In this blog post we wanted to share some less-than-known techniques on backlink building that we employ here at our agency, and that we've learned from professionals on the web. In this case study, we're going to attempt to build high authority links to our test website. We're going to be targeting .edu links from major universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.
Links from accredited universities, which means those that have .edu domains are incredibly powerful and build the reputation and credibility of your domain in the eyes of Google and other search engines. They'll help push your rankings higher, without even publishing new content, or optimizing your website.
And, unlike some other links, they are extremely hard to get for your website. This is because you can't simply go out and register a .edu domain. You need to be an accredited University to even be considered for one. This means that the only way to get a .edu domain backlink is to get one from an existing University.
Compare this to a .com address, where you can simply register your own domain, throw a content site on it, and link it that way (though Please note that this method doesn't really work anymore), and you may be thinking that .edu backlinks are unattainable for you or your company.
This simple difference between the two domain types typically means that an Edu domain will be super reputable and potent when it comes to boosting your site's SEO. It won't be associated with any scam content, it will have super high quality material on it , it will be actively maintained , and an all around high ranking website on Google. These are the exact characteristics that you should be looking for when building any links for your websites.
You may be wondering, how are you going to get educational links from universities that you have no affiliation with? Well, that's the entire purpose of this blog post, so stick around to learn how we do it.
There are two major ways that we've experimented with when it comes to building .edu backlinks. The first follows a standard strategy when it comes to creating backlinks. The 2nd way is a bit more time consuming, but it can net you links from high ranking schools like Stanford, Harvard, and other Ivies.
Before we even discuss these two, if you do have an affiliation with any University (as a student or an alumni), this is definitely the easiest way to go about it. As a student (or recent alumni), if you're building something, the University will usually be happy to publish a short news blurb on your project. This blurb will be published to their blog, or news outlet, which has a .edu domain. In it, you can ask for them to link to your website. That is super easy and simple way to net a high authority link.
If you're an alumni and you've seen any measure of success, the school will be happy to write something about you and what you're doing with your education (that they gave you). reaching out via email to your alma mater is a simple way to build high authority backlinks, and get your name out there.
If you can't do this, then let's talk about method one in this blog post. Method one is creating valuable content that can help the university's students in their pursuit of knowledge. Many University department's have resource pages published.
For example, a business Department of a school may have a resource list published that discusses the top digital marketing platforms & guides. If your company has a really high quality, in depth guide on digital marketing, you can send a quick email to that Department “pitching them”.
here's how you can do that. In Google, you can use search operators to identify resource pages of .edu domains that are related to your niche.
We found that a lot of universities have incubator programs, and in an attempt to help their students created business quicker and easier, they have curated large and in depth resource pages. Because our company offers guides on WordPress website development, we can target these programs. Using Google, we’ll go ahead and type in:
site:.edu Startup Resources + inurl:resources
What this says is that the website needs to have a .edu domain, and it must mention resources in its path. IE. School.EDU/…/resources. Adding the words startup resources will isolate the search results to resources dedicated to startups.
And just like that you have a list of department's that you can simply email, offering value to their students, and you will probably net a .edu link out of it. Even better, this link will probably drive high traffic as students are actually looking for your service/company/solution, and going through this page to find it.
Portion of Syracuse Universities Startup Resources Page:
Because each of these companies offer a service that brings value to students, the person behind creating this resource guide has linked to them.
You could be exactly where they are if you bring value to the target audience. Keep in mind that you don't just need to target the keywords that we mentioned here. If you're a meditation studio and offer meditation videos, then you can target the meditation Department of a college.
This is a list of the top three results for meditation research guides on .Edu websites.
Depending on what you're offering this may be an easy method to quickly build .edu links. As you can imagine, most colleges will have resource pages on similar topics, so you don't need to just stop at one University. You can go down your Google list, and pitch every single one on it.
You can have a very high success rate with this as long as you are actually offering value to the target audience of the resource guide, and you're pitching the person who can actually add your link to this page (typically there is a professor dedicated to this, find the professors email and you'll probably get a .edu link out of it).
Another variation of this strategy would be pitching your guide , or expertise to other people who have access to dot Edu links. Many colleges offer website networks to their students, graduates, and professors. For example, a network website could look like this: studentsite.columbia.edu.
Typically, students and professors will use these two publicize their work. For example, if you have a graduate student who is writing a paper on the impact of entrepreneurship in 3rd world countries, they may have a blog discussing this. On this blog, they'll typically link to interviews, biographies, and web pages that intersect with what they are studying.
You can use a similar Google search operator formula to find student blogs that correlate with what your company does, reach out, and see if they would publish a link to your work.
Another grey hat method of doing this would be to put out a Craigslist advertisement, and pay students to publish your link on their blog.
On the topic of grey hat methods, let's segue into the second strategy in this blog post. Broken link acquisitions and backlink transfers.
If you're not into the whole content creating thing, then you can opt to simply redirect your new domain name (via a 301 redirect) to your website or individual post. This is as grey as we're going to get with this blog post, but keep in mind that Google officially does not like this. At the same time, this method seems to work very well for some, so it may be something worth trying out on websites that are not mission critical to you.
Let's very quickly discuss this strategy, how it works, and while you may or may need to use it.
If a domain has been around long enough, and whatever used to be attached to it got linked to, a domain can have backlinks. These backlinks can be from high authority sources such as news outlets, education , or more. Sometimes, domains will expire while still being linked to by these high quality sources.
You can check to see which domains are expiring who have educational links to them. If you purchase the link, you'll then own a domain that has a .edu link directly to it. Then, if you set up a 301 redirect to the website that you want your educational backlink for, search engines will see that and attribute the high quality education link to whatever website you're pointing to.
If you're interested in learning more about redirecting expired links and what it can do for your company, I'd recommend you read this blog post. Somebody was able to take their eight month old website, set up a bunch of relevant redirects, grow the authority of their domain, and gather enough traffic to make $20,000 per month via Amazon affiliate. That's pretty crazy. Also, this probably isn't the standard , but it's a good way to show you how powerful this method could be.
In that case study the individual actually built software that would allow him to track live domains relevant to his niche with high quality backlinks. The software would alert him if and when any of those domains expired, he would purchase them, redirect them to his website, and then bask in the benefits of quality backlinks from places like Forbes, the times, Wall Street Journal, another high authority websites.
In the remainder of this post, I'm going to show you a way to quickly and simply access high quality educational backlinks. Keep in mind, once again this is a very Gray hat method of building links, And Google strongly discourages it (although again, it looks to work).
The first thing we do is head over to Ahrefs. Once we've identified which school we would like to target for an educational backlink, will go ahead and type their domain address into this site Explorer. In this example, I'm looking for a backlink from Yale. There's no reason behind this, it's just for proof of concept.
Under Site Explorer Outgoing links, click the broken links section.
Now we're in the broken links view. We only want do follow links, so you can change the link type filter to “dofollow”. That gives us around 4000 individual links on the Yale website that lead to a broken web page.
Click the export button in the top right corner, and export all of these links to an Excel CSV.
Also, keep in mind that 4000 broken links isn't a lot. Some other colleges will have anywhere from 40,000 to 200,000 broken links. We may not be getting the best results out of this, but the more broken links you have the better chance you have at finding an expired domain for them.
Once we've downloaded our broken links document we have a few choices. We can choose to sanitize the list within Excel, and then push it to an on line service, or use one of our favorite tools called ScrapeBox. We are going to use ScrapeBox, but you can utilize the same principles through Excel and an on line domain checker.
Step 1 is copying all of the link URLs from column G into ScrapeBox. We do this by selecting the entire column and pasting it into “Url’s Harvested”.
The URLs in column G where all of the broken links on the Yale website lead to. What we're going to do is test each of these links root domain to see if it is expired. If the domain is expired, we're then going to check whether it may be a good acquisition target to purchase. If it's a good acquisition target, will purchase it, redirect it to our main website, and acquire an educational backlink.
Once our data is in the URLs harvested list, we're going to sanitize it. We're going to remove all duplicate records, and trim the domain to a root. You can also choose to remove any link that contains .edu or .gov, as these are not attainable for Public actors. The individual commands that will run to do this are as follows:
Removing duplicate URLs cuts our list down to around 2600.
We will then trim these domains to their root. This will remove whatever page is actually attached to them. An example: thissite.com/blah/blah becomes thissite.com.
Removing URLs with .gov and .edu extensions Removes almost 300 URLs and brings our list down to 2300. The reason we like doing this is because many times these two link extensions will be expired, have great backlinks, and have high authority. We’ll get very excited about acquiring them, only to realize that these are not publicly available.
Now it's time to identify which domains are expired. Go to Grab/Check, and select Check Unregistered Domains.
What this tool does is run through every single domain and see what comes back. Most of the time a live website will come back, so the tool will state that it is a taking domain. If a live website doesn't come back, the tool will then go ahead and check the domain with who is to see if it is expired. If it's expired, it will return this in the data.
On a good output, you can expect 5% of all domains to be expired. This will obviously differ depending on the website that has these links.
Remember, all of these links are broken, but most of them simply lead to 404 pages of live web sites. You can use the next sub method mentioned do you try to acquire educational links for 404 broken posts.
Once our process is done running, we can then export all available domains to a .txt file.
Of the more than 4000 domains imputed, we walk away with 25 unregistered domains.
Now it's time to look through each of these domains and see if it could be a good acquisition target for your business.
To do this we're going to use the batch analysis tool that Ahref has to offer. If you don't have this service, you can do this manually but keep in mind that it will take a very long time.
With the batch analysis tool, we paste in all of the domains from the text file (you can only do 200 at once so if you have a bunch of domains, make sure to split it up into 200 pieces). Now click the analyze button.
The tool will output a list of aggregate data regarding the domains. We like looking at a bunch of different factors. The first thing we’ll do is sort by total referring domains.
If you look to the educational column on the right, you'll see that each of these domains has at least one educational backlink. Some have two, and some have three. Now, let's do some research regarding each domain to see if it's a good acquisition target. First off, you'll notice that the domain rank on all of these is very low.
For example purposes, we're going to take a look at the edgeanswers.com domain in the list. before we do that, note that relevant domains with this method is absolutely paramount. So if you're a music producer, the redfrogmusic.nl domain may be a better choice for you, and if your photographer, the mattgrubbphoto.com may also be a good choice. Be sure to do your due diligence on either one of them before acquiring them.
Back to the domain, edgeanswers.com.
First, we’ll go to the Site Explorer and see if our domain has any geographical relevance. If there's no geographical relevance, will most likely pass it up, As Google can easily see that you have acquired links in a less than satisfactory way if your company is based in Virginia, US, and most of your links are coming from Siri Lanka.
It looks like this link is super targeted in Poland, so it wouldn't make any sense as an American company to go ahead and acquire. If you're in Europe, it would be a different story.
Let's also take a look at the actual backlinks for this domain and see if they are high quality. There are a bunch of different quality backlinks here, but a bunch of blogs and Yale linked to this domain. As you can see, the yell backlink is actually from a music forum, which might not carry as much authority as a backlink from a Department website:
Here’s a blog linking to it:
However, most of these backlinks are pretty poor, and even the .edu link is from a forum profile. I would definitely pass this domain up. But, this gives you a good overview of what you should be looking at when following this method.
If you're a photographer, the photography domain may be a good acquisition due to the higher quality backlinks:
The final piece of the puzzle would be heading to archive.gov, and confirming that the domain has at least something to do with your current website. archive.gov allows you to see old versions of the website that used to be at this domain. This may not be necessary, but it acts as a redundancy between you and Google. If Google ever manually reviewed this link, you could say that you used to be this photography company, but you ended up re branding (gray hat, not ethical, remember).
So after your research phase, say you found a good expired domain that has great educational backlinks, is geographically relevant, and looks OK from archive.gov, All you need to do is purchase it. We recommend the registrar Namecheap because they offer low-cost domains and easy to setup 301 redirects.
Once you own the domain name, you'll then set up a 301 redirect to whatever website you want to have the backlinks. You then add this domain to your (Google) search engine console via DNS record, and submit a domain change request.
It should take around a week, but the backlinks that were attributed to the old domain should then be attributed to your new domain. You can check using Ahrefs.
To make sure your domain retains its reputation, be sure to disavow all bad links that come with your expired domain acquisition.
Keep in mind that this is just one method of many on using expired domains. The basic workflow is:
Isolate expired domain from broken link on target website --> review links quality & relevance --> acquire domain --> repeat.
Now, the flaw with this method is that you may be netting a new educational backlink, but it may not be super targeted. And, once again I need to mention that Google does not like this officially.
if you're not into the whole super high risk grey hat SEO thing, you can incorporate the broken link method in a more ethical way. Instead of purchasing old domains, and redirecting them to your website, you can identify broken links on educational websites, create relevant content for them (make sure that your company is in the niche of the broken link), and then email whoever is in charge of the website in question.
For example, if the psychology Department of New York University has a link to an article called “the ten types of psychologists”, and that link is broken because the website behind it removed the article, you can write an article called “the eight types of psychologists” that offers similar information. You can even use archive.org to view the old blog post and form your content accordingly.
Once the content is created, you can pitch the Webmaster for that individual educational property: “Hi I noticed that you had a broken link, this is bad for SEO and your students, our website has a very similar an relevant article. would you want to change this broken link too a live link to our content?” if you present it as a win-win to everybody, most of the time you will achieve an educational backlink to your article. Not only will this help on direct traffic, but it will seriously boost the authority of your website.
This blog post should have given you a good overview of how you can build high authority .edu backlinks to your website. .EDU backlinks are super important when it comes to building authority for your domain, in you can can employ the multiple methods discussed in this article to do just that. If you have any questions feel free to reach out via the comments below!