have not used much edu & gov links. But after reading the article I found that they can also proved to be one of the good reason of increasing the ranking. All I can do is just try throwing some edu/gov links to my site and see the SERP changes.
Professional SEO CompanyPosted at 10:06h, 13 December
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Best Orlando SEO CompanyPosted at 05:18h, 07 October
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Angelina MerryPosted at 12:52h, 31 December
I agree with Daniel Bacon, Really free events & internships are excellent ideas.
Thanks ryan for your real world tactics post.