Is a link from an .edu site more worthy than any other link?
Many people seem to think that a link from a .edu domain offers much more value than a link from any other site. I have even seen people hunting to find places where they can post a link to their site on a .edu domain. Some even pay for it. And some clever folks use their .edu blogs to make good money online.
So what’s all about this? Is an .edu link actually so valuable? Most probably: no. The myth has something to do with the way Google calculates page rank. This algorithm is kept secret by Google, but is is fair enough to say that the number of inbound links is very important as is the age of the URL in question.
Now think about how the Internet was created. Right after the forces, who gave birth to it, universities expanded it. And when the web was born, the first web sites were, of course, universities sites (even Google started as an university project, do you remember?). All of them being hosted at very long-lasting .edu domains. Moreover, these domains (and their sub-domains) are quite stable. There is no need to find new “sexy” domain names, so the .edu folks stay with names following their organizational structure, which is quite stable (at least more stable than commercially-attractive names). Also, .edu admins strongly believe in the “don’t break an URL” rule (don’t move an URL because otherwise some piece of information would become inaccessible). As such, .edu URLs are sometimes veryold. So when it comes to persistence of URLs, typical .edu content weighs heavy.
Also, typical .edu content like research papers is cited very often (after all, that’s why it is created). And it is cited in other research papers, of course. The same holds true for other content, even being online discussions and other not-meant-for-eternity content. The bottom line is that typical .edu content has many backlinksfrom highly relevant sites. It is no surprise that Google assigns high PR to such pages.
Besides that, typical .edu pages do no bad tricks like keyword cloaking, gateway pages and all the other things search engines dislike. Their content is typically very technical and well to spider. If often uses proper titles, and section header (<H1>, <H2>, …) tags. That makes it easy for the search engine to grasp what it is about. That also makes it easy to grasp that the network it is in is indeed highly relevant.
All in all, typical .edu content is the perfect example that “content is king“, that you will get good ranking if you have good content. Think about it.
But what does that mean for the average Joe who wants to monetize his web site? If .edu sites are so well ranked, then, hey, it must be very valuable to be linked from there.
One important thing to remember is that page rank is page rank and not site ordomain rank! Google assigns rank to a specific page (URL). It doesn’t matter if the domain’s home page has high PR. What is important is the PR of the page that is linking to yours!
So of course it helps if you manage to get a link from the homepage of, let’s say, the University of California in Berkley. But it doesn’t help as much if you get a link from a student blog, for example at http://smartone.blog.example.berkley.edu/paid-links.html – so I wouldn’t invest any money to be listed there.
And why doesn’t it help? Because it is no typical .edu content! It is low quality content as found on many sites (except, of course, if the student is really bright ;)).
So if you are offered an .edu link, think twice. First of all, it, too, can get you into a “bad neighborhood” and negatively affect your page rank. Secondly, if the page that is linking to you doesn’t have a high page rank, there is no real value in being linked from there (except, of course, that a link never hurts).
The bottom line is that I wouldn’t invest any more time or money into .edu links than on links from any other top level domain. If it is easy to find and free, go for it. If it is hard to do or expensive but the page has high page rank or traffic potential(page rank is not everything!), consider it seriously.
Just don’t jump on any .edu page just because it is .edu!