Government and university sites tend to be trusted by people because such organizations are under such scrutiny that if they put any questionable content on their sites they may get sued, or cause damage to their reputation. So government and educational organizations tend to put only highly trusted content on their sites and usually link out to very few other, highly regarded sites.
The people who create search engines understand this well, and program the search algorithms to attribute very high trust value to links that come from .gov or .edu sites. These links are extremely tough to come by for regular site owners and are incredibly coveted. In this article I will go over some of the techniques for getting sites linked to by .gov and .edu sites. Of course, there are more ways to get this done and the only limit is one’s own creativity in obtaining such links.
If you are a site or a business owner, by now you are probably interested. The truth is that I will only outline techniques that will help you get the links. The truth is that what will play the largest role in the decision on behalf of government or educational sites of whether to link to you or not depends on whether the content of your page is appropriate or good enough to be linked to. So in the SEO game, the old cliché of, “it’s not you, it’s me” is false. It’s usually about whether you are good enough or not, and how you can become good or appropriate enough.
This is where each business or site owner has to consider the nature of their business and ask themselves whether their business is currently “linkable” to and if not, how to align the structure of the business to become linkable to. As I go through the examples, I’ll discuss how to keep such changes subtle enough to be practical and not dis-focus the larger business.
Getting .gov Links
There are probably as many different government organizations as there are stars in the sky. It is also important to realize that there are even more .gov sites than there are government sites because not all .gov sites actually belong to government organizations and some government organizations have more than one site. Additionally, out of the many .gov sites out there, not all link out to non-.gov sites. For example, in preparation for this article I wanted to do the impossible to try to get a link from WhiteHouse.gov but after browsing through nearly every page of that site, I just did not see the opportunity. That site simply does not link out.
These are the two important lessons to consider:
1) Not all .gov are real government organizations and
2) Not all .gov sites link out to commercial or non-government sites so it is important to be barking up a wisely chosen tree.
Keeping in mind the above caveats, here are some ways to get .gov links. The simplest and least time-consuming way is to find .gov sites which have a blog. Some of them let you drop a link in their comment or your signature. That is an awesome freebee that requires very little effort. The next thing to do is to identify the .gov sites in your site’s niche, and go through their sites to see what they are trying to accomplish. Many government sites have some purpose for existence (not all -- some sites just ask for donations) and tend to have event calendars for local communities or particular causes. If your organization can create, host or run some event that helps that government site achieve what they need to achieve, they tend to be happy to add appropriate events to their existing calendars. And guess what -- events have a tendency to be recurring so you get a recurring link. That means that over time, if you get this right, you will accumulate tens or hundreds of such .gov (and .org) links.
I understand that not all companies or sites create events. This is where it pays to do something a little extra. Your office is probably empty in the evening and on weekends. Try to host events or groups that are championed by the .gov organization. If you provide office space to government organizations for some events for their groups, they may link to you in the sections where they thank sponsors and where they provide directions to the event. So if the stars align the right way (or if you align the stars the right way) that is 3 potential links for every event which will recur. Plus, the people who come to the event will learn about your organization in a positive way, and have a small chance of becoming clients in the future, or tell their friends.
There are other ways to get the coveted .gov and .org links. If your company donates money to charity for tax write-offs, it can donate to an organization which will list it as a sponsor with a link back. That way you get the tax write-off and a link that would have been very expensive to get otherwise. That link alone may help you get enough advantage in the search engine rankings to make you your donated money back.
Getting .edu Links
Links from .edu sites are a different type of animal. Generally .edu links come from a university site, professor’s site on a school’s server, or a student’s site on a school server. It is extremely difficult to get on a university’s main page because they generally do not link out.
Professors tend to link out often when they want to provide extra resources of good information for their students. This is where you can score some great links. I’ll outline a great way for a fictitious site to get a professor to link to it.
For example sake, we will imagine that our fictitious site deals with something random like biology. The first task is to research different universities. It is much more difficult to get a link from an Ivy League professor than a professor at some local college. But the Ivy League professor’s link is more highly regarded, so diversify the levels of professors you will pitch to. Once you have identified your target universities, look at professors who will teach biology next semester. They usually have web pages where they post class schedules with topics they will cover. What you have to do is create relevant and extremely high quality pages on those topics.
Also, go light on page-styling and make the pages look more academic than commercial. Academic pages usually have very little styling, lots of text, and maybe some charts or graphs. Professors are smart so your page has to be quite good. When you are done, email the professors and suggest them to link to the pages you made because “…it will help their students ...” Out of 50 professors you may get 5 to link to you if you are lucky. This is a brutal process, but your competitors will likely never be able to get such links and it may be just what you need to get you ahead.
The difficult and arduous road to get such links can be made easier if you offer internships to students of those biology classes, or if you have a product which may be helpful to the class, give it away for free or at a discount.
Remember, there are infinite ways to get different types of links. The more creative and surgical you are, the more successful you have a chance to be. And last important point to remember is that whenever you reach out to people, they are usually busy. Even lazy people are busy. So if you do not hear back, don’t give up, write a follow-up email after a few weeks as a nice reminder. It is likely to show you are diligent, really care, and earn you some sympathy links.