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How to get high quality links from university and academic websites

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With the recent wave of updates from Google, including Panda and Penguin there has never been a greater need to build trusted authoritative links to your websites. Google’s Penguin update hit sites with lots of low quality links. And, if we believe the value of low quality links has decreased we must also believe the value of high quality links has gone up.

In this article I’m going to take you through some of the ways I’ve been able to build high quality links from academic and university websites.

First up, it’s worth stating that just because a link is from an .edu or .ac.uk site doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s high quality. You can buy spammy links on just about any domain extension. But generally speaking, links from these types of websites are hard to acquire, which is precisely the reason why they are so valuable.

The search engines have a lot of historical data up their sleeves these days. They have a really good idea of who can be trusted and who can’t. And although we can’t be exactly sure, we can reasonably assume that we know what qualities they’re looking for.

They don’t like spam for example. So because most academic and government websites have never linked out to spammy websites, a link from them usually passes a good deal of value. An engine sees each site individually, they don’t apply a blanket approach to every .edu, .gov or .ac.uk, but we can be quite confident that they are good sources of link equity, so it makes sense to get as many of these links as you can. I've done it a few times before, so here are my most successful techniques.

Directories

There are certain directories and business listing services on very trusted domains extensions here in the UK and around the world. I won’t reveal them here, for fear of inundating them with link requests. These types of sites have much higher editorial standards than most, so you will have to be totally above board to reach their required level of quality. Never forget, every website has a purpose and if linking to your website fulfills that purpose they’ll be happy to oblige, even if they're from a university or government. Bear in mind however, that, after Penguin, Google takes a very dim view of links from directories, so make sure you’re only using the very best ones, with a high quality domain.

Blogs

There are a large number of students, lecturers and professors running blogs which are located on academic domains. Rightly so, these bloggers take their efforts very seriously, but there are opportunities to collaborate and get links to a website from their blogs. Many of the normal blogger outreach methods (ie, guest posts, high quality commenting etc) will work well applied to this audience.

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Discounts

Another option for academic links is to offer discounts to students and staff. By offering this incentive you’re giving the academic website a reason to link to you, potentially increasing your business from the student market.

Case studies

Many colleges are looking to work with commercial organizations and sometimes this can be as part of a scheme or sometimes to gain case studies for their business students. Volunteering will not only help build goodwill, but also create the kind of links which are almost impossible to replicate, making them even more valuable. I've got some great links to my website from a UK university. It’s a testimonial and a case study from a scheme they ran to introduce students on a quality management course. As well as getting the link, we also recruited our Operations Director, who helped us become ISO accredited. So just by engaging with a university, we found a pivotal member of our team, got an international standard in quality management and got one of the most valuable links to our site!

Charities and community organizations

After some analysis, you’ll probably find that most of the links from academic sites go to charitable or community websites. Your site probably won’t fit into these categories, so perhaps you could create a new one that links back to your original site?

If that wouldn’t work for you, you could always just do some link building on the other site’s behalf. This will not only improve the value of the link that’s pointing from their site to yours, it will also raised the profile of a deserving organization. You’ll have improved your site and your community!

Job boards

Also understand in general which areas of academic websites have outbound links and which sites they may link to. As one common type of outbound link on an academic site is through their job boards for students, this may give you the impetus to take the roles you are already recruiting for and distribute them to the university job board. Not only will this attract new candidates it will also add to your link portfolios.

Summary

Ultimately academic websites are no different to other websites. They link to high quality or hugely relevant content on other websites. Discover the patterns in their behavior and creatively think how you fit within those patterns, and you’ll become a successful link builder on websites with those much-feted and sought-after domain extensions.

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About Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman is Strategy Director at SiteVisibility He also runs the fastest growing search conference in the UK, and probably the world, BrightonSEO Should you wish to know more about what he’s up to, you can follow him at @kelvinnewman