It has long been held in the SEO industry that .edu links can be the key to developing quality link equity when utilizing purely white hat optimization techniques. These links represent such high quality that they can often add more equity than even multiple high authority sites.
The reason for the weight given to .edu sites has nothing to do with their TLD, but is in the difficulty in obtaining, and thus manipulating them for search ranking benefit.
Finding methods to achieve sustainable .edu links can be difficult. One method often used by SEOs is the utilization of college job boards for finding not only talented prospective employees, but also high quality links.
In obtaining high quality authoritative links, I often find that being transparent and working with a sense of building a lasting relationship can benefit both parties.
Coming from a background in education I have been able to develop a link building technique that not only serves my purposes as an SEO, but also the educational community I am looking to gain links from.
By building educational lessons and units around concepts central to your market, you can create viral link bait that can lead to long lasting linking relationships with .edu sources.
A walk through the process
The first thing you will need to decide is which educational level you will want to produce lessons or units for. The content and subject matter will vary greatly based on the whether you are targeting elementary, secondary, or college level students. Also as you work from level to level you will have to address different needs, i.e. for college students you will likely need to include a syllabus as well as a required reading list.
Your choice of educational level may be guided by your market or by exisiting relationships you have with .edu sources.
Once you have selected you target audience it is time to choose the topic of your lesson or unit.
Here Batter, Batter
We will make our example market for this article sporting goods. There are obviously several lessons that you could center around sporting good items, but we will chose to focus on baseball bats.
Let’s choose high school physics students as our audience.
The performance of differing baseball bat composite materials on the reaction of forces that occurs when ball meets bat.
Get in the Batters Box
When getting the lesson or unit started you need to approach the foundation before getting too invested in the content. If you are working with the college level the foundation will be the syllabus (here is a good resource for syllabus creation http://oct.sfsu.edu/design/syllabus/index.html), since we are working with the secondary level we will want to choose the National Educational Standards that match our topic.
You can find an easy to navigate list of standards at http://www.education-world.com/standards/.
For our lesson we will be choosing the physics relevant standards:
NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
The individual states have standards, but since we will be looking to push our lesson or unit forth in a viral manner we will want to keep it as general as possible. The educator will know which standards relate to the lesson from the national standards you have supplied.
Step to the Plate
Now that we have our foundation created in the form of a lesson concept and the national standards that pertain to this lesson we need to create the actual content for the educators to use.
When creating this content you will want to write it in a way that will push the educator to attach it directly to their site. This means you should make it easily read and digested by your targeted market. It also means you should think about creating activities and worksheets around your lesson concept.
Before diving into the lesson content go ahead and create a step by step breakdown of how the educator should present the lesson and all of the necessary materials. A good list of lesson plan templates for various education levels can be found at http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/templatesresources.htm.
The basic layout of your lesson plan should be:
1)Instructions for the educator
3)Activity or Worksheet
4)A Review Activity
5)An Exam or Test
You will want to build your lesson into a PDF and use solid optimization strategies for the format, including building links to your site throughout the document.
Knock it out of the park
Now it is time to contact your possible link partners. I like to start on a local level. You know the schools in your area, utilize this knowledge before you spend hours looking for other link partners in distant locations. If a person is familiar with your company, or if they feel that they have a geographical tie with you, they are likely to be more accepting of the content you are offering them.
The best idea is to contact the school on the department level. Often times schools, and even colleges, plan curriculum across their department level.
When you contact your possible link partners you will want to offer them the PDF and simply ask them to either attach it to their site, reciprocate your work with a link to your site, or allow them to link to a version of the PDF that you have attached to the site you are optimizing.
Make sure that you are transparent during this process. Schools often rely on the private sector for various needs, so letting them know that you are doing this for promotional purposes will not hurt your efforts, and will likely help you to foster a lasting link relationship.
Your efforts may also have additional link benefit. If you build a successful lesson and relationship with an institution you will likely gain some exposure through a sound press release strategy around your effort. This may mean more authority links from market specific sites to go along with your newly acquired .edu links.
As is true with most content centered link strategies, it is likely going to take you more than one lesson or unit plan to achieve your link goal. You will need to not only learn how to create the lesson content, but likely the right channels to exhaust your energy on.
However, when you do hit your home run in terms of a well constructed lesson or unit, you will likely reap rewards that will show immediate effects in terms of your search rankings.