EDU Link Building

How To Get .edu Backlinks (Without Link Schemes)

.edu backlinks can put you leaps and bounds ahead of your competition. But getting them is notoriously difficult.

That’s why many people get their backlinks from spammy, low-quality .edu sites. Unfortunately, such links can do more harm than good.

Google often penalizes or even deindexes sites with suspicious backlinks. Penalized sites see massive drops in traffic and visibility, but deindexed sites have it even worse. They get removed from Google. Forever.

To help you avoid both scenarios, we’ll show you how to get .edu backlinks the right way. We use these seven methods ourselves to land quality links that help—not hurt—our clients’ sites. So, rest assured they’ll work for you, too.

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What Are .edu Backlinks?

.edu backlinks are links from .edu domains to other sites.

“Edu” stands for education. So, it makes sense that most websites on .edu domains are owned by:  

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Schools
  • Other academic institutions
Three search results with the .edu extension, all owned by universities

Quality .edu websites are notoriously picky about who they link to, so getting .edu backlinks can be difficult.

What Makes .edu Backlinks So Popular?

In general, backlinks represent “a vote of confidence” from one site to another. So, the more backlinks you have, the more trustworthy Google deems you. (And this positively impacts your rankings.)

But not all backlinks are the same.

Google trusts .edu backlinks more than typical links, mainly because of these three reasons:

  • .edu sites have been around for longer — Google prefers older sites over new ones. A rule of thumb is that the older a site is, the higher its authority. Since most sites with .edu domains have been around for years, their backlinks have a greater impact than links from younger websites.
  • .edu sites have a ton of backlinks — Most .edu websites have heaps of backlinks, many of which come from other high-authority domains (like .gov). That further increases the credibility of .edu sites and .edu backlinks.
  • .edu backlinks (usually) aren’t spammy — Real, quality .edu websites don’t engage in link schemes. That’s why .edu backlinks have more credibility than backlinks from less trustworthy domains.

TL;DR: Google gives .edu backlinks more weight than links from less trustworthy domains. They have above-average link juice and can significantly boost your rankings, search visibility, and organic traffic.

.edu backlinks > backlinks from less trustworthy domains

How To Find .edu Sites

We’ll show you two ways to find .edu sites:

  • Using a search engine — We’ll mainly refer to Google, but you can use this method with virtually any other search engine. (For now, we know it works with Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Swisscows. It doesn’t work as seamlessly with Yandex.)
  • Using a backlink checker — A backlink checker is a tool that lets you find links to your own or your competitors’ sites. (Don’t worry. There’s one that’s free and works perfectly.)

Let’s dive in.

1) Query Strings

You can find .edu sites right on Google by using these query strings:

  • “keyword”
  • “keyword” inurl:”secondary keyword”

Let’s break this down a bit:

  • — The “site:” command lets you filter results according to a specific site or domain you want to search. This specific command will narrow your results to sites with .edu  domains exclusively.
  • “keyword” — Type in your main, niche-specific keyword. For example, if you’re in the coaching business, type in “coach”, “coaching”, “mental health”, or a similar keyword.
  • inurl:”secondary keyword” — Adding this command lets you find pages with specific keywords in their URL. For example, you could type in “resources” to find resource pages. We’ll talk about why that’s a good idea in a minute.
You shouldn’t add quotation marks (“,”) before and after your secondary keyword. But you can use them for the primary keyword to narrow your search to exact matches. — Read more.

Here’s an example of the search results we got by using the first string:

Search results for the query string " "coach"", all linking to .edu sites with the keyword "coach" in their content

We’ve then added a secondary keyword (“resources”) to find resource pages that mention “coaching”:

Search results for the query string " "coaching" inurl:resources", all linking to resources pages with .edu extensions and the keyword "coaching" in their content.

Although beginner-friendly, this method can help you find dozens of .edu websites in one sitting.

The only problem is those websites may not be open to giving out backlinks. You’ll have to spend time analyzing each result to find out.

The following method we’ll show you can help solve that problem and speed up the process.


✓ Beginner-friendly
✓ Free
✓ Allows you to find sites interested in your niche


✕ Can be time-consuming
✕ You may not get the best results

2) Competitive Backlink Analysis

Analyzing your competitors’ backlink profile helps you find .edu sites that will likely give you a backlink.

Think about it: if they’re already linking to your competitors, they’re probably interested in your niche. So, they’re more likely to give you a backlink as well.

That’s why competitive analysis works better than a simple search. It helps you find easy linking-building opportunities in a matter of minutes.

The quickest way to find your competitors’ .edu links is to usea specialized tool called backlink checker.

We recommend starting with Ahrefs’ free backlink checker.

Simply paste the URL you want to inspect, hit enter, and wait until your results are ready.

Here’s what your results should look like:

A backlink profile of a sample website showing the top 100 backlinks to that site

(Source: Ahrefs)

You’ll see two important things on the screen:

  • The total number of backlinks — Tells you what your overall backlink goals could look like.
  • Where the backlinks are coming from — Tells you which .edu sites may be a good fit for your link.

You can now add the sites that link to your competitors to an Excel table and save them for later. But you can also reach out to those sites immediately and see if you can get them to link to you.

Need help writing your pitch? Check out our guide on blogger outreach.


✓ Allows you to find plenty of suitable sites
✓ Easy link building opportunities
✓ Can be free, depending on which tools you use


✕ Copying your competitors may harm your website if they’re practicing black hat SEO methods
✕ You won’t see all your competitors’ backlinks

7 Powerful Ways To Get .edu Backlinks

We’ll walk you through the seven best methods you can use to get quality .edu backlinks. You’ll also see the pros and cons of each method, so you can choose the right one for yourself more easily.

(Note: none of these methods require paid tools.)

1) Get Listed On Resource Pages

A resource page is a page dedicated to links to external resources. Yes: the entire purpose of such pages is to redirect the user to other websites.

That makes them the perfect home for links to your website. And luckily, many schools still have resources pages. Such pages typically include downloadable resources or something similar.

Some schools also have local resources pages, which are especially useful if you’re a brick-and-mortar business. For example, you could offer your services to students and staff at a discounted price to get a backlink. We’ll discuss that in more depth in a minute.


✓ Easy-to-get backlinks
✓ High-quality traffic


✕ Limited link building opportunities

How To Find Resource Pages

You can find resource pages using the inURL command that we’ve already touched upon:

  • “keyword” inurl:resource

You can also try adding keyword variations, such as:

  • “keyword” inurl:resources
  • “keyword” inurl:resourcepage

When you find a resource page that seems like a good fit, prepare your pitch and reach out to the site webmaster.

2) Shine The Light On Schools

Everyone likes their ego stroked, and academic institutions are no exception. They’re more likely to link to your site if you show interest in theirs first.

Here are two ways you can do so and, in turn, earn .edu links:

  • Promote specific academic institutions — Schools are more likely to link to content that helps them reach their goals, like attracting more students or boosting their reputation. So, create content that promotes the schools you’re targeting. For example, you could interview a faculty member or review a school on your site.
  • Link to academic websites — Get backlinks by linking to your target sites first. Simply include a link to your target school’s website in your blog post or page. But make sure the link is relevant to your content.

What can you expect to happen after you promote an .edu website?

Possibly nothing, especially if the site webmasters don’t check their backlinks. It may take them months to discover your content, or they may never discover it at all. On top of that, they may not feel like returning the favor, so they won’t give you a backlink.

That’s why you want to notify them of your initiative yourself.

Sending a simple message will do. You could write something along the lines:

“Hey, I really enjoyed using [a resource]. I thought it was such a great resource that I had to include it in my guide on [a topic]. Here’s the link if you’d like to check it out…”

You can also let the webmasters know you’d appreciate a backlink, but don’t be pushy. You’re shining the light on them, not yourself.


✓ High chances of getting .edu backlinks
✓ Adheres to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines


✕ Requires creating content

3) Create Resources Worth Linking To

This method is more about earning than asking for high-quality backlinks. That’s why it usually works better, too.

It involves creating valuable resources that .edu sites will naturally want to link to.

What exactly you’ll offer will depend on your niche, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • A student loan calculator
  • A student guide to scholarships
  • Free mental health workshops

Workshops, webinars, and downloadable resources work especially well. They also let you connect with your audience further, which is a nice bonus.


✓ Google-approved link building method
✓ Attracts high-quality traffic
✓ Can boost your conversions faster than other techniques


✕ Creating link-worthy resources takes time
✕ No control over the results

How To Create High-Quality Resources

Creating quality resources takes quite a bit of time and know-how.

We can’t go into all the ins and outs here, but these tips will help you get started:

  • Consider your audience: Probably professors and students. Think about the content type and format they’d benefit from the most. — What problems does my audience want to solve? What goals do they want to achieve? How?
  • Research your competitors: Analyze what your competitors have missed or explained poorly in their resources, and fill in the gaps for your audience. — How can I explain this more clearly? Should I add examples? Can I turn this into an easy-to-follow blueprint?
  • Start with a goal: Define your objectives before you start creating. — What do I want my audience to walk away with? How will this resource improve their lives?
  • Format for visual interest: Keep your audience engaged by formatting your content properly. — Can I turn this into a numbered list? Should I add more headings?
  • Edit, edit, edit: Don’t attempt to make your first draft your final draft. Give yourself permission to write the ugly first draft and then edit it to perfection.

4) Reach Out To Students With .edu Sites

You may have more luck getting backlinks from student-managed .edu blogs than official college sites.

Student sites also have the authority and link juice you’re after. The only problem is they’re quite rare and hard to find, as you’ll see in the next section.

Before we get to that, here are three ways you can get .edu backlinks from student-managed sites:

  • Ask for a link — Make a pitch.
  • Pay for a link — Offer a payment or discount in exchange for a backlink.
  • Shine the light on them — Link to their site and let them know.

Choose your approach or try each one with different .edu bloggers.

Be careful with paying for links, though. Work only with bloggers who know what they’re doing because Google doesn’t like spammy paid links. The .edu sites and your links both have to be credible to get you positive results.


✓ Easier than getting backlinks from official websites
✓ High-quality traffic, especially if you’re targeting students


✕ May require a lot of money and time
✕ Student-managed sites often have lower domain authority

How To Find Student-Managed .edu sites

You can find student-managed .edu sites using query strings on Google or other search engines.

Here are three strings you can try:

  • inrul:blog
  • “student blog”
  • site:edu “college blog”

Here are the results we got using the last string:

Search results for the query string " "college blog"", none of which are student-managed blogs

As you can see, not many of these results are actually student-managed sites. That’s because such sites are rare, so you’ll need to do more digging.

Spend some time analyzing the results until you find sites that are truly a good fit. If you’d like our backlink specialists to do that for you, contact us here.

5) Offer A Scholarship

Scholarship link building is a tried-and-tested strategy for acquiring .edu backlinks. Marketers have been using this secret trick for years, and it’s stupid simple:

  • You offer a scholarship.
  • You notify relevant academic institutions.
  • Academic institutions link to your landing page.

Most institutions have previously jumped on the opportunity to link to scholarships. But times have changed.

Nowadays, most schools know you’re trying to get backlink juice. That’s why their requirements became more strict.

So, put some thought into your scholarship and requirements. Most importantly, don’t offer scholarships you won’t go through with.

Besides being scammy, fake scholarships will hurt your reputation and may even prevent you from getting .edu backlinks in the future.


✓ An almost bulletproof way to get .edu backlinks
✓ Relatively easy


✕ Not affordable or viable for most

How To Offer A Scholarship

First, decide what type of scholarship you want to offer and how you’ll choose the winners.

Most scholarships require applicants to write an industry-relevant essay, but you can also ask for video submissions, small projects, or something along those lines.

Next, decide who can apply.

Here’s an example of eligibility requirements for one scholarship to help you form your own:

Eligibility requirements for a scholarship, e.g. applicants must be residents of NYS.

(Source: NYS)

Most small-scale scholarships award around $1,000, but you can certainly offer more.

Offering less, however, may cause schools not to take you seriously and refuse to link to your site.

6) Offer Discounts To Students & Staff

Offering discounts is an almost surefire way to get .edu backlinks. Virtually any .edu site will want to link to you if you offer discounts to their students or staff.

Unfortunately, this method comes with some risks.

Again, Google isn’t a fan of spammy paid links. That’s why it often penalizes sites that build links on low-quality websites.

Although you won’t be paying for a link per se, you’re still offering something in exchange for a backlink.

So, Google may still interpret this as paid link building. And if it deems your links as spammy, it may penalize both you and the .edu site linking to you.

But the chances of that happening are low since you’re not directly offering discounts for backlinks. You’re offering discounts to the audience of a .edu site — not its webmasters.

That’s an important difference.

It means you can get away with this method scotch-free. Just make sure you work with quality sites so you don’t raise red flags with Google.

Alternatively, you can have experienced link building agencies do quality checks for you. Read how we do ours.


✓ A fast way to acquire .edu backlinks
✓ Could boost your revenue fast


✕ May be viewed as spammy paid link building

How To Find Pages That Promote Discounted Offers

You want to find resource pages that already link to discounted services and products. That way, you’ll immediately have a list of pages that would probably want to link to your discounted offer, too.

Here are a few query strings to try:

  • “discounts”
  • “student discounts”
  • “staff discounts”
  • “partners”
  • “offers”

Here’s an example of a search result we got using the last string:

A resource page including links to businesses that offer perks to students and staff

(Source: USCAlumni)

7) Broken Link Building

Broken or 404 link building is a link building strategy that involves replacing broken links with your own.

Broken links are links to pages that can’t be found are accessed, often because they no longer exist:

A 404 page with the message: "What we've got here is failure to communicate... Sorry we can't help you with that page. But please take a look at all this great content in the forums, below..."

(Source: WebmasterWorld)

This method works great because no site owner wants to send their audience to 404 pages. (Even if a 404 page has brilliant copy — like in the example above.)

By sending the owners suitable replacement links, you’re actually helping them solve their problems. So, they’re likely to include your link.


✓ Likely to help you build links on high-authority websites
✓ May help you forge lucrative partnerships


✕ May involve creating suitable content from scratch

How To Find Broken Links Quickly

Your goal is to find broken links that are:

  • relevant to your niche AND
  • located on a .edu domain

To find them more quickly, install a free Google Chrome extension called SEO Minion.

Now find a few .edu sites related to your niche. Use the same query string as before:

  • “niche-related keyword”

Open the sites you’ve selected and click on the extension.

When the window opens, click “Check Broken Links”:

SEO Minion with the "Check Broken Links" feature highlighted

Make sure you wait until all the links are checked:

The number of links SEO Minion has finished checking VS the total number of links on a page highlighted

You’ll see the total number of broken links on a page next to the “404 Links” label.

They’ll also be highlighted in yellow throughout the page, so you can spot them more easily:

A broken link highlighted in yellow

(Source: Moz)

When you find broken links, check if you already have a suitable replacement link you could send to the webmasters.

If not, you’ll need to create appropriate content first.

We can help you do so. Leave us your email, and we’ll send you samples of our previous work within 24 hours.


Are backlinks still important in 2022?

Yes, backlinks are still important in 2022. They’re a huge factor in organic search performance and the foundation of Google’s PageRank algorithm.

How many backlinks do I need to rank?

How many backlinks you need to rank depends on the difficulty of your target keyword. For example, you’ll need ~20 backlinks if a keyword has a difficulty of 20.

Higher keyword difficulty scores may require double the number of backlinks. For example, if a keyword has a difficulty of 70, you’ll probably need ~140 backlinks to rank for it.

You can check the difficulty of any keyword with Ahrefs’ free Keyword Difficulty Checker.

Is Chasing Links Eating Away Your Time? Let’s Talk.

Link building can be a time-consuming process with slow returns, especially when you’re chasing quality links like those from .edu domains.

If you’re ready to speed up the process, get in touch with our outreach specialists.

We’ve helped numerous clients land .edu links on high-authority sites like Yale and NYU. Let’s discuss how we can do the same for your business. Reach out today.

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